Adults don’t draw. Don’t ask because we’ll refuse, yet we all used to draw when we were children. Drawing was as natural as breathing. Then, somewhere in childhood our drawings were criticized; older children laughed at our efforts and adults pointed out errors in our perspective. And so we stopped. Whenever our creative work is known to others we are vulnerable, our efforts are compared to experienced artists, and stopping is the ready solution. I rather envy our cave-dwelling ancestors who happily drew pictures on cave walls with no fear of being compared to Michelangelo.
That comparative attitude also applies to writing, especially to poetry. There are times when I write poems to myself. No, they’re not very good and they lack any pretense of following established protocol for poems, but the purpose in writing is in discovering beliefs about an issue. One of the most cherished moments in any relationship is when a friend offers to read a poem; that act exhibits a special trust in the listener. Making that offer puts the author into a vulnerable position, subject to laughter and ridicule. I think this happens because we unintentionally compare all poetry to that which we’ve heard before, catapulting the vulnerable author into immediate competition with the likes of Keats, Shelley, Thoreau and the like. Our friend’s poem will fail to cross the bar and the friend may never share a poem again. Our friend’s loss and our loss. Although not our intent, we are savages at brutalizing others in their tentative efforts to share a creative thought.
Why? Because we are afraid of exposing whatever creativity is ours, all based on that early failure at drawing. Ask an adult to write a poem and you might find them seeking a solution that avoids criticism by crafting a poem intentionally flawed or irrelevant, such as
Roses are red, violets are blue
Your idea is stupid, I thought you knew. (followed by “ha, ha, ha….”)
Nothing more than an exercise in avoidance — avoidance of writing something that exposes us to criticism. We deserve more and should ask of ourselves more. I share here a poem I wrote in September, 2000, but that’s not correct; every time I read it I remove a few words and add a few. That happens because, although I wrote this fourteen years ago, I’m still figuring out what it is I’m trying to say to myself. The beast referenced in the poem was my 1979 Honda Gold Wing motorcycle, not my first or my last, but a machine that came alive in my presence and that was the focus of a book I penned, The Bikes and I. I called it the beast because it was seemingly impossible to start, very cranky when cold, not reliable, but a sweetheart on the road. I loved it. As I mentioned, I’m still discovering what I wrote.
A Biker’s Prayer
dear sir, when i die and go to heaven
will there be george dickel, number seven?
sir? you say jack daniel’s will be there?
i’m sorry, sir, for jack i cannot bear
and, sir, i’ve heard i’ll hear angels sing
but, sir, will emmy lou harris’s voice there ring?
sir? you say i’ll love the heavenly choir?
but, sir, it’s her divine voice my heart desires
and, sir, on my trip to my final end
i will ride the beast, he’s been my friend
sir? motorcycles are not allowed?
then, sir, i cannot join your crowd
while entering heaven is my goal,
the beast and i now share one soul
we cannot part, we are truly one
in eternity, we shall one become
the beauty of the beast, you see
he shares my flying high and free
steel and leather, are to me
the mark of who i am to be
on wings of love, the beast does fly
and in my heart, we raise the sky
while we seem earthbound to your eye
my soul and the beast are way up high
my feelings tell me where i fit
and reality is oft counterfeit
although it seems i ride and sit
my world is much alive and lit
so, come with me, dear God above
and ride the wind and feel my love
and know the freedom that it brings
the beast it is that makes me sing.
Find the flaws? There are many; even the basic framework changes. But… do you see my fears, my attempts to put life’s pieces together? We focus on spelling and syntax and rhyme and often miss the message. Our failing is we do not listen, but instead search for flaws. I know — I do this myself. We savage ideas and new perspectives; that’s just what we do. Changing this weakness in ourselves is a continual war we fight.
Should I be so blessed to have someone want me to hear a poem, or read an article, or hear a song or view a dance, or hear an instrumental solo I hope, I dearly hope, that I will focus on the message, the commitment and the trust. My fear is that I will focus on rhyme, spelling, being on key, being in step or missing a note. I will be a better person, I am working toward it, but I know I will stumble.