Saturday, April 28, 2018

Tobi Alfier - Princess Bride or Blair Witch Project?

Writing “from the dark side”

What does “voice” mean to you? In my opinion, it’s what makes you recognizable. Not boring, comfortable. Just like the pink rose bush growing outside your neighbor’s window. It’s blooming now, it will be blooming through spring. You know you can count on it, just as you can count on a writer’s voice (or voices), regardless of the narrator, the point of view, or form of a poem.

Poste Restante  (original "Light" version)

I touch my lips to your lips,
brush away the odd entranced
hair from your brow. Visit
my hand from my heart to yours

I have perused the pictures on your desk,
commented on the red painted inside your cupboards.
I have ignored the calendar, ignored the phone,
ignored the poste restante.

My darling, pass the toast.
I’m not a fan of mornings, but
bread and chocolate in your kitchen
makes me remember to forget—
I’m one day closer to going home.
I’m not yet ready to go.

Now pretend you meet your friend for lunch one day. You’ve known her for years, your friendship is a fact. She shows up with her formerly long hair cropped short, or a comet of stars tattooed on both wrists. She’s still your friend, but she’s done something different, bold and exciting. That is writing from the dark side.

Enter Chuck. In a workshop led by the brilliant and generous Nick Flynn, he passed out a creepy postcard to each of us. Think Diane Arbus meets small-town circus. I got Chuck, a three-quarter headshot of an unsmiling dark-haired man, which looked taken through a shattered stained glass window. Nick said “take a poem you brought to workshop, and re-write it through the point of view of your postcard”.

See what you think. Then give yourself permission to surprise the heck out of everyone, most of all yourself. It’s still you. Still your voice. You now have a new weapon in your poetry arsenal. Welcome to the brave, exciting, dark side. (Note: “Poste Restante” means General Delivery. It was a way to pick up your mail in the old days if you were traveling).

Light or Dark, you decide.

Poste Restante (rewritten "Dark" version)

I touch your lips,
brush your brow. You,
wizard of the terrorizing night,
say breathe, focus on the pain.
It will lessen, be more manageable.

I note the red inside your cupboards,
close my eyes. Behind my lids
a thousand fireworks explode.
I want to run and shatter the window,
but the prism of your face
holds me still.

Make me remember to forget.
You are a lover of the dark.
I bend toward the light.
I do not know if I can be persuaded
to stay in the in-between.

- - - -

Tobi Alfier's most recent collection of poetry is Somewhere, Anywhere, Doesn't Matter Where. She is also co-editor with Jeff Alfier of the San Pedro River Review. Don't miss Tobi's columns on the craft of poetry: insert your email address in the "Follow By Email" box to the right of this article and you'll be notified every time a new article appears. 

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