14 November 2010

A coincidence in my literary life

In October of 2002 I experienced a spooky coincidence that I can recall as if it happened yesterday. It concerned a woman, a poem, two poets, and a spree killer.

The woman is named Kim and in October of 2002 she was a waitress in my favorite sports bar. I had a regular poetry night downtown which started at 9:00 P.M. Between the end of my work and the beginning of my poetry I had a couple hours to kill, so every Tuesday night I went to this place and got a cheeseburger and a couple of beers and polished up my poem for the reading later in the night. After a few months of this routine, one of the waitresses asks me about my poems that I am always working on. We talked about poetry for a few minutes and I asked her "would you like me to write you a poem?"

She replied with an enthusiastic, "Yes!" So I got to work on it the next day. And I spent nearly all of Saturday and Sunday writing it and rewriting it and then illustrating it. There were five stanzas, five pages, five illustrations. One of the lines was:

There are no negroes in my tarot deck except maybe Death and the Devil

This page had on it my own drawing of the Devil card. Unknown to me at the time of my writing my poem for my suddenly favorite waitress, the Death card was going to be on the front cover of Time and Newsweek magazine in four days. The second of October 2002 was the day that John Allen Muhammad left a Death card at the scene of one of his murders. By Tuesday this news was all over the place. This is the central coincidence in my tale, but it is not the only one.

There were also two poets who had coincidental connections to my poem. I used a trope which is not uncommon but which I learned from a friend of mine, Dennis Tyler, where all five stanzas had very slight variation in their final line. The final line of each stanza went like:

She is X and I do not know her name

(X=laughing, crying, dying, &c. Sort of a true fact as I still did not know the woman's last name.)

On the day when I wrote this Dennis had been absent from our shows for many months, but on that Tuesday he showed up. It was a pleasant surprise when he walked into the venue shortly before it was my turn to get up onto the stage.

The other (small) coincidence was the hostess of the show that night was a person whom I had never met and never heard of, named Eve. The biblical Eve also was a character in my poem. All of this put me into an excited state when I was going up there onto the stage. I can still remember talking to the audience, before I read my poem, about all these strange coincidences that I had stumbled into. It was the first time I ever read before that audience that I had a total grip on them all and I had not even begun to read yet. Then I read and it went swell. It was something of a transformation of my relationship to that entire group of people. Before, I was almost like an interloper; and after, I really belonged in that group.

Later I was explaining to a friend of mine the story of the episode, how I actually lost almost all of my stage fright in one minute and it was a complete accident. She insisted it was not an accident, there are no accidents. Her preferred explanation was something on the order of there was a cosmic force injecting the Death card into the human world and me and Muhammad were on the same channel. What happened was quite weird enough without cosmic forces channeling into me and this other guy across the country on the same day.


M said...
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Craig said...

I had not yet read that truly magnificent essay. Thank you for the link!

Miriam Theotokos said...

I dreamed of you last night. You were a fish.


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About Craig

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Houston, Texas, United States
I have been living in the lovely neighborhood of Spring Branch in the great city of Houston since late in 2005. I started out with the idea of making this blog about my life in this neighborhood. That did not last long. Right now I am posting every five days on the alternating topics of literature, philosophy, psychology, and metaphysics. This project has been ongoing since July 27, 2010 and I believe it will continue for at least a few more months.