Jesse was allegedly finishing up his doctoral work, which meant at any moment there could be a job we would move for, and so instead of signing a contract to teach for the 2003-2004 school year—I figured we wouldn’t be there for the entire year—I took a break from teaching and tried my hand at working at a scrapbook store and aerobics teaching. (These were two separate jobs, but goodness, imagine if they were a part of the same position! “Scrapbooking aerobics teacher wanted.” Sign me up!)
It’s one thing to have a dream. It is another thing to work that dream—to try it on and figure out what it’s all about. Here’s where the dream might not fade, but it could bring to light a thing or two about the dreamer.
What I learned about myself at the scrapbook store is that I love keeping memories. I love capturing and telling the stories behind the photos I take. What I don’t love is customer service. Customer service makes me rude.
Note that I didn’t write that I don’t like helping people with their stories. Anyone who’s ever talked to me for more than five minutes knows that to help someone find, pull out, and share a story is a passion of mine. I just don’t want to help anyone find a sticker and a color scheme for it.
It’s a matter of form. I think of my dream as a poem, waiting to be brought forth, and I was trying to write a haiku when it wanted to be a rondeau.
Something similar happened with my aerobics position. I loved everything about that job. I loved the music, I loved choreographing the routines, I loved the microphone. For an hour, three times a week, I got to pretend I was JLo on set at a music video shoot. Everything about the job was glorious.
Except I didn’t know how to properly cue the participants because I was teaching a 45-minute cardio routine and not counting to 8 on a 32 bar. (You dancers will know what I’m talking about.) The participants were confused, and it’s not fun to be confused when you’re exercising. Again it was a matter of form.
One day after one of my classes, another instructor and friend of mine said, “I’m going to teach you to listen for the 32-8 count.” She turned on the music and lifted a finger in the air—like Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton—every time a new block began.
“Ohhhh!” I said, and soon I was joining in on the dance party (albeit, a simple one).
From there, I learned I could build on those blocks as opposed to coming up with 45 minutes of unique footwork. Kind of like a sestina. I think I was trying to write an ode.
I’m convinced dreams don’t go away. They want to be listened to and tried. And tried again.
Another note: I didn’t write that dreams want to be understood. I’m not even sure they ever want to be fully realized. Here is another similarity between poetry and dreams. More than being understood, I think poems—like dreams—want to be returned to. Again and again.
Let them show just how many forms they can take.
Try It—Write Some Form Poetry!
This month, we are playing with How to Write a Form Poem. Try your hand at haiku, or the ode. How about a sonnet or a sestina? What form does your dream need?
Thanks to everyone who participated in last week’s poetry prompt. Here’s one from Monica Sharman we enjoyed:
The Weight of Small Things
Scissor-clipped comic strips
of Schroeder at the toy piano,
Lucy leaning in.
Song lyrics hand-scribbled
with a cheap blue ballpoint
because it was the nearest pen.
Mementos and heirlooms
saved. That old dresser,
the Cubs decal on the mirror.
1960s Philly soul. Films in Italian.
Favorites noted: saxophone, guitar,
“Blackbird” by The Beatles.
The weight of every little thing
making shaky ground
Browse more poetry prompts
I have been a fan of Callie Feyen’s writing for quite some time but I finished this book in almost one sitting. If you have ever been in 8th grade, fallen in love, had a best friend, or loved reading, you will love this book. As the mother of an 8th grader, my other genuine hope is that my son will one day have a teacher as gifted as Callie.