For this week’s prompt, I was inspired by the recent Heather Bell interview: Take a true event (whether in your life or another’s) and fictionalize it. You can determine how far to take the fictionalization, but try to push the envelope a little and make people question how much is real and how is fake–and hopefully, have trouble leaving your poem even when they’re not reading it.
Here’s my attempt at a fictionalized true event poem:
“At the Laundromat”
As the machines internalize their rotations, some guy
decides to break the hum-thump-hum. He says, “These
dryers are better. Just saying for when you move yours,
because you never know when they come in and service
these,” and he gives the machine a kick. “You never know,
know what I’m saying?” I smile and nod, think about how
I have trouble telling people I don’t know what to say, but
he continues, “I’ve been here a long time, and I’ve only
ever seen them service anything once. By the way,
rats get in through the bathroom window. Not good.”
I use his pause to pick up my book, but then, he asks,
“Ever meet those folks across the street?” “Nope.”
“Well, they’re pretty nice folks, but they’ll follow you
wherever you go. Like sometimes they’ll follow me
right out of the building and keep talking to me, and
I’m like, ‘Dude, I went outside to get a smoke and be
alone in my space.’” I kind of laugh and look at my book.
The words are there, but I can’t seem to grasp them.
He says, “You remind me of an old friend. He used
to smile all the time, and we called him Smiley.”
“I get that a lot,” I say. “Nothing wrong with smiling,”
he says, “my older brother never smiled. He was
built mean and would dunk my head under water
over and over so that I only ever had a split second
to catch my breath.” And that’s when I start to rotate
with the machines. My smile, my thoughtful eyes–
the poet in me notices the insects caught on bug
tape hanging over the washing machines. It’s almost
midnight and they fly in for the fluorescent lights.
A moth lands next to my foot, and I can’t help
but step on it without feeling a guilty about what
I’ve done that I’d probably never do again. I wonder
what my life might be like if I had been built mean.
Follow me on Twitter @robertleebrewer
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