“A list poem is one of the easiest kinds of poems to write because it doesn’t require either rhythm or rhyme. But that doesn’t mean you should write down anything helter skelter. Here’s a list of elements that makes a list poem a poem instead of just a list:
1) The writer is telling you something–pointing something out–saying, “Look at this” or, “Think about this.”
2) There’s a beginning and an end to it, like in a story.
3) Each item in the list is written the same way.”
“How to Write a “What Bugs Me” List Poem”, by Bruce Lansky (1996)
“My advice, to anyone willing to listen, is to find a notebook that fits into your pants pocket. Use a pen with a cap so it doesn’t explode in your pocket, and start writing down whatever you can remember. Even if it’s a favourite colour. Then, later, write down why it’s your favourite colour…. and pretty soon you’ve got a list.”
Me on my last post
The Second Of Five Lists: Fifteen Embarrassing Memories
I started my first journal in years last spring. After about a week I had the idea to write down the memories I had been torturing myself with for close to eighteen years. They were little split seconds of embarrassment and shame which, as the years passed, built up to such an intensity where I could feel them physically.
Each one of these memories — no matter how insignificant they may seem now — was capable of, at worst, causing deep suicidal examinations and at best moments of shame and worthlessness. So I wrote them down as they came to me and the effect was stunning. Most of them are now gone, and the ones which are left have drastically lessened in intensity. I was able to see them on the page, as a list, for what they were… just small moments in time captured forever by a disease which doesn’t want us to move on. So here they are, not in order of intensity but just as how they occurred to me last year…
…there’s no way this could ever come back and bit me on the ass.
01) Laurie At McDonald’s: When I worked at The Company my brain just locked when I was around this one woman, it was like I was angry at her but couldn’t figure out why. She drove me downtown after work one night, it was pretty obvious she was trying to figure out what the fuck was going on. She pulled into a McDonald’s for a milkshake and burger and asked me if I wanted anything. Until this point on our journey I hadn’t said a word, I was too angry. Anyway. I said something like “no, I never eat junk.”
02) In The Public School Lunchroom: When I was in Grade Three I broke down in the cafeteria during lunch. Nothing drastic, just tears and semi-quiet sobbing. The kid next to me asked me why and I told him my father had died the previous day. Which was a lie, and a weird one.
03) The Three Chicks Photo: When I was living in Guelph I had 24-hour access to a computer and Internet access at a small office. As a way of avoiding working on The Project I had been scanning photos and creating Geocities websites. One of my photos was from a party, in it were three young women posing in a semi-provocative way. So I made it the background on my computer. Ten minutes later my sister and her old school feminist hippie mom walked in and saw it. So I had to explain the whole thing…
04) In The Backseat With Leanne: My second major crush was a girl named Leanne. When I was thirteen (?) mom took the two of us, and my brother, on a road trip for ice cream and stuff. Leanne and I were in the backseat, sitting oh so very close to each other. God, I can still almost smell her. Anyway. I said something, it was just something silly, and mom jumped on it and turned it on me. Basically mom got Leanne laughing at me.
05) After The Race With C.: For the first two years of high school this girl, C., tortured me. Every once in a while, though, we’d kind of have a tender moment… there was one involving a Foreigner song that was just bizarre, but this isn’t about those memories. We had a long distance race in gym class. I wasn’t so bad on the short races (I’ve had some leg issues since I was a kid), but I sucked wind at the distance stuff. I had never come close to finishing one of these things, but this time I pushed myself harder and further than ever before and not only finished, but got into a sprint over the last 100m with another student. Afterwards I was dead, my lungs were being squeezed out my ass. So as everyone left I fell to my knees next to a fence and just hacked and coughed and tried to breathe. Just then C. walked up and started to congratulate me… but she thought I was throwing up so she gagged and fucked off.
06) Interview In A T-Shirt: Back in 2000 a friend set me up with a morning interview at a new, but really well financed, PR firm. I’m still not sure why but I showed up wearing an oversized black beach T-shirt.
07) N**c* And The Crumpled Paper: I was working as a writer in a highly successful PR Firm. I was asked to help a new Consultant with something… the request was actually really vague and I had only been working there for about two months so I didn’t know jack about shit. We met outside and I scribbled some meaningless doodles on a paper as we talked. Somehow the paper made it to my performance review a month later. My department head, N**c*, had been told the doodles had been everything I had offered the newbie as support for her project. Anyway. I panicked, crumpled the paper in my hand as I was defending myself and N**c*, a complete nutsack, offered that as proof to my anger issues.
08) Fighting With Sis A.: One evening my sister A. and I were on the couch just goofing around and suddenly we were fighting over a newspaper. We got into a tug-of-war and tore it in half.
09) Karaoke With Justin: Metallica’s “Enter Sandman” and five White Russians. First time, last time.
10) Steve And The Darkroom Keys: This one still bothers me. I was in desperate need of a computer for a massive freelance project, so Steve, the head of the journalism program I graduated from, gave me access to College computers in exchange for me helping out with the first-year class. Steve really helped me… like mentor kind of help during my time at College. The first few days went fine, then one of the students (a seriously hot student with firm breasts) asked me about photography. The College had recently cut the black and white photography program. So she had some negatives that were in pretty bad shape and asked if I could get an image from them. So I walked into Steve’s class where he was helping a student and hounded him for the key to the darkroom. After about five minutes of raising voices we ended up in the hall getting ready to beat on each other. Another teacher had to step in between us. It was the last time I spoke to Steve. He died from a really horrible cancer a few years later. I have a photo of us on my desk from when I won my first newspaper award..
11) Dirty Hair And The Sears Photo: In 1992 I was working twelve-hour days in Ottawa. My girlfriend had basically threatened to leave unless I got a job so I was working as a mover. I was out the door at 4am, at work for 6am, then I moved heavy stuff until 6 or 7pm then home around 9pm. Someone had given her a coupon for a free photo at Sears, so she set a date and I had to break it at the last minute. Then another date, and I had to break that one. Finally, because it really meant something to her, I told her I’d be there on the third try no matter what. Unfortunately I had a couple of really long days in a row so I woke up late. I had no time to do anything except dress and catch a bus. So… no shower. After lifting and carrying really heavy crap. She looked incredible all the freaking time, but fuck did she look good in that photo. I looked like a guy who sweated heavily for fourteen hours, then slept for five…
12) Every Moment With Laura: While I was researching my family for The Project, in 2001 and 2002, Laura and I became very close. I was crazy about her, and she was crazy for me. But I was just steps away from a total breakdown. I was dying from a suicide that hadn’t started yet. Basically I walked away from Laura.
13) Singing Wild Thing: 1987 or 1988. A bunch of us were at a local bar celebrating the last night of a play. It was open mike night, and three other dudes and myself had a band so we got up in front of a large group of students from my high school. There are, really, no words to Wild Thing and I forgot them all.
14) First Kiss With Lynne: Holy crap. My first open mouth kiss involving tongue and I did it exactly how Penthouse taught me how… “Dear Penthouse Forum; This has never happened to me before, but… [snip], then I jammed my tongue down her throat. She loved it, then she grew an extra set of tits on her back.” Lynne ended up being a very good teacher.
15) Passing The Gas At The Party: The Editor-in-Chief of one of Canada’s most important tech magazines, and a drinking buddy, took me to a fairly high-end party. We ended up on the back porch with four very lovely, and successful, women… basically everyone at the party made at least eight times my salary. Anyway. We’re having a conversation and I lean over to grab my cigarettes and I hear a fairly loud rumbling sound. It actually took me a few moments, if not minutes, to realize I had just passed gas. They, however, had figured it out pretty much right away.
An Update Of Sorts: Irony’s A Bitch
I originally posted this thing at approximately 3am, then for about the next ninety minutes I was too depressed to move. I was even so distracted I couldn’t even play GTA properly and I kept getting Carl Johnson killed or arrested — in the interest of total disclosure I guess I could move my fingers and eyeballs. So I turned Salted completely off and went to bed… it made sense at the time.
man…I have so many. I just try not to think of them. Bleeding all over chairs in Grade 7 because I didn’t know what to do, my boobs flopping out in front of a LOT of boys in grade nine, waking up still drunk covered in….something with no idea where I was but everyone starting at me.
We should gather up a ton of stories and compile them on a site. A purge.
And I’m sorry, but the one about the fart is funny. I’ve had that sorta thing happen, and I don’t get people who don’t just laugh and move on when seeing it happen. It’s a fart! ACK! RUN AWAY!
Oh, you were fine at Karaoke. You growled with sufficient menace.
I don’t know… I really think I could have given more to properly represent Hetfield’s opus and burning descent into an alcoholic nightmare…
Once I started writing these things down I was able to see how ludicrous it was to feel the way I did when the disease assaulted me with them. By writing them down I was able to take the power out of them… basically what I’m trying to do — and I don’t think I’m doing a very good job — is show how making these kinds of lists, these kinds of memory lists, can help in someone’s recovery.
It’s hard to explain, but I did write a post about this a while back called “Mostly We Die From Infected Memories” but I’ll paraphrase a little so it doesn’t seem like I’m assigning homework…
“I no longer believe that it is the memories themselves which are the direct cause of the pain, I now believe that we are feeling real and current pain and we are finding memories which could explain the pain. Simply: I believe that the disease causes us pain, and in an attempt to explain that pain we find painful memories.”
“One more time: The Disease hits me with a feeling — shame, powerful shame: 85/100. So my brain finds a shameful moment to explain this feeling, even if that memory ranks only: 30/100. But that Found Memory is now assigned the ranking of the New Pain. So B. should only be a 30 but, in my Disease Induced Fantasy, B. is now ramped right up to an 85 and suddenly I’m a heartless bastard all the way back to Grade Fucking Three who has caused so much pain to so many people that I should just get it over with and load the shotgun. Suddenly this disease has me convinced it’s rational to pump a bullet into my head by convincing me I’m a Complete Unforgiveable Fuck over something from twenty-five years ago that never really happened.”
thordora… a compilation’s a good idea… a purge-a-thon… the list I was working from for this thing still has a few more pages in it…
Purg-a-lation…for the nation! (oh dear, I must be bored at work)
I always had the problem of overreaching empathy. I snapped at my Dad when I was 7 or so because I was mad and he was trying to be nice. I STILL feel bad about that sometimes. I hate that just as much as overblowing my errors.
Well, yeah, you said that you’d banished or subdued most of them in the intro. I was just saying you have a lovely singing voice.
Really? I’d describe it as being “delicate” and “like listening to the wind while sitting on a beach at midnight with the corpse of your loved one on your lap”.
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