I don’t always send my poems off to journals. The decision to send to a journal or not sometimes takes me a week or so. I may go through several drafts of a poem before thinking about a journal that might be a good fit. There are times when I don’t send a poem out at all. I leave it alone and don’t revisit it for months. I might then trash the poem completely or start all over again – because the rhythm or imagery isn’t right for me.
The poems I don’t want to send to journals, I’ll publish on this blog. Because…why not? And here’s one of them.
Another year at the beach
January clings to your hair. A fly-stuck-in-molasses heat stretching skin porcelain pale, cracked from the winter in your bones. You swim to an island yet to be named. A dog waits – he has no name – on a beach with your board shorts, and custard clouds circling above. He’s not sure what to do but hopes you’ll take him home because he wants you to sketch a world where doors remain open beyond water’s edge. You peer into the sea, see mermaids with greedy mouths open, their arms reaching to pull you deep into the seaweed of your sister’s sleep. Ravens fly west, dragging the dog’s dream with them, but you turn round for someone has to switch the lights back on. The dog passes you a towel sticky with the childhood of your father’s making.
You’ll be forty in February – feb-ROO-ary your mother would say, like the kangaroo. You decide to give the dog a name, but Joanna doesn’t suit. So, you call him letter instead because that’s all that is left.
What inspired me to write this poem? A high school friend died many years ago. Her name was Joanne. We weren’t close, but she shared a part of my life as a fellow student, and we were in the same English and Science classes. I only found out in 2020 that she had passed. And how I found out was because I belong to a Facebook group dedicated to the year we left school. There was a photo of Joanne with our science teacher. I recognised her instantly even though it’s been years since we left school. We never met again, and we did the proverbial – went our separate ways. Underneath the post were a lot of comments – mainly along the lines of “she died way too soon.”
I’m fortunate to have stayed in close contact with quite a few high school mates, so I messaged Sharon and asked her about Joanne. She told me about Joanne’s sad life in the six years between leaving high school and her passing and how her parents had disowned her. Drugs and prostitution were to blame.
I was inspired to write this poem. Yes, it’s melancholic. Yes, it’s a different story – about a person who decided to live and a sister who decided not to. I changed the name to Joanna because rhythmically it’s better. But every word in this poem was written with JB in mind. R.I.P.