Thursday, February 14, 2019

#70 Backstory of the Poem "Daily Commute" by Christopher P. Locke

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***This is the seventieth in a never-ending series called BACKSTORY OF THE POEM where the Chris Rice Cooper Blog (CRC) focuses on one specific poem and how the poet wrote that specific poem.  All BACKSTORY OF THE POEM links are at the end of this piece. 

#70 Backstory of the Poem
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P Locke
Can you go through the step-by-step process of writing this poem from the moment the idea was first conceived in your brain until final form? 
Well, not really; I wrote it about six years ago. But I can say its genesis came after the ignoble square dance I shared with the camel spider. Damn freaky creatures--they’re actually the stuff of nightmares. Before disposing of the thing, I felt a little bummed, especially as it curled in on itself and went about its slow, sad dying. I started thinking about God, and the possessed I remember convulsing about my church when I was a kid. 
We were Pentecostal, but nowhere near the Jim Jones level that would make Pentecostals synonymous with batshit crazy. But after I threw the camel spider into some bushes I got to thinking about the solemnity of the desert we occupied, the wild dogs and scorpions, the perfumed mornings bursting from our gardens, and those white birds I watched each day come and go like the wholly indentured.

Where were you when you started to actually write the poem? And please describe the place in great detail.  I was in my bedroom in our home in Mexico. In bed, late morning, cup of coffee vibrating next to me on my bed stand. The floor was hard and cold; terracotta. We were on the second floor and these great French doors opened up to a balcony pointing south. Colorful paintings hung on the wall; many pictures of skeletons wreathed in marigolds, a Diego Rivera print. Pretty innocuous and typical “Oh-look-at-me-I-live-in-Mexico” art. Boring, really. 
My daughters were in the pool, trying not to freeze to death; we disconnected the gas heater because it was too expensive to heat the water. But we were in the desert, so it wasn’t like anyone was getting hypothermia anytime soon. 
In general, I like to write first drafts longhand. Usually in pencil. In one of those faux leather journals they sell by the pound at Barnes & Noble. And that’s what I was doing that morning.
What month and year did you start writing this poem? October, 2012
How many drafts of this poem did you write before going to the final? (And can you share a photograph of your rough drafts with pen markings on it?) 
Probably wrote like 20 drafts? Not sure. Because once I get it into a form I can tolerate, I transfer to a laptop. From there, I keep at it until I feel it is sufficient. Very Kurt Vonnegut in my process; I move from word to word until it feels right. I have no idea what I did with the aforementioned faux leather journal. Lost in the move back to America? Who knows.

Were there any lines in any of your rough drafts of this poem that were not in the final version? And can you share them with us? I’m sure, but again, no clue. Because once I transfer to a laptop I save and re-save over the previous drafts, making the last draft the only draft I have remaining in digital form. I have many other poems in their longhand form still kicking around, but alas, they are different poems…

What do you want readers of this poem to take from this poem? The images. The way the narrative moves from one idea to the next without asking permission. 

That the reader is walking through the overgrowth without a compass and has no fucking idea how to get home but doesn’t care because the scenery is so bloody distracting. And that small moments can be beautiful in spite of the danger and the uncertainty. And really, that readers are satisfied, even if they end up somewhere completely unexpected.

Which part of the poem was the most emotional of you to write and why? When I described the lone flyer, because sometimes I feel like him, alone in an indifferent world. Camus would be proud. 

Has this poem been published before? And if so where?
Yes, first in the online magazine The Nervous Breakdown:

And then my book Ordinary Gods:
Anything you would like to add? Poetry isn’t cute. And it’s not a hobby—save that for collecting matchbooks. And if you really want to know, sometimes all I’d rather be doing is planning my next trip to a town in southern Spain where the plaza is squared off by orange trees and farmers feed their pigs hazelnuts and I feel immensely happy because those two details are enough for me.

Daily Commute

By Christopher Locke 
September 10, 2013
But before I could remember the name
of these angled white birds, the way
they filled the skies above our rented
house in Mexico, I had to first anoint
a camel spider in great chuffs of poisonous
oils, unfair really, being trapped as he
was in the terraza corner writhing like
the possessed I remember from my child-
hood church, when I believed men could
call God down from the rafters. And there
were also the dogs at night to deal with,
their barbed cries stringing the air
like broken Christmas lights, tuneless
and savage, unnerving in their confident,
dreamless yaps, envious of their brother
coyote running free in the desert, chained
only to his boundlessness, leaping brush
and cacti and the tiny scorpions which glow
under a black light like absinthe, creatures
we fear the most when strolling our garden’s
dahlia or slipping on our unchecked shoes.
But the birds, stork-like and mute, moving
above in clumps like highway traffic: first
four, then three, then the lone flyer I feel
the most for as he has no one to share his day.
They are dependable every 12 hours, a clock
punching numbness glued to their expressions,
if that’s what birds have, expressions.
The common sparrows will go rustling
in the nearby bamboo, gossiping the green
leaves past frenzy, but these white ones,
their wispy legs dragging useless behind
them, glide silently above us, joyless
and sober, forcing our daughters to point
while splashing in the pool, marvel these
bright tufts made brighter by the desert’s
retreating light, all going home, all done
for the day. Yes, that’s right: Snowy Egret.

Christopher Locke’s poems have appeared in over 100 magazines including The North American Review, Poetry East, Verse Daily, Southwest Review, The Literary Review, Mudlark, The Sun, West Branch, Rattle, 32 Poems, & twice on NPR's Morning Edition and Ireland’s Radio 1. His latest book is Ordinary Gods (2017—Salmon, Ireland). He is one half of the duo Late Lights & their debut album was recently released on Burst & Bloom Records. 
His first book for children, Heart Flight, (Cedar Grove) is forthcoming next spring. Locke has received the Dorothy Sargent Rosenberg Poetry Award, state grants from the Massachusetts Cultural Council & the New Hampshire State Council on the Arts, & poetry residencies from Fundación Valparaiso (Spain) and PAMAR (Mexico City). He lives in the Adirondacks & teaches poetry in person at North Country Community College & online at The Poetry Barn.


001  December 29, 2017
Margo Berdeshevksy’s “12-24”

002  January 08, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “82 Miles From the Beach, We Order The Lobster At Clear Lake Café”

003 January 12, 2018
Barbara Crooker’s “Orange”

004 January 22, 2018
Sonia Saikaley’s “Modern Matsushima”

005 January 29, 2018
Ellen Foos’s “Side Yard”

006 February 03, 2018
Susan Sundwall’s “The Ringmaster”

007 February 09, 2018
Leslea Newman’s “That Night”

008 February 17, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher “June Fairchild Isn’t Dead”

009 February 24, 2018
Charles Clifford Brooks III “The Gift of the Year With Granny”

010 March 03, 2018
Scott Thomas Outlar’s “The Natural Reflection of Your Palms”

011 March 10, 2018
Anya Francesca Jenkins’s “After Diane Beatty’s Photograph “History Abandoned”

012  March 17, 2018
Angela Narciso Torres’s “What I Learned This Week”

013 March 24, 2018
Jan Steckel’s “Holiday On ICE”

014 March 31, 2018
Ibrahim Honjo’s “Colors”

015 April 14, 2018
Marilyn Kallett’s “Ode to Disappointment”

016  April 27, 2018
Beth Copeland’s “Reliquary”

017  May 12, 2018
Marlon L Fick’s “The Swallows of Barcelona”

018  May 25, 2018

019  June 09, 2018
Alexis Rhone Fancher’s “Stiletto Killer. . . A Surmise”

020 June 16, 2018
Charles Rammelkamp’s “At Last I Can Start Suffering”

021  July 05, 2018
Marla Shaw O’Neill’s “Wind Chimes”

022 July 13, 2018
Julia Gordon-Bramer’s “Studying Ariel”

023 July 20, 2018
Bill Yarrow’s “Jesus Zombie”

024  July 27, 2018
Telaina Eriksen’s “Brag 2016”

025  August 01, 2018
Seth Berg’s “It is only Yourself that Bends – so Wake up!”

026  August 07, 2018
David Herrle’s “Devil In the Details”

027  August 13, 2018
Gloria Mindock’s “Carmen Polo, Lady Necklaces, 2017”

028  August 21, 2018
Connie Post’s “Two Deaths”

029  August 30, 2018
Mary Harwell Sayler’s “Faces in a Crowd”

030 September 16, 2018
Larry Jaffe’s “The Risking Point”

031  September 24, 2018
Mark Lee Webb’s “After We Drove”

032  October 04, 2018
Melissa Studdard’s “Astral”

033 October 13, 2018
Robert Craven’s “I Have A Bass Guitar Called Vanessa”

034  October 17, 2018
David Sullivan’s “Paper Mache Peaches of Heaven”

035 October 23, 2018
Timothy Gager’s “Sobriety”

036  October 30, 2018
Gary Glauber’s “The Second Breakfast”

037  November 04, 2018
Heather Forbes-McKeon’s “Melania’s Deaf Tone Jacket”

038 November 11, 2018
Andrena Zawinski’s “Women of the Fields”

039  November 00, 2018
Gordon Hilger’s “Poe”

040 November 16, 2018
Rita Quillen’s “My Children Question Me About Poetry” and “Deathbed Dreams”

041 November 20, 2018
Jonathan Kevin Rice’s “Dog Sitting”

042 November 22, 2018
Haroldo Barbosa Filho’s “Mountain”

043  November 27, 2018
Megan Merchant’s “Grief Flowers”

044 November 30, 2018
Jonathan P Taylor’s “This poem is too neat”

045  December 03, 2018
Ian Haight’s “Sungmyo for our Dead Father-in-Law”

046 December 06, 2018
Nancy Dafoe’s “Poem in the Throat”

047 December 11, 2018
Jeffrey Pearson’s “Memorial Day”

048  December 14, 2018
Frank Paino’s “Laika”

049  December 15, 2018
Jennifer Martelli’s “Anniversary”

O50  December 19, 2018
Joseph Ross’s For Gilberto Ramos, 15, Who Died in the Texas Desert, June 2014”

051 December 23, 2018
“The Persistence of Music”
by Anatoly Molotkov

052  December 27, 2018
“Under Surveillance”
by Michael Farry

053  December 28, 2018
“Grand Finale”
by Renuka Raghavan

054  December 29, 2018
by Gene Barry

055 January 2, 2019
by Larissa Shmailo

056  January 7, 2019
“The Seamstress:
by Len Kuntz

057  January 10, 2019
"Natural History"
by Camille T Dungy

058  January 11, 2019
by Brian Burmeister

059  January 12, 2019
by Clint Margrave

060 January 14, 2019
by Pat Durmon

061 January 19, 2019
“Neptune’s Choir”
by Linda Imbler

062  January 22, 2019
“Views From the Driveway”
by Amy Barone

063  January 25, 2019
“The heron leaves her haunts in the marsh”
by Gail Wronsky

064  January 30, 2019
by Terry Lucas

065 February 02, 2019
“Summer 1970, The University of Virginia Opens to Women in the Fall”
by Alarie Tennille

066 February 05, 2019
“At School They Learn Nouns”
by Patrick Bizzaro

067  February 06, 2019
“I Must Not Breathe”
by Angela Jackson-Brown

068 February 11, 2019
“Lunch on City Island, Early June”
by Christine Potter

069 February 12, 2019
by Andrew McFadyen-Ketchum

070 February 14, 2019
“Daily Commute”
by Christopher P. Locke

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