There’s the nights of fireworks, and the days of dishes, or to paraphrase Jack Kornfield’s book, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry. Yet we can find peace, insight and even joy sometimes in the mundane and ordinary, the expected tasks that compose our lives, particularly when we open our eyes to the unexpected, which is always and near.
This month’s featured poet Kevin Rabas is a Kansas writer who co-directs the creative writing program at Emporia State University, co-edits Flint Hills Review, and has two books of poetry out —
Bird’s Horn and Other Poems (Coal City Review Press) and Lisa’s Flying Electric Piano (Woodley Press). He is a winner of the Langston Hughes award for poetry. Kevin’s poetry, while very musical — and that’s no surprise considering Kevin is both a musican and a jazz poet who often does readings with jazz musicians in the tradition of Langston Hughes, another Kansas writer, and Charles Mingus — he can write in ways that hold up the obvious and shake the magic out from it for us to see.
In Kevin’s poem, “Clothes Left in the Washer,” you can hear the rhythm of the repetition as well as see images that convey longing, passion and a little bird of mystery too:
Clothes Left in Washer
I’d go at once to meet you,
only I’d check
my eyes in the mirror
to make certain they pierced,
to make certain they could go absolutely cool—
as smoke, as brushes on drum head,
as breathy ballad,
or in the way John Coltrane
played the tune Naima
for her for the last time.
frog-buttoned in back,
that stopped your rival’s wedding,
dress that kept you
from being invited to mine;
I forgive, I invite you.
Parade on in.
Hold every curve
as a hand would.
Palm and lift up.
As you pass, know I will remember
that last hot bath you ran me,
through the thunderstorm
for the clothes we left
in your apartment’s quarter washer,
that afternoon when you told me:
You can stay. We can love.
— Kevin Rabas
For this month’s Write from Your Life, use Kevin’s poem as a guide to how the ordinary holds within its grasp the extraordinary. Write about something very regular that happens in your home, such as clothes left in a washer, dishes in the sink, a porch needing to be swept, or a garden wanting weeding. Or try another angle by writing from the point-of-view of a piece of clothing and letting its story come through.
Listen to some of Kevin’s poetry to music and consider buying his CD here.