Perspective. This is something I began to notice in my late teens, when I was preternaturally introverted: sanity is entirely a matter of perspective. People are said to be insane when others don't share or understand their reference points. I suspect to be clinically sane would make you so odd, nobody could understand your actions or motives. Everyone aspires to some degree of uniqueness, but not to the point of psychosis.

I have said something incredibly stupid, and hurt the one person in the world whose opinion I value most. I missed the point absolutely, in a concept so simple to grasp even pine cones could easily understand. And the only explanation I have is my perspective was off. Now I perceive myself to be a massive buffoon with no sense, sensitivity or social skills. Probably regarded by most of my friends as strange, if not actually menacing.

Mary threw a poetry party. Partly because she finds this an interesting method to encourage people to interact, partly because she is writing a book with her friend Judy, about teaching methods to teach writing to teachers. This has been a major focus for her this last week. I worked all day, and - of course - forgot to get ice on the way home. So, I motored up to Terry's Country Store for ice and extra Doritos, iced down various refreshments and jumped in the shower. People began to arrive, mingle and lubricate themselves: Judy and Evan, Kent and Pepper, Morgan and Lowell, Mattless Laura, Samless Vera and Katyless Noel. Eventually it was time for Mary's first planned activity: we wrote down various words and phrases that held some internal significance, dropped them into a large tupperware container for dissemination, and looked at the directions for our first literary exercise:

Poem #1 With your mate - Word Bowl Poem: 10 minutes

Choose 5 word strips from the bowl. Arrange them in your notebook in a way that describes something about your relationship with your schnookums. This piece can be literal or very symbolic and abstract. The point to all of it is to have fun with the words. Give them a swing and a twirl. Fill in missing words from your own fertile minds. Write it down. Share.

I somehow derived from this that I was obliged to use the words I had withdrawn from the bowl, using my own feeble mind. The first small paper I unfolded read : 'Your mother is a twit.' I laughed, thinking 'OK - how am I going to spin this into something not altogether damning?' As I am not the quickest study in the world, a way did not occur to me till long after: long after it would do me any good at all. The other words and phrases I fell prey to were "sacrosanct", "whose passion wastes", "parallels", and "contemplate". It did not enter my consciousness that I could throw back a word or phrase, that this would the equivalent of a forty five second fart in the presence of the pope. Make that the queen: I LIKE the idea of farting in front of the pope. Under the program that was operating me, I didn't perform exceptionally bad. Here is the poem to which I arrived:

Your mother is a twit, sacrosanct and multicoastal.

Contemplate the parallels whose passion wastes and bends,

Ever returning to the source.

Not Billy Collins level, certainly, but not completely execrable either. Of course, the way out is to negate the phrase Your mother is a twit in the poem. But that didn't occur to me till long after the damage was done. I feel like I covered my posterior fairly well with this preamble: "These are the words and phrases I drew - this kinda grabbed me my the horns and steered me in one direction." The really cool thing about this activity is everybody discovers there is a poet - or at least a competent wordsmith - lurking under their camouflage exterior. Many - which I do not recall, unfortunately - were poignant and/or beautiful.

The next exercise was a lune: previously unknown to me, a lune is a three line poem, cousin to the haiku - free verse or rhyming - with three words in the first and last lines and five in the middle. The internal editor inside us all turns these into tiny gems, possibly because they are by nature ambiguous. Thinking of my dying mother, I came up with

Touch my face

For this one last time.

I am gone.

Which, amorphously enough, can be perceived to relate to almost anything. All involved were quite impressed by their own level of wordplay in this exercise. And now - the fateful moment: someone suggested we turn our initial poems into lunes. Since 'Your mother is a twit' is five words already, what three words would begin my pilgrimage to hell? "Well," I figured, "I'm already fucked with the middle. Might as well go for the jugular in my typical style, for the beginning. How can I make this even more blasphemous...? How about 'Stupid, swarthy bitch' ? Then maybe I can pull down my pants and shit on the floor."

I am not a genius, or even especially bright. But a rock above the age of twelve knows this cardinal truth: "I can talk about my family: don't even THINK you can talk about my family."

It was a long two days.


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