Dan Guenther is a graduate of the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and the author of four novels, most recently Glossy Black Cockatoos, the 2010 Colorado Authors’ League award selection for genre fiction. His collection of selected poems, The Crooked Truth, is the 2011 Colorado Authors’ League poetry award winner. This poem is Dan’s response to Eric‘s question about what writers wear.
“What do you wear when you write,” she asked.
How clever I could have been at twenty,
to reply for once with the truth,
giving her the answer she wanted, the one that what I wore
was a yearning for her, an ache I held within.
But I was dumb, and boring, caught up in ideas and poems,
having met that shaman Robert Bly,
and pretending to know the many
personas of Erza Pound.
If she were alive I would write her a letter,
explaining how I’ve grown over the years,
how at thirty I wore a rain poncho stained with blood,
and carried a handgun, a nickel-plated .38 special.
She would understand how at forty I got serious,
my head spinning with dark schemes for getting rich,
how I found myself one night,
shaking in a restless sleep, on the verge of a mental breakdown.
At fifty, when I finally came of age, I would tell her
that I wore the memories of a younger man,
still a spiritual begger
searching for his unnamed deities.
At sixty, as the wild bees all but disappeared from our valley,
and for the first time I broke free from fear,
she would find me seeking comfort among family and friends,
wearing an enchanted cloak made from the feathers of Australian birds.
Almost seventy, I now wear a pale opossum on my back,
and rise early to find inspiration, traveling along our river at first light,
the soulful face of my quiet companion like that of a waning moon,
telling me nothing of where my life has gone.
What’s the best writing prompt you’ve ever had?