Amusements & Useful Devices from K. A. Wisniewski
To celebrate the last month of summer holidays, I’d like to share my poem “Shopping in Tuscany” and the story behind it. Like a lot of my poems that appear in Making Faces, “Shopping in Tuscany” was written during a period where I was drafting a lot of plot-lines and notes for stories. With such limited time to spend on these pieces–or perhaps lack of discipline or attention to just focus on one. These notes, passages, and sometimes extended pages became the source for a number of the poems in this collection.
It became a weekly exercise to hack away at prose until I could (re)create the mood or ambiance of the original while simultaneously allotted a certain degree of awkwardness in language/diction, imagery, or structure/line break that reminds me of the shift from one genre to the next while also attempted to flesh out the (often awkward or uncomfortable) mood of the poem itself. As I revised a number of these works, I reading a lot of Roland Barthes and was thinking about his concept of “the middle voice.” Most of the poems in Making Faces are attempts to bracket the situation of the poem’s narrator or protagonist and mediates, re-situates, transforms it . . . until the “I writes itself” and reader experiences, remembers, reconsiders the discourse itself. Whether or not, any of that was achieved, I’ll let the readers decide. . .
“Shopping in Tuscany” worked a little differently. There were two strands from the same story that I was working with here, two different poems. The fragment that was ultimately scrapped, or rather filed away for another time, revolved around a scene of a man with a debilitating fear of sand–called “eremikophobia”– who is forced into a desert holiday. I was prompted to write the original piece after re-reading Edward Abbey’s Desert Solitaire and a 1970s essay explaining singing sand dunes. Of course, my story re-imagined this spiritual setting into the most unpleasant situation ever.
To fit the essence of the everyday from in other poems in the collection, I opted to re-work another scene, that of scavenger, thieving birds–something many of us who often visit the beach, a local park, or city square. This “detour” takes us down a different road altogether, while still maintaining my theme of tourism, of watching and being watched, relationships, self-realization, and a bit of embarrassment.
Some related news this week: my poem “Hands Off,” originally appearing in the Summer 2015 issue of Arsenic Lobster Poetry Journal, was selected to be published in print in the journal’s annual anthology. Please visit their website for more information.
Our Tuscan sky titters
an insolent golden haze
in autumn, drapes birdsong
shadows into the streets
and alleyways as you shop
for a Sunday dress and I trail,
listening to your heeled-boots
strike a steady rhythm.
Ballerina rows of birds
dip and lift and curtsy.
They play in puddles,
bicker over bread.
One colored burglar steals
a pastry from a little girl.
My pocket wishes for space
to take the little dodger home
as your feather-tipped finger,
delicate and demanding,
points into my chest
before it slips folded notes
from the inside sleeve.
Old men playing cards at a table
across the street can only laugh.
*The poem originally appeared in Sour Grapes and was recently published in my chapbook Making Faces. The book is still available for purchase at http://ow.ly/2BAE3032H2a.
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