Friday, December 17, 2010

Drafting Friday: The Apocaplypse and a Love Poem

35º ~ high, soft brushes of clouds, the sun still sparkling through, changing moment to moment

Today I'm posting about two drafts, although one was begun earlier this week. 

Let's start with the apocalypse.  I stopped watching most news broadcasts this past summer around day 27 of the BP oil spill.  For some reason, I can read about horrible things in the paper and listen to accounts of disasters on NPR, but watching video news just sends me into a tailspin.  Recently, I decided I should probably try to watch the news again as I was feeling a bit out of touch, even with reading the paper, the online headlines, and listening to NPR.  My reward?  The report last night on the federal governments' new emergency plans for nuclear attacks.  The answer: shelter in place saves more lives than trying to evacuate.

While the reporters went above and beyond to assure us all that there was no imminent threat and that this was just the result of a government study, I couldn't help but have flashbacks to my childhood in the 80's.  In particular, I found the movie, The Day After, playing itself out in my head.  I was 12 when it aired on TV for the first time, and it put the fear of nuclear war in me, a fear that has never really left.  In part, the movie made such an impact because the setting is Kansas City and a small town/farming community in Missouri, and wouldn't you know it, I knew that Kansas City wasn't all that far from where I lived, and that small town in Missouri sure looked a lot like my small town in Iowa.  The characters in the movie were recognizable to me in ways that characters in most movies at the time weren't. 

Schools had stopped having nuclear war drills by this time, although my parents recounted their experiences of crawling under their desks and covering their eyes, but my school was one of the oldest in town, and it still had a fallout shelter in the basement, a place we were allowed to visit on one or two occasions, although I can't remember why.  I do remember the large yellow and black pie sign either on the door or in the room somewhere.  Chilling to a child with an imagination as large and threat-prone as mine.

All of this is a long introduction to the fact that I found myself writing an unusual poem this morning, one I titled "Shelter in Place."  So obvious.  What's unusual is that I don't tend to write political poems or poems based on current events/news reports, and yet, here I was doing just that.  It felt uncomfortable, but I couldn't stop.  I had to get it all out there.  There are two healthy stanzas, a rare form for me these days.  In the first, I deal with the memories of the movie and the cold war.  In the second, I deal with the idea of trying to shelter in place when the air itself would be poison, when I have no basement in which to seek refuge.  I'm not sure the poem is done yet.  If I choose to return to it, I'll need to address the added fear of a nuclear bomb in the hands of terrorists.  It's one thing to see the ICBM's coming from a long way off and launching the counter attack and obliterating everything, but it's another thing entirely when there is no enemy country, no escalation of hostilities and thus no chance for negotiations, no working toward detente.

On to brighter things, I also worked on a poem I started earlier this week, but today was the first time I put it in the computer and thus call it 'drafted.'  This is the opposite of the above, a love poem called "Waiting for You to Return from the Mountain."  C. is done with school today, and as has become their practice, he and his best teacher friends will drive up to a cabin in the mountains northwest of here to blow off their pent up steam and unwind.  It works out well for us all, since they are mostly fit to be tied at this point in the semester.  However, I still miss him when he's gone.  The first lines of this poem came to me while I was out to lunch by myself and reading lit mags.  I didn't have my journal with me, so I had to tear off the back cover of the lit mag and draft the lines there.  I know the editors will forgive me for the ruination. 

Of course I'm happy to have these two new poem-lings, but I must confess, Dear Reader, I am still swamped with a feeling of doubt about all my work right now.  I know, I know, I've had a great year of publications and I'm not discounting that.  However, at the moment, I can't seem to see my own work clearly.  I'm hearing critics with the turn of every page.  I shall now attempt to silence those critics.  I've heard that duct tape works wonders on most household problems, perhaps it will work for silencing critics as well as when the time comes to shelter in place.



Karen J. Weyant said...

I was not allowed to see The Day After when I was a kid -- my mother did not want me having nightmares. But I heard the kids at school talk about the movie, so I had nightmares anyways. I didn't see The Day After until I was an adult.

Just recently, I watched Testament -- far more chilling.

Sandy Longhorn said...

Ah, well, good to know that the nightmares would have most likely happened just from talk of the movie. I think I'll avoid Testament as I'm chock full of apocalypse at the moment.

Kristin said...

The nuclear war movie to end all nuclear war movies: the BBC production "Threads," which was even more chilling in terms of depicting the aftereffects. I believe it was the first nuclear war movie to depict nuclear winter.

"Testament" doesn't have those kind of effects, but seeing what the family and small community go through is more devastating.

I have this vision of future graduate students watching those movies and reading the poems we all wrote that are clearly influenced by those movies. Will they be puzzled? Will they shake their heads at all the things we didn't know?

Sandy Longhorn said...

Kristin, I wonder if there has been a grad school class on these movies...I bet there has somewhere.