What did you use to do that fed your soul?

It was my last year at UCSD. Two long twelve-hour days each week down in San Diego. Busy young family life at home. I tried to keep mornings normal the days I wasn’t in school—making breakfast, packing lunches, fluffing dirty gym clothes in the dryer with a softener sheet if they hadn’t made it into the wash, sitting up on the counter to fix hubby’s collar as I gave him his morning kiss. I was absent for all of this the days I left by 5:45 for school. This finishing college after a twelve-year break was a team effort. Two extra-long days seemed to work better for us here in the final stretch than three regular ones. Hubby would drive the hour down to San Diego every Tuesday after work so we could eat dinner together before my evening class. Pastrami and Monte Cristos, their signature fresh pickles and amazing coffee at Samson’s Deli in La Jolla, just up the road from campus.

As full as my schedule was, I’d added one class I didn’t need just to keep me going . . . a Creative Writing Poetry class. Crazy, right? You would think so, but I’d learned by thirty-five the respite it would provide my creative soul . . . in the middle of all the have-to’s. With poems due every week, everything became fodder for a poem. The bevy of quail framed in morning sun on the backyard fence, the moving shadow on the water from the thirteenth-floor lecture hall above the ocean, a visit to New York City the week of a hundred-year snowstorm that shut it down (I’d come to do research for a baseball book about one of the “Boys of Summer”), memories of mud pies and the smell of supper out the window after dark, a basket of Indian Corn at the farmers’ market . . . even our morning kiss. I know, these don’t sound like the stuff poetry is made of, but you might be surprised. You use what you have. Poets always have.

While I love being able to choose free verse when I write (“Just write a paragraph and put it on the page in the shape of a poem,” I used to tell reluctant high school poets), there were the expected parameters for most assignments that required paying attention to subject, structure, rhythm and meter, and rhyme scheme. Not to worry, I’m not planning to launch into a poetry lesson here, lest you feel yourself slipping away . . . as I do when someone starts talking math, my brain sliding into a gray hallway searching for an exit.

Why am I talking about this poetry class? I just this weekend found the manilla folder of poems with their dates and the professor’s comments scrawled in blue or green ink! (These were the days when you still had to turn in an actual paper copy to the professor who would pick it up and read it while eating his lunch or drinking a late night cup of coffee. You also had to climb three flights of stairs to his office for an audience if you needed an extension or explanation for a grade.) A virtual time capsule from 1983 buried in a box of pictures in the closet. Of course I had to sit right down on the floor and read them! I am particularly entertained by the parody I wrote of Jenny Joseph’s “Warning” (“When I am an old woman I shall wear purple…”) I think I got just about all of that right!

I’ve copied a few into a Poetry Page here on the blog: Time Capsule 1983. If you are a poetry lover or writer or tinkerer you may find them entertaining. Some read like first drafts . . . and probably are. Some work, some don’t, but I’m including them to give you permission not to be amazing all the time. As simple or silly or soulful as they are, I am nonetheless inspired to start writing poetry again—as if it were an assignment. What did you use to do that fed your soul? I’m giving you an assignment: Do it.


Warm muffins and orange juice
Brown bags folded twice 
on the tops of their notebooks
Brush your teeth?
Milk money?
I hear the bus—love you
Kisses at the sink
Cool lips
Warm backs.

Sitting on the kitchen counter
Fixing his tie
A cologne-scented kiss
Warm lips
Warm neck
A private joke—

Rituals that weave an invisible thread
Binding me
To him
To them.
Check the Poetry Page: Time Capsule 1983 for a few more . . .

8 thoughts on “Poetry class

  1. Great poem! I remember “Warning.” 🙂 I got a writing degree myself; all of my English teachers told me I needed to write books. An up and down life sidetracked me for decades, but I think it needed to. At 52, I finally know what I want to write, and I think mainstream audiences may be more receptive to my character now as I’m seeing deaf people (I’m one) featured in a variety of media.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you! So fun that you are reading here. You should do it! We all get sidetracked. I know I did by other good and worthy things. But I’m finally just doing it. Just begin 🙂


  3. In my mid-twenties we had two littles and he was working long hours to build a business. I started using my typing skills from high school. (Remember, when typing was taught?) Poetry spilt out on the page. They started out as words I wished were true, morphing into reality. Ya know? How you start out thinking poetry is supposed to be loafty, until you realize it just needs to be you.
    Anyway…thanks for the memories. ✍🏻

    Liked by 1 person

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