Notes to the poem “Samuel”

These are some notes about the conception and birth of my narrative poem Samuel.

I had a student who was an excellent illustrator. She was about four feet tall and very quiet and looked like the type of kid you could bully and ridicule with no resistance.

But as far as I know, no one ever did. I think because you could just tell her wit was a knife. It would be spoken in a whisper, but whatever she said would slice open your throat.

She used to illustrate random things we talked about in class and I would proudly staple her minor masterpieces to the wall. We had, for example:

– Jesus the sin exterminator

– A female Catholic bishop raping altar boys with her clerical staff

– A prudish mother shielding her child’s eyes at the sight of a naked tree

– A village hut in Africa made out of stillborn babies, with a thatch roof

Yes, this was the sort of stuff we talked about in World Literature. It was how I got the students to pay attention so I could eventually discuss the subtler point of good books. Surprisingly I received few calls from parents. Only one Mormon objected to her child reading Baudelaire (something about lesbians).

Anyhow, I decided to encourage this girl’s burgeoning talents and I asked her would she illustrate one of my writings, and offered to pay for supplies and time. She happily agreed.

Since this was to be her thing I tried to write something that accommodated her visual style. She liked the exaggerated, intricate and comic style of Manga. I also wanted to create highly imaginable, self contained scenes.

I recalled a dream I had of some sort of sad, diaphanous girl-sylph-thing constantly hovering over a group of men playing poker. She annoyed them to no end with her silence and, finally losing it, one of the players swallowed her head and shook her about like he was a furious pit bull and she was, well, a small child. I have weird dreams.

This seemed like a good starting point.

I finished the poem in a couple weeks and handed it to her along with a check for $100. Over the next few weeks she handed me sketches of Samuel and the moth girl and the apartment, asking which clock I liked better and whether the bedroom was also the kitchen. She created elaborate borders for each page, and possible wardrobes. It was all very exciting.

And then one day it all stopped. For months I asked her how it was coming and she would say “fine,” leaving it at that. Finally, after I harassed her for almost the whole school year and summer was weeks away, she said, “I got bored, I don’t want to work on it anymore.” I said, “that’s fine, can I have my $100 dollars back”. Totally unperturbed she shrugged her shoulders and said, “can’t, I already bought stuff with it”.

And that was that.


~ by Peter on December 20, 2007.

One Response to “Notes to the poem “Samuel””

  1. I’ve become a word assasin, a macabre artist and a theif.
    I like this new life of crime and darkness.

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