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Creating prose poetry from a memoir text…

When Peter Hargitai offered the following brief review,

Michael is the author of a fine memoir, Growing Up Floridian.. His lyrical descriptions read like prose poems. Here's an excerpt about a five-year-old Michael catching a Golden Topminnow. He had just moved from Massachusetts to Florida, trying to process displacement and the aftermath of a storm cell:

"A glint of gold disappeared into a small clump of weeds at the edge of an indentation in the bank of the ditch. I slid the Mason jar into the depression and lifted the glass to see what I felt bang against the sides. Red spots and irridescent gold flecks covered the side of a three-inch-long minnow that had an olive back and tawny sides."

(The power of the creative spirit transfigures whatever lurks in murky depression into a creature of scintillating beauty.)

…he encouraged me to recreate some of the passages poetically. An example can be found in GATEWAY: Gulfport Poets :

Cowboys and Indians

(from Growing up Floridian)

The cool recesses of the barn beckoned.

The odors of sweet feed and dry oats mingled

with the scents of leather, gun oil, and fertilizer.

The beams supporting the vast tin roof periodically groaned.

Bits of hay floated in and out of the shadows, and shafts of light

backed a horse’s gnawing at his stall gate; crunches echoed

into the barn’s empty southernmost corner.

The boys knew the terrain well and immediately disappeared

down stall lines in a game of cowboys and Indians.

Three artistic streaks of mud added to already grimy cheeks

identified the younger brother as a Sioux chief.

The older grabbed a pine splinter from a gnawed

stall plank to serve as his six–shooter.

The cowboy crawled under a stall gate and up against

the shoulder of Jughead, the oldest and slowest horse on the ranch.

A quick duck under his belly and a step up on the stall’s second

plank hid the cowboy from even the sharpest Indian scout’s eyes.

The Indian knew the enemy’s tricks.

He scampered into the hayloft and moved from bale to bale,

peering through the cracks in the floor into the stalls below.

The space between a support beam and the loft’s floor allowed enough room for a practiced hand clutching a warm, newly laid chicken egg.

The angle was slight, the flick quick. Warm yellow yolk running down the back of the cowboy’s neck signaled the Indian’s ambush was successful.


The cowboy tossed his six–shooter aside, stepped up a plank,

slid over Jughead’s broad brown back and plopped to the ground.

After brushing eggshell from his crew cut hair, he plunged

his head into the horse’s water bucket and washed egg slime

from his head and neck with a resigned chuckle.

“You win. One less egg I have to collect this evening.”

From “Minnows,”

The creatures that populated my miniature aquatic world

included two ghost shrimp,

A pair of tiny crawfish to wander the bottom, and two pygmy sunfish.

One with brownish-red mottling across a body flecked with bright blue and

another with dark bands over much of the greenish body

and fins that brightly speckled with a greenish-blue:

classic bottom dwellers.

I erroneously thought they were male and female of one species,

not two different species.

Middle level residents were a small male Sailfin

and an equally small female.

The Sailfin's blue fluorescent tail arrested my attention during my earliest explorations of the creek.

When larger males fought for control of a small school of females,

their dominant dorsal fins,

vertically striped in black and tipped with yellow,

would stand up so straight they would break the surface of the water.

A smaller male would always hang around the outside of the school.

That was the fish I targeted.

The capture of that fish took two days; a suitable female in two minutes.

The final pair, mosquito fish, the most numerous minnows in the creek.

A slender male with black spots and a suitable mate.

Such males, always much smaller than the females and non-spotted males, stood out in the swarm of mosquito fish.

Since they were typically surface fish, the areas of the artificial creek covered.

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