Where the poem comes from: Robert VanderMolen
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
Bob lives and works in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He published his first collection when he was still an undergraduate at Michigan State University. His most recent collection, “Water,” published by Michigan State University Press, is reviewed in the current issue of Poetry.
The poem here, “A Mist,” appeared last winter in the Laurel Review.
But my fever made me long
For New Jersey. I told my husband
I liked it here, but I didn’t want to die
In Michigan. Does that seem so odd?
You lie in bed wishing one of the dominoes
Had fallen in a different direction. You look at your body—
When you need affection life seems so meager
Thank you for meeting me here.
I know I’m not like I once was, but who is.
I favor men with some meat on them.
It’s pleasant to be warm like this.
I’m not accustomed to being carefree
The woods so dark in winter behind the house
There are times I feel like I’m looking in,
My face against the glass of the slider
Like a woodchuck’s, my skin all covered in bristly hair—
I’d prefer alternatives
A smallish career in the arts, let’s say. A plan of some sort.
Even the day the oven caught fire
Everyone seemed to have somewhere else to go…
I kept hacking away at this poem for (perhaps) 3 or 4 years--at one time it was two pages in length. Cutting out the fat, so to speak. Maybe 12 years ago I was having dinner at the house of the president of Grand Valley University, a woman at my table, an editor, was saying she loved Michigan but didn't want to die here. Came from Brooklyn, NY. as a young woman, as I recall. Which was the original germ of the piece--on a piece of paper I found years later in my desk. Then some other snippets--someone telling me about looking in a window rather than out, unhappy. So the poem evolved into a small narrative--though it took a while