The desire/need to write rises from a myriad of personal reasons. It isn’t ubiquitous, some never hear the siren’s call. For me, it was quite literally a bugle call in the Fall of 1969. The Call to Quarters had sounded and scant time was left before the forlorn sounding of Taps, the call for lights out. I was seventeen, scrawny, with aching muscles from the daily rigor of hard physical fitness training. But the aches and pains paled in comparison to the near-constant sense of anxiety/dreadful anticipation.
As I laid on my bunk still donned in uniform, trying to ignore the ramblings from my upper bunk mate who liked to read out loud, my psyche cried out for some form of relief. I needed to do something, else I was going to start primal screaming at the top of my lungs.
That sounds more than a bit melodramatic, but it’s not far from the truth. That’s what it felt like to me. In the words of Robert Heinlein, I was living as a ‘Stranger in a Strange Land.’
Like an answer to a prayer, a call to action came to mind. It was from out of the blue, like a parachute delivery of food and supplies to an explorer lost in the wilderness. I needed to pick up pen and paper and let loose a stream of thoughts. When I did, words suddenly sprung out and on my notebook.
There it was, my first creative output, a poem. What the heck did it mean? It’s hard to say. I sure didn’t at the time. It was clearly abstract. It didn’t say anything about the challenges or fears that were part and parcel of my circumstances.
That my first product was a poem was a shock to me. At that age, poetry was not one of my favorite reading genres and my high school training had been limited to reading select poems from some of the great American poets: Longfellow, Whitman, Post, Poe, Frost, and Sandburg. Carl Sandburg was one of our North Carolinian claims to fame in the literary world. By happenstance, I got to listen to him give a reading at my high school in Durham. I believe “Salt and Honey” was one of them.
The circumstances that led to my existential crisis and call to poetry warrant a separate blog piece.