Walt Whitman on WeedDave Newman
I didn’t know anyone who read books— not my friends, not my parents, not even my teachers at school. Newspapers and magazines, maybe, but mostly it was TV or the movies, so I don’t know what I was doing up at one AM with a yellow pencil and a lined notebook, scribbling. One minute, I was thinking about my girlfriend, the next minute she was in a poem, a rhyming poem, sure, but a real poem nonetheless. “Never surrender, never let go,” I wrote, and followed it up with, “Our love is young and will grow.” I could recite the rest by heart, but you would, understandably, vomit. But that doesn’t matter. She loved it. I filled up a whole journal in days. We spent Friday night in a motel, making love and watching HBO, while our parents thought we were all-night bowling, and I said, “I want to live like this with you,” and she said, “I love you forever,” and I read her the one I’d written about marriage and sex, and how she made me feel fresh and new, like her virginity had been something we’d both shared. When I took the car home, I was five minutes late, and my mom bawled me out. The next weekend, my girlfriend’s parents sat on the couch and watched a movie with us, even though it was obvious we were burning for each other. Couldn’t they see anything? This was love. I was a poet. She was my muse. I was writing poetry. Nothing else mattered. Another time, when I was in my room, trying to find something that rhymed with eternity (other than “the sound of your pee”), my mom came in and said, “What are you writing?” and I said, “Nothing,” and she said, “Let me see,” and I said, “Please leave me alone,” and covered the page with my arms, and she said, “You don’t need to see your girlfriend again tonight. You’re too young to see each other every day.” Two weeks later, driven by forces beyond my comprehension, I found myself in a bookstore at Monroeville Mall, befuddled. I looked at the poetry section. I looked in science fiction. I went back to poetry, where I found a huge paperback by Walt Whitman. I read his bio. I checked out his picture. With his funny hat and long beard, the man looked like a wizard. I checked the price. I can still remember the numbers: $5.95. Obviously, you didn’t pay by the pages! I read a couple lines. I read a couple more. I tried to think about what I read, but the language was like Shakespeare. All language is like Shakespeare when you go to a high school that allows you to graduate without having read a novel, and the English teachers think Jack London is still contemporary and on the cutting edge. I went back to the science fiction section and bought a copy of The Hobbit, a book highly revered amongst the stoners who played guitar and hung around the art room, looking deep. At home, I read the first two chapters. I read them again and again and again. Everyone, it seemed, was a Shakespeare. I called my girlfriend to tell her I loved her with all my heart and soul. Giddy, she said, “Write me another poem!” Another poem? Oh, she deserved a novel. And she got one, a twenty-two page, single-spaced, hand-written fantasy novel, set in the faraway land of BeGone, where two kids who loved each other very much, sat around smoking ssarg, drinking reeb and looking for caves where they could make love, away from their parents who, of course, didn’t understand anything at all.
Dave Newman Read Bio Author Discusses Poems
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