fiction, poetry & more


 by Gordon W. Mennenga

The plastic chairs are uncomfortable, tired turquoise
Seven women, three men, one self-published chapbook on the table
The teacher is wearing cowboy boots and a denim dress
(Now we all want to wear cowboy boots)
She is upbeat, reading one of her own poems to us
We tune in for the metaphors
Blink, blink
The poem is about an angry woman grocery shopping
We are not to think about rules because poetry hates rules
We are given 20 words to arrange into a poem
We are all about words and sounds
Tumbleweed for instance, blubber, mandolin, Cassiopeia
We distribute one of our poems except the poet who forgot her copies
The teacher needs a break

Time for each poet to read their single poem out loud
Poems about death, seasons, depression, cats, love, ghosts, war, vegetables
A poem declares that life is like a rodeo on Mars
Blink, nod, blink, blink
The teacher wants us to make a short list of things to celebrate or praise
That is not an easy task it turns out
The teacher glances at her cell phone
A cheerful, wide-faced poet whose hobby is writing sonnets passes out hard candy
Discussion of poems yields a wave of suggestions
The teacher reads another of her own poems
This one about various body parts wanting to dance
She shows us a scar on her leg
She tells us the story of the scar (a motorcycle accident)
We are urged to think about a poem as a neon sign at 2 a.m.
We are urged to ask questions
Never use a semicolon in a poem, dashes are useful
Is rhyming bad? does a poem about trees and water help sell it?
Why are so many bad poems published?

The teacher puts a pill into her mouth and takes a drink of water
We break and change one thing in our poems
We read our poems again
Jealous applause
Nod, blink, nod
The class is over
The teacher is a poet again
The poet has a plane to catch
She gives each of us a magic Pilot G2 poetry pen
Remember, awake or asleep, we are all poets
No one has asked us to write poems
We are poets who walk to daylight.


Gordon Mennenga‘s work has been featured on NPR and produced by the Riverside Theatre Company. His most recent publications include work in the Bellingham Review, Epoch, Hamilton Stone Review, and Citron Review. He has taught film studies and creative writing at DePauw University, Oregon State University, and Coe College.

March 2023