Semi-Famous Poet

In my defense, the first time I saw Roger was totally by chance. It was in the university library. It would be hard to miss that shock of red hair and strutting walk. The little rooster, he’d called himself, in his first chapbook, What was that line? Oh yes, The little rooster, throwing himself against another sunrise.

I admit I was intrigued: our most well-known poet.

They say you can’t unring a bell. Or in my case, unsend emails. But really I was only asking him about his upcoming classes, then about the books, then about the assignments. All innocent questions but, in retrospect, I might have put him on edge. Each successive response from him was slightly less friendly, slightly more guarded. Perfectly understandable of course. Part of the ebb and flow of relationships, or as Roger wrote, in his collection, Dangerous Love

Forget fair, forget even, drown yourself into love’s choppy waters.

So it was with the best intentions that I strolled to the English department, determined to clear the air. Tucked under my arm were a few ‘quote unquote’ peace offerings: some poetry journals that featured Roger’s work, to demonstrate that I knew his writing well, that I respected his oeuvre. Poetry magazine had called him America’s Bad Boy Poet and The Guardian described his work as grabbing the reader by the throat.

I knocked lightly, once, twice on his office door. I could vaguely see him moving about through the frosted glass. I pressed my face against the window, peering in. That probably wasn’t the best moment for him to fling the door open. We were both startled, he was clearly on his way out, carrying a sack lunch and a can of Dr. Pepper. We stood eye to eye, his pupils dilating. The stack of journals tumbled from my arms. How strange to see his photo on the cover of Poetry Today skittering across the hallway.

He stepped back, holding his lunch bag against his chest: Leave me alone… He squeaked.

In his noted essay, Writing from the Hip, Roger describes effective poems as being astonishing yet inevitable. So true: some poems are destined to be written, just as some relationships are destined to be fulfilled. One day Roger & I will laugh over that silly incident with campus security.  But for now, I’ll stay ducked down in the back seat of my car, watching his house from across the street. How sweet to see the twin palms mentioned in his recent collection, Where Nothing is Safe, but those dogs are new additions I think, growling and snapping at his front gate. 

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