Today, at the Austin Poetry Society’s Online Annual Awards Celebration, my poem “Growing Faces” won first place in The Unexpected Award. I’m excited that this weird, somewhat creepy little poem will appear in the 2019-2020 volume of Best Austin Poetry and can’t wait to see it come out in print later this year.
In the meantime, I want to share my poem that was published in Best Austin Poetry 2017-2018. This poem won the APS November 2017 Monthly Contest in the “light verse” category. It’s about my very fat childhood cat, Muffin, pictured below.
Conquest or Coincidence?
A scratch at the door, a pitiful squeak,
the clumsy stumbling of four furry feet,
some panting, some pawing, and one muffled “mew,”
we all gather around and—can it be true?
The twenty-pound feline bounds through the door
and places his conquest onto the floor.
Proudly he sits in the awe-silenced house,
for Muffin, Great Muffin, has brought in a mouse!
We all praise his bravery, his courage, his gumption,
although, privately, it is our assumption
that the mouse that lay dead in our fat housecat’s claws
probably died of a natural cause.
Coronavirus is on the tongue of every passerby. Gossip spreads faster than germs
and both are carriers of the disease.
We wash our hands raw
with soap and practicality
but can’t help inhaling the news.
Our map is full of pins
in places we’re not allowed to go
while vacations are both extended
At a time when human comfort
seems like the best medicine
we isolate, wave from afar,
blow kisses into our elbows
and pray to the gods of science.
Two years ago, I began assisting with my middle school’s Writing Club, and last year I took over as sponsor. It makes for a long Friday afternoon, and sometimes I need to just sit in the silence of my car for a few minutes before I drive home so I can get the ringing in my ears to stop*, but overall it’s been a very pleasurable experience.
* Ringing in your ears? It’s a Writing Club. Doesn’t that mean you spend the hour listening to the peaceful scratching of pen on paper? Um, no.
At my school’s Writing Club, the focus is on the word Club more than on the word Writing. The hour after school is as much about students gushing over their latest literary crush, arguing over which fandom is better: Harry Potter or Percy Jackson, and complaining about the perils of writer’s block, as it is about writing the great teen novel. We do eventually put gel pen to journal most days, but first there are beach ball ice breaker games and a general LOUD decompressing after a long day/week. Some students come to the club with works in progress—comics, sci-fi novels, poetry—that they add to or work on. Others sit down with a blank page and see what happens. Some just come for the company. Because, most importantly, Writing Club is a place where these young writers can be among their own kind and let their inner selves out to play without judgment.
My favorite part is when we end with sharing time because these kids, silly or not, are killing it with their poems and stories, and they’re not afraid to put themselves on paper or take their fiction to dark, shadowy places. Last week at our first meeting of the year (yes, we started Writing Club on a full moon Friday the 13th) one girl shared a heart-wrenchingly honest poem written to her math class crush, another read a haunting piece full of dramatic imagery, and another shared a witty, rhyming poem about the latest trends that had both me and our principal in stitches, even though we didn’t get all the references. These kids always inspire me. Which brings me to my other favorite thing about Writing Club… It often gets me writing.
I’ve drafted unexpected blog posts in Writing Club and written poems based on prompts, and even wrote the first page of a story about a zombie crocodile that I later turned into something I really like. The ideas that come to me in this setting are things that probably would never cross my mind elsewhere, as if I, too, can channel my inner “young writer” around all this creative youth.
I’m grateful for Writing Club, and I’m looking forward to more meetings with this year’s bunch of unique little oddballs. They are my people.