Op/Ed

Poet’s Corner: The Graveyard Shift

SUSAN JEFTS

A Resurrection Man
 
After too much time working in the graveyard
of unfinished poems where midnight ground
is littered with broken metaphors and cracked
headstones, where disappointment’s weather
has blurred the lettering of reluctant epitaphs,
 
I with sorrowful laptop take one last long look.
Over here lies the hunter with the wooden leg.
Here, a beautiful woman forever imprisoned
in a beginner’s charcoal sketch. Here, ten lines
about angels doing time in an umbrella factory.
 
Such promise at the beginning. So much hope.
Such wild attempts to resuscitate early drafts
with prayer, cheap merlot, workshop séances, 
so much verbal compost wasted on the rose
and a sonnet twelve years now on life support.
 
It is madness to think just plinth and shards
could one day be whole again, said my muse,
phoning me from her office in the silver dawn.
Still, the earth here is sweet familiar ground
seeded with fragments that yearn for the sun.
—By Charles Sabukewicz
 
Charles Sabukewicz’ work has appeared in Ibbetson Street, The Bryant Literary Review, The Connecticut River Review, Hidden Oak, The Lyric, and several other journals. His book of poetry, “In Sleep’s Circumference,” was published by Red Barn Books of Vermont in 2016. A retired English teacher, he and his wife, Helen Marsh, live in Middlebury.
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This poem, “A Resurrection Man,” by Charles Sabukewicz, uniquely and imaginatively captures a facet of the writing process we don’t usually learn about. We hear about writer’s block and dry spells, but we don’t usually hear about the angst, the pacing among strewn metaphors and fragments, or the midnight walks. The graveyard imagery is wonderfully apt.
Poets, myself included, tend to keep innumerable little notebooks of every color and style imaginable in our totes, pockets, desks and glove compartments, often accompanied by loose pieces of paper holding barely legible metaphors and fragments, like the speaker’s wooden legand charcoal sketches, or his ten angels doing time in an umbrella factory. You never know what might turn up in a poet’s graveyard.
I love that the poem brings in hints of other creative arts, as this “problem” the poet speaks of is not one of writers alone.  The prayer, cheap merlot, and workshop séances have been used by many an artistic mind with many genres and art forms. We’ll do anything to revive a poem we were once in love with. The lines of the poem seem to expand in a way that could apply to any endeavor approached with artistry and passion.  I know woodworkers who have shops full of tossed shards and partially formed pieces, some perfectly sanded as if waiting to fit into just the right desk corner, picture frame, or book case. Car mechanics’ garages really do look like dug up graveyards — discarded parts and tools all over the place, although I don’t think they are as prone to prayer and workshop séances to make their creations work out.
But aren’t all our lives full of false starts and discarded gems, or at least potential gems? Isn’t so much of what we do a moving, living metaphor? An expression of what inspires us, what brings us alive? And who among us hasn’t felt broken at one time or other, miles away from that initial spark.
It is madness to think such plinth and shards/ could one day be whole againsays the poet’s muse. Who hasn’t felt dissuaded by our own inner voices, those of others, or even that of our muse. Or so surrounded by the pieces and fragments of our lives, or our poems, paintings, or inventions gone wrong, that we can’t imagine them being whole again. But they can become whole again, sometimes in a much more interesting, original, and soul filled way, if we take the time to find our way back to our sweetfamiliar ground, as the poet says — the rich tilled soil unearthing for us what we thought was lost, but was only there waiting for our return.
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Susan Jefts is from Ripton, Vt., and the Adirondacks of New York. She has been published in many journals throughout the country, most recently, “Fired Up,” an environmental zine, and the anthology “Birchsong.” She has just completed a new book of poetry, and will be leading more workshops focused on writing, as well as on our deepening connections to nature. Learn more about her work at her website: manyriverslifeguidance.com.

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