Back when I was an undergrad my first poetry professor would organize various readings by published poets. One of my favorites was E.A. (Tony) Mares. Most new poets know when giving a reading there’s always a chance they might fall into the “poetry voice.” A lot of us try to use a different cadence for each poem, emphasizes specific pauses, or draw out a line. Sometimes we’re overcome with nerves and we return to our safety net. As a result a lot of poems sound the same, and the audience gets bored. Granted there are some poets who use “poetry voice” because they think it makes the poems sound more interesting. If you ever meet a poet who does this, feel free to smack them Gibbs style. Or you could also make fun of them by reading random things (the menu at IHop, the back of a cereal box, etc…) like they would read one of their pieces.
If you would like to encounter a poet who doesn’t use poetry voice, go see Mr. Mares. It’s been almost 6 years since I attended his reading and I still can’t get it out of my mind. It was entertaining, each poem brought something new. One moment the audience felt like he was telling a joke, and during the next they were reaching for a tissue.
In light of recent events I would like to share a poem he wrote about the loss of a daughter. I think there are so many great things working within this poem that really capture the speaker’s pain, and show the emptiness that is now in his life.
Crestview Funeral Home
Wrapped in white linen and your prayer shawl,
you travel well, my child,
my silent voyager into the unknown.
The service, traditional, simple,
flows with a dignified drone
for you, my most untraditional daughter.
As the prayers rise and fall,
images come back from a happier time
before this coffin of unvarnished pine,
pegged and with no nails.
Like a burning man in a sea of fire
I grab on to a plank of memory.
recall you and your sisters
traveling with me when I acted
on make-do stages everywhere in New Mexico.
We bounced along two-lane blacktops,
munched down burgers on the run.
Stayed in cheap motels in Raton,
Socorro, Roy, Ruidoso, Taos.
We loved the anarchy of life on the road.
There was that time on the Canadian
I stared down a bull,
mooed to him from the safety of the car.
“Dad, we’d better go,” you said
with those large, luminous, olive eyes.
I remember that time in Ruidoso
the conversation-starved man
followed us off the stage.
Stuck his head in the car window
and talked as I quietly slipped into gear,
waved goodbye, then slowly drove away
and he never stopped talking.
We laughed for hours over that.
The thin plank of memory smolders, then burns.
I swim on fire back to the prayers,
the service about to end.
This summing up of my daughter’s life.
Oh how I want to grab you and run, Galit.
I want to go on the road with you again,
play all those towns once more.
Drive, drive on forever into the sun.
– E.A. Mares, 2004