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Poet Sandra Meek Comes to GPC

Photo courtesy of GPC Honors Program and Sandra Meek.
Photo courtesy of GPC Honors Program and Sandra Meek.

By: Kezia Velista

As the poetry reading commenced, Jeffrey Portnoy, Georgia Perimeter College Honors Program director, said, “You’ve probably never seen a dumb phone before, but this is it. Well, I’m turning off mine so you should too.”

Presented by the Honors Program and Georgia Poetry Circuit, poetry readings at GPC have become a tradition over the years. For the first speaker of the year, GPC hosted poet Sandra Meek on Sept. 23 from 2:30 to 3:45 p.m.

Not only has she written four poetry books, Meek has also received the “Georgia Author of the Year” award twice and is a co- founding editor of Ninebark Press.

She is currently an English, Rhetoric, and Writing professor at Berry College.

Meek read a variety of her works. From her travels in the Peace Corp to Botswana to difficult subjects like pieces about her now deceased mother, she spurred a spectrum of emotions.

“Oh you know I can talk about poems!” exclaimed creative writing professor Gregory Murray, when asked his thoughts on Meek’s performance. “My favorite one was in which she references starlings and 9-11, titled, ‘The Mechanics of Failure.’ There was a really personal history that I was picking up on, about the line left by the ring she used to wear so she might’ve lost someone in the poem. That got me.”

Biology major Christina Austin stated the piece that stood out to her the most was called, “The Road To,” a prose poem about hitchhiking to the backwoods of the country.

“I liked her imagery,” said Austin. “One of my favorite parts about writing is the way that you can use different combinations of words and pictures to really make different analogies or to sort of re-imagine the way that you see something.”

One of the poems Meek closed with was “In Case, Since You Left, You’ve Been Wondering.” She wrote this when her mother went through stage three lung cancer and stayed in a nursing home.

Meek said, “It’s about death, cancer, emphysema, and divorce.”

David Segura, a criminal justice student, admitted that specific piece almost made him tear up.

“You know that feeling where you can feel it in your eyes, the tears just about to come out,” he said while smirking. “Most of us have lost somebody really close. It’s especially more difficult when you pretty much see that person in the process of leaving the world and you can only do so much to help.”

When asked which part made him almost shed a tear, Segura took out his notebook and commented, “Probably the part where it went, ‘There’s really nothing natural about breathing or loving or letting go.’”

Find the full piece below.

If you would like to see more of Sandra Meek’s poems, visit her website on http://www.sandra- meek.com/.

The Honors Program will hold another poetry reading in November with Sholeh Wolpe. On Nov. 3, she will be at the Alpharetta campus at 10:00 a.m and the Clarkston campus at 2:30 p.m. After that, she’s dropping by Dunwoody at 11:30 a.m and finally Decatur at 2:30 p.m. on Nov. 4.

 

In case, since you left, you’ve been wondering

By: Sandra Meek

Poem courtesy of Persea Books, originally featured in “Road Scatter.”

 

visiting my mother these terminal days mostly means following

her shifting commandments how to best rearrange

contents of pink vomit tubs she stacks

on her hospital bed, fallow ones holding

her smallest belongings, pencils and cracker packets and tiny

spiral notebooks spooling memos she

 

increasingly dictates, like the one demanding

her right to vanilla ice cream and chocolate

ice cream and by god chocolate-

vanilla-swirl ice cream, composed when she woke

from five days maximum-dosing morphine in a failed

bid to die that left her pissed off enough to try

 

to live again, waking at 2 a.m., channeling

some orphic voice, Mother, turn on the breathing light, turn on

the mother machine, oh god, Mother! Nurses and orderlies

came running, needles drawn, and what I did was exactly

nothing but think never again will I be able to forget

the body is a slackening slab of terror

 

and loneliness, and why

isn’t there a mother machine to never run out

of AA batteries, looping a lullaby to knock

out this insomnia driving me to television to discover a cross

held to a vampire’s washed-out skin sears

too many films of an earlier generation now lifting

late-night into static like a voice aimed

at a satellite plummeting (they always say) to

 

uninhabited sea. A classic, meaning—it endures

repetition? But so does one person’s you don’t listen meaning I

don’t want to talk and the other’s you never

          said a thing, meaning, how

didn’t I hear the night-whisper of scorpions licking the sweet

          flour paste backing the bedroom wallpaper, tails unfurling

like beckoning fingers with her taloned nails, yours

          ticked to the quick from midnight-humming the laptop

 

her name, her name, her name? To my

best count, her emails included twenty-

seven sighs; breathless elation, a baker’s dozen; black boots, just

the one spiky pair. My mother’s

own divorce anger flared from its thirty-

year smolder as she pronounced you dirty bastard, for weeks my own

personal favorite over her later offerings

 

of monster and turd. Maybe

she’s right, the labor of love is not letting it

crush you in its collapse, its uncastled stones

stringy with moss like in that dream where I was taken

to a ward of my kind, which dream-wise meant skeletons

draped only with their own lost flesh’s

lost veins become a seaweed of

unfathomable agony because strip away everything, cut away

all the body’s meat, it will still

 

marrow its pain. In the nursing home’s sunroom where we

wheel her my mother calls to order a staff meeting, echo

from her hospital charge-nurse days, outlining

for my sister and I under too-loud Roman numerals and

capital letters her gripes with the home’s

personnel who continue going

about their tasks unruffled even as she moves

unsuccessfully, hearing

no second, that the most thoughtless among them be

 

immediately fired. After all, they’re used

to the hall-hangers, the woman who mantras fourteen hours

of each day extra, extra, extra; the one who shakes her thin arms’

limp fins as she intones every

mundane word in what seemed at first a pitiful

but later simply an annoying

wavering whine; the woman who asks each passing person, is it nice

          to eat, can I have some, is it

 

good?, repetition clearly no

indicator of value, more likely just too many words trying

to smother dead space, and too-many-words doesn’t

add up to any meaning at all but ditto

no-words, so why I’m writing this instead of taking down

my mother’s minutes is, first, I would like to offer a friendly

amendment to one of those
emails, your-her writing loving you is as natural

as breathing because if I’ve learned

anything watching cancer and emphysema

duking it out in my mother’s chest, it’s that there’s really

nothing natural about breathing or loving or

letting go; second, who hasn’t been someone’s

 

          monster or turd? and third, when my mother’s ninety-

year-old roommate, fingers too arthritis-gnarled

to press her call light, asked, please, could you just scratch my ear, it’s something

terrible, the itch, and I bent down to her as she closed her eyes

 

to concentrate the pleasure, I just wanted

to tell you how that faintly furred skin was so

surprisingly soft, how when she said thank you, oh, yes, that

is good, I heard myself reply, yes,

oh yes.

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