You pass lawns prim as golf greens,
boxed flowerbeds with hydrangeas
their inky blue looking as though
it would come off on your hands.
Garden pinwheels hum in the wind.
Eventually you come to the exception:
a dirt yard with two rusted cars,
parts of old dishwashers and AC units,
the netherworld of scrap metal,
grime and oil.
A tethered dog snarls on cue.
If you were to step inside the cabin
you’d find cold linoleum,
a flea market sofa and bed,
an embroidered view of the lake at sunset.
Maybe a rifle in the closet.
What do you find so unsettling?
The hint of violence?
Back in the yard grasshoppers whirr
like broken bits of machinery.
Sunlight thickens on your hand
like honey that’s gone hard.
Questions and Answers
Is there a specific moment that inspired you to pursue poetry?
Like most poets, my initial inspiration came from another poet. In my case, the other poet was Emily Dickinson. My grade eight teacher had read us her poem “Because I could not stop for Death,” and my reaction was one that Dickinson had predicted: I felt “physically as if the top of my head were taken off.” I still look, consciously, to other poets for inspiration and ideas regarding technique. But why I choose certain themes, subjects, and images is due to unconscious tendencies over which I do not, and perhaps should not, have much control.
What inspired or motivated you to write this poem?
The poem is based on an actual observation, but observations alone rarely make for a poem. There must be some inner tension for the poem to work and the tension here was partly realized in the speaker’s awareness of two worlds: the more common, middle-class world that he’s secure in, and the “netherworld,” with its aura of poverty and violence. I think the poem is a working out of the poet’s conflict in attempting to reconcile these two worlds.