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Saturday, July 28, 2007

The Everette Maddox 14th Way of Being Looked At By a Possum Poetry Contest

During his lifetime, Everette Maddox was an academic, a college professor, an odd-jobber, and a barfly. But he was also one of the greatest under-sung poets of this nation, and the unofficial poet laureate of the French Quarter. Starting in 1979, he hosted poetry readings at the Maple Leaf Bar in New Orleans, and his memorial there reads simply, "He was a mess."

One of my favorite Maddox poems is a spirited riff on Wallace Stevens's "13 Ways of Looking at a Blackbird" called "13 Ways of Being Looked at By a Possum." Here are a few memorable stanzas:

I awake, three in the morning, sweating
from a dream of possums.
I put my head under the fuzzy swamp of cover.
At the foot of darkness two small eyes glitter.

From the grey pouch of a cloud
the moon hangs by its tail.

Drunk, crawling across a country road tonight,
I hear a shriek, look up, and am paralyzed
by fierce headlights and a grinning grill.
I am as good as gone!

The contest: Write a stanza in which you describe a 14th way of being looked at by a possum.

Post your stanza in the comments here. The winner will receive a first edition of Tennessee Williams's Memoirs, worth at least twice, and maybe three times what I paid for it. It's quite snazzy.

Here's my sample stanza:

Three small children with sticks
poke at the furry mound by the side of the road.
"Dead," says one.
"Fakin'" says another.
The third bites back a yelp
as a tiny gray eye glares at him, then winks.

All entries must be sent by 5am Pacific Time; winners will be announced in the next to last Blogathon post.


Anonymous said...

In the dawn
after Katrina
I come to
on top of the highest place
I could climb
in what's left
of my town
in Plaquemine Parish.

A cottonmouth and a possum
stir in their spaces
on the roof of the
oil storage container

Stunned by the violence
we ignore each other

mary_m said...


That's fine.

Gwen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
jeremy said...

You looking at me?
You looking at me?
You must be looking at me.
I'm the only one here.
Your possum-hood will not save you now.
But your cute little blue hat might.

Gwen said...

Well, I can't even hope to top that one--I think the prize for this is already taken--but here's my maybe-2nd-place little entry. I am giving myself a limit of 2 minutes to write it, so don't expect much. And I've never written anything approaching poetry/verse in my life. Also, I have no artistry in me.

The cats wind lazily
around my feet
screaming like sea gulls
angry at the late hour
of their evening meal.

I fill the crumpled baking dish
and watch them
jostle for room
around the feast.

I stroke the nearest one
from the top of his head
down his long body,
a quick cat massage,
down to his fuzzy tail--

I look down, startled.
Two eyes in a pointy face return my stare.

Shit. That ain't a cat.

*Based on a true story, 'cept it was a skunk, not a 'possum.

Suzanne said...

Not knowing 'possums could move that fast, gently I swayed while stargazing and comtemplating a ripe tomato.

And yet, from the corner of my eye I did spy, glowing in the summer moonlight, a large white creature bearing down upon me.

Jumping out of the way and not knowing what else to do, as a customary "OOOoh" escaped me, I relaxed, settled on a quiet "fuck" and walked back into the house.

jill said...

Possum Haiku

beady-eyed rambler
jus' tryin' to cross the road
damn kids on my back

cars come 'round the bend
long stretch left to cross 'fore home
hope those lights are stars said...

Government Street a 2 a.m.
I stop to buy smokes at Griffith Shell, and blinking red traffic lights beckon me.
Who are those grey shapes buying hot donuts at Krispy Kreme?

bobwoolf said...

Mont St. Michel,
Out of cigarettes.
A long grey way across the Causeway.

mary_m said...

Thanks y'all for posting such great stuff.

Tom Woolf said...

Late submission!

Asleep on my feet, I reach for the coffee pot
But is that a pink nose where the spout should be?
The handle wraps tail-like around my hand