For those who read “The Dust Man” yesterday, you might be interested in the inspiration. When I decided to write a book of poems based on observation, I walked through my house making note of things I saw there: chair, bed, dog, dead wasp, refrigerator contents, etc.
The list included dust. My wife said, “This had better not be about our refrigerator contents and our dust!” I think she was kidding. Naturally I assured her that this was about all refrigerator contents and all dust. Whew.
Anyway, when I eventually reached dust on my list, I found it difficult to write about it with a straight face. (I wonder if I should make dust a word of the month. We had fun in 2009 when the word was dirt.) Here’s the interesting thing about imagination. In the whole collection (The Alligator in the Closet), this was the only poem that came out in fantasy. “Guest in the Pantry” was pure fiction in that we have no stairs and, as far as I know, no mouse in the pantry. Other poems in the book borrow heavily from past experiences in other places but keep one foot in reality: “The Thermostat Wars”, “When You’re Alone”, “The Things We Do for Money”, and others. Some, such as “Life’s Not Fair!” came out silly. “Death of a Wasp” turned out sad. “The Last Glass” and “The Chili Bowl Story” created moods of nostalgia. Only dust inspired utter fun.
When I read from that book, “The Dust Man” is often the one that people smile at and say I must have been writing about their house. I smile back and tell them I’m not free to divulge the source of my dust.
Tomorrow Sandy Asher takes her turn on WRITERS AT WORK. The topic is Wrestling with Endings.
Later this week my Featured Guest will be Christine French Cully, Editor-in-Chief for Highlights. Mark this Thursday and Friday on your calendars now so you don’t miss what Christine has to say.