My Own Private Idaho
My college life encapsulated
in a collapsing 1950s silver bullet trailer.
PBS humming in the background
to my daily ritual
of cleaning away spider webs,
as their occupants scurry
from beneath my broken couch.
In winter, the door rattles loose
and I wake to frozen toilet water.
Attempting to find my adult voice,
I watch Casablanca alone
in the mini-theater’s velvet seats,
buy milk in bottles with tin foil lids
from the whole-foods store.
Daily, I am drowning
beneath Derrida and commas,
a revision of my small-town education.
Scrabbling to catch up with the books
name-dropped in class.
Behind the sanctuary
of the locked bookstore door
Requiem blasts, lulling me
to a heavy peace
as I sort the Sunday papers,
relying on a weekend job.
Negotiating past staggering wasps
drunk from over-ripe burst plums,
I hear my neighbour’s alto sax
in his garage hideaway
crying into the darkness.
The damp mimeographed pages
with their blue ink, sour-cotton smell
came from a balding, scruffy writer-in-residence,
slouching in front of the chalk board.
He singled me out, waving
the booklet to underline his point.
I stared at my poems in blunt type
with my name, grade and school.
No rhyme or structure, true to future form,
but he said I was a poet.
And I didn’t know it, the boys sang,
but I held that sweet, blue knowledge close.
I was something, good at something,
no longer just twelve and non-descript.
Take a muggy summer night,
cram as many cousins as you can
into the back of the car,
long before strict seatbelt laws,
and skid into the back
of the parking lot.
We run to the concession stand,
whoopin and a-hollerin,
demanding popcorn, MilkDuds,
red liquorice whips and pop,
then jump up on the hood
to save the upholstery.
The film don’t matter, noisier the better,
spaceships and car chases,
monsters and no kissing.
The white hats always won,
but we’re the cool guy in black
who rides in to save the day.
The mosquitos bite and we bicker,
our uncles threaten ‘never again’,
but we laugh, jaws aching
all the way home.
Gerry Stewart is a poet, creative writing tutor and editor based in Finland. Her poetry collection Post-Holiday Blues was published by Flambard Press, UK. In 2019 she won the ‘Selected or Neglected Collection Competition’ with Hedgehog Poetry Press for her collection Totems, to be published in 2020. Her writing blog can be found at http://thistlewren.blogspot.fi/ and @grimalkingerry on Twitter.