Things I Don’t Know

I’ve started going through my poetry book collections and reacquainting myself with them, starting with James Tates Selected Poems. Tate had a major impact on me during my second year of college, most likely at the recommendation of my mentor and teacher, Dr. Lynn Burris Butler.

From the Poetry Foundation:

Many of Tate’s poems are character driven, featuring a narrator’s various encounters with a gnome, a goat, an insurance agent. In a 1998 interview, he pointed to one unifying element in his work: “My characters usually are—or, I’d say most often, I don’t want to generalize too much—but most often they’re in trouble, and they’re trying to find some kind of life.”

I hadn’t realized how much my style resembled his until I began reading his work again. When I’ve had my fill of Tate, I’ll turn my eyes back to the wonderfully weird Charles Simic.

My hope is that I’ll write more if I read more. That generally holds true for fiction, but aside from Stephen King’s recent (and excellent) short story collection If It Bleeds, I haven’t read any fiction…certainly not any that sparks ideas.

Things I Don’t Know

“There are some things you
don’t know,” she tells me as she
sews the children’s mouths shut.
She has a deft touch, and the
children hardly move as she works
the needle to and fro, humming.

“There are many things I don’t know,”
I say and begin sewing my own mouth
with a practiced hand, though I lack
her touch and soon begin bleeding
as the night blossoms deeply around us,
covering our little house in shadow.

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