So I was listening to Pink Floyd, really loud, when I got to “Nobody Home”:
And I thought, “I’ve got a little black book with me poems in.”
Actually, I have many, many little pocket notebooks that I’ve carried with me for intermittent lengths of time. Of course, since I’m a pack rat, I own most of them along with countless (okay, finite but a really big number) of legal pads that have filled the leather binder I got as a gift from Catherine S— when I was in high school. Or middle school. The same binder I’ve carried to countless (okay, finite but a really big number) of job interviews.
But this was the first:
I must have gotten this little book in sixth grade, right after I moved from Wisconsin to Missouri. It contains:
“The Union”, a poem that I would submit to a poetry contest I saw in the back of a magazine. I got an Honorable Mention for it. As I was a naif and in sixth grade, I was very happy when they offered to publish it. I didn’t know the racket then, where presses made a lot of money off of jamming hundreds of “Honorable Mentions” into a cheap book and then selling them for $50 to the “winners.” Somehow, my mother scraped this money together from her earnings as an onion ring separator at a frozen foods plant to buy a copy of Our World’s Most Beloved Poems. It was my first publication credit, but not one I tend to claim on my CV these days.
“The Heater”, a poem about our babysitter’s kerosene heater running out of fuel on a cold morning. We lived with my aunt at the time, the “rich” aunt who was just getting by, which was better than we were doing at the time. She didn’t want a couple of knuckleheads bouncing around her house unsupervised, so we were packed up to a woman in a trailer park who ran an unlicensed day care. The first babysitter fired us because we were so much older than her other charges and because we were a couple of knuckleheads, so we ended up at another woman’s trailer in the same trailer park for a while until she fired us for being knuckleheads. And then we bounced around my aunt’s basement until such time as we got a trailer of our own, albeit one in a different county.
Other miscellaneous poems with horrible forced rhymes, many of which include notations for markets to which I submitted the poems for print. I was getting rejected for publication in middle school. Which is just as well, as I think many of them were ads I saw in the back of Writer’s Digest for vanity presses.
I’ve got a couple other scribbled ideas in there, such as a commercial for dog food. I didn’t recycle this when I took a Writing for Broadcast class in college eight years later.
I’ve got autographs from Republican political figures and candidates from the era, including the signature of (then) Governor Kit Bond. My uncle was active in the party, so I whipped this out for autographs at some function or other.
A nametag for my uncle from the same function where they misspelled his last name. He pitched the misspelled one, but I pressed it into my book.
A collection of autographs from teachers and students at Henderson Junior High. I guess it turned into an autograph book at some point.
Of course, mine is a relic-based memory, so this little book brings back memories from that era when there are only two people left to me who remember it.
What’s craziest about that is that I wanted to be a writer and a poet by the sixth grade and I was actively pursuing it at that precocious age. I didn’t really remember that. Sadly, it’s been a decade since I’ve written a poem.