March 9th, 2013 - Michael Meyerhofer
I’m sitting in an office the size of an extended closet, listening to low-playing Jazz as I finish marking up a stack of poems for tomorrow’s workshop. It’s an Honors class on Zen literature, but because I’m something of a poser when it comes to Buddhism, I’m really just structuring the class as a poetry workshop with an emphasis on imagery and existing in the moment, sprinkling in the occasional koan or Alan Watts quote in the hopes that whatever helps me might do the same for them.
As usual, these Honors students are blowing me away with how quickly they’re improving, already weaving in some narrative twists and unexpected bits of humor I’d expect to see in a top literary journal. But it's getting late. The windows change from burnt orange to black, obscuring the names of the many books I’ve stacked along the windowsill, which in these cramped quarters doubles as a bookshelf.
The building stands mostly empty but every once in a while, a frazzled grad student rushes by on the way to a night class, hugging books to their chest. Or a janitor pauses to nod at my open door and joke about how late it’s getting as they push along the cart equivalent of a Swiss army knife, bristling with mops and brooms and spray bottles.
In a few weeks, I’ll be driving a rental car all the way from Indiana to upstate New York for a couple readings, joined by a woman who still loves me, both of us gawking at the hills covered in exploding trees. Meanwhile, people whose funerals I’ll one day attend are still breathing in another time zone, just a phone call away.
But for now, it’s these students’ poems that hold my attention. One questions the existence of God. Another recounts a weekend of lovemaking in lurid, blushing detail. Others lament the death of a horse, a grandmother, the American Dream. Here’s one that’s all about ice cream – how it melts to fill the dish, like rain in a bird-bath. Or was it the ocean? Hard to be sure after so long, though I still remember how it felt to sit in that little office bordered by highways and cornfields, leaning over white pages darkened by words, drawing smiley faces along the margins like some parent grinning from the bleachers.
Michael Meyerhofer’s fifth poetry book, Ragged Eden, was published by Glass Lyre Press. His work has appeared in The Sun, Missouri Review, Southern Review, Rattle, Ploughshares, and other journals. He is also the author of a fantasy series and serves as the Poetry Editor of Atticus Review. For more information and an embarrassing childhood photo, visit troublewithhammers.com.