Sunday, July 29, 2012

Re-entry Burning Up

91º on the way up to 108º (before any heat index), Monday says 111º, hard not to be alarmist, hottest summer on record, biggest drought since the 50s, crops turning to dust in the fields while I make my feeble effort to keep the new hydrangea alive

So, it's been a while Dear Reader.  June was an amazing month for poetry at the desk of the Kangaroo, July not so much.  C. and I took two trips with a week off in between. 

We headed up home to visit family in Iowa, celebrating Xmas in July with the little nieces and nephews.  Lots of kiddie pool and sprinkler fun time and a half peck of peaches we brought up from southern Missouri that made everybody smile.  Then, it was off to the city, New York City to be exact.  A week of playing tourist and seeing some amazing art and national treasures.  Sadly, I returned from NYC with a terrible cold that resulted in, you guessed it, a fever! 

(Perhaps the sickly speaker was tired of being ignored?)

For the past week this is how I've felt.
Science Photo Library

I'm finally feeling back to rights healthwise and mindwise and it's time to start up with school again.  I've got meetings today (yes on a Sunday), Tuesday, and Wednesday.  Then all day the following Monday.  All un-paid service (official start date is Aug 16) to my department, my division, and my institution, because I believe in the vision of higher education for all and if I would choose to stay home I wouldn't be hurting myself so much as failing to ensure that our students' needs are met. So the next time you hear someone say that teachers of any level are underpaid, please give them my number.  I'll explain it to them like they are six years old.  :)

In the meantime, I did hear from the sickly speaker the other night and think I have the nubbins of the final poem for her series.  I still have one more "general orders" poem that I want to write as well.  Hopefully, I can get back into a groove now, although that groove will be the modified one of the academic year rather than the luxury of June.

Thursday, July 12, 2012


77º ~ a high of only 89º expected, but the humidity is taking care of making it feel like it is 95º, so no worries, we won't fall into delusions of temperate weather

Monday, July 2, 2012

Draft Process: 11 General Orders of a Sentry

83º ~ what? yes, 83º, much cloud-cover and a cooling breeze, a high of only 95º predicted, still no rain

Darn it if I didn't do it again.  I drafted a new poem today based on yesterday's military inspiration.  Since I've closed out my June residency, I've been taking things at a more relaxed pace, and I thought that today I might just gather some research by reading more "General Orders" to get a sense of the military rhythm and syntax. 

When one Googles "General Orders," what one finds are numerous links to the "11 General Orders of a Sentry" for the Army, Navy, and Marines.  At first I kept trying to dig deeper, wanting to find more language like the language from Confederate Army General Orders 17.  I did find their General Orders 14 which called on slave owners to conscript a certain percentage of their male slaves into service for the Confederate Army.  Wow.  Of course I know of the Union Army's offer of freedom to slaves who served, but I hadn't heard about this effort on the part of the Confederacy to supplement their dwindling ranks.  The layers of brutality there are so many it blows my mind.

But I digress.  While I may go back to the language of General Orders 14, today I kept going back to those "11 General Orders of a Sentry."  I was bummed because the language is so plain and the series of imperative so boring.  I looked at a couple of word banks to see if I could get a spark.  And then, it dawned on me: a sentry is the equivalent of a nurse in the sickly speaker's universe.  Click!

Here's the first line.

To take charge of this fevered body and all its possessions.

The rest of the poem (the list of the remaining 10 imperatives), tries to describe the nurse's power and lack of power in relationship to the whitecoats.  Hmmmm.  That's interesting.  The poem from yesterday gives orders to the whitecoats; this one to the nurses.  I suppose I could do one more that give orders to the mystics, the last group of folks with whom the sickly speaker interacts.

This turn toward the military feels quite natural.  I've been describing the manuscript to other folks as an exploration of the "medical-industrial complex," of course playing off Eisenhower's "military-industrial complex" speech.  I know the comparison there is not precise, but it's getting clearer, and I think I need to re-read that speech.  Perhaps that will spark the mystics' orders?

Here's a GI standing sentry in Iraq, thanks to Wikimedia Commons.  Now, imagine that vigilance in the nurse standing over the sickly speaker.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Draft Process: General Orders 17

93º ~ suddenly the forecast has lost it's trip digits and rests at 99º for the next seven days ~ praise be?

I did not mean to draft a poem today.  I swear it.

I've been using these last few days to work through the stack of loose papers on my desk.  During the school year, I have a tendency to tear things out of magazines and journals, or print off an online article I think I won't be able to find again.  By the end of the spring semester, the stack is quite daunting.  As I've been attempting to whittle down my "to-read" books, so have I been working away at this stack.

I came across a beautiful piece of creative non-fiction from the Sept/Oct 2011 (nearing the bottom of the pile!) issue of Orion, one of my all-time favorite magazines.  It was Melissa Kwasny's exploration "Rock Drawings of the Northern Plains," part poetry, part descriptive essay, part history.  The language was so intense, that I decided to form a word bank before I decided on whether to keep the torn-out pages to use at school or recycle them.

After I finished that, I happened to flip the page back in my journals and I saw that I'd filled a page with notes on "General Orders 17."  This reminded me that I'd heard a spot on the local NPR station about these orders, which were issued in 1862 and condoned the forming of militia groups to "harass the Union Army" within the state of Arkansas. The text is only available as audio, here, scroll down to "General Orders 17."  This reminded me that I'd heard this blurb on June 20th while driving to a follow up with the oral surgeon, and that I'd been so struck by the language of the blurb and the orders that I'd come home and looked up the audio archive and jotted out the lines that echoed the most for me, forming another word bank.

So, while I might first have been tempted to draft something based on Kwasny's words, and will definitely use them in the future, I ended up drafting "General Orders 17" based on the NPR spot.  It begins:

Approach the body by preying without distinction.

It is a set of 12 imperatives, each standing alone as a single-line stanza.  Not sure that's going to remain, or even if this draft will hold together as a poem.  It is definitely not in the voice of the sickly speaker.  Instead, I imagine it as a set of orders given to the whitecoats by the AMA or one of their professors of medicine or something. 

I can see it fitting in the mss. as another aside, much like the definition poems, but I am uneasy about it.  Wouldn't I need more like it for it to fit?  Without other "general orders" poems, wouldn't this one stick out?  Does it have to fit in the manuscript?  Oh, what if the definition poems and a couple of general orders poems made it into an appendix? 

Oh, no! What if the sickly speaker has really left me???