Ellen Steinbaum, one of Ricky’s many students (and an excellent poet, now with two beautiful books under her belt) has a blog called Reading and Writing and the Occasional Recipe. All this week she has been posting assignments-from-Ricky for other poets to try their hands at. Not sure what response she has had so far, but she certainly encouraged me to reach back into my own mind!
The assignment Ellen picked for Wednesday (November 18, 2009) was to write a rondeau about the sound of waves crashing, and she provided some explanation from Ricky about the structure of the rondeau form, for poets who were not familiar with it. That got me thinking about one of the assignments we included in Unlocking the Poem, to write a rondeau based on the origin of the word “tuxedo.” My own poem from that assignment did not make it into Unlocking the Poem (we chose a sensual and evocative poem from the poet Carol Siemering instead) but was published in Concrete Wolf.
When I did some research into the roots of “tuxedo,” I found that the word came from an Algonquin Indian word, “P’tuksit,” literally “he whose feet are round,” and referring to the wolf, the tribe’s totem. My poem, which follows, went straight back to the wolves . . .
Footfalls shimmering on orange blaze of air,
their delicate clip-a-clop—the blare
of maple leaves barricades their sound,
guarding—for now—against the pound
of oncoming snows. Even the hare
picks up his pace, shimmies into lairs
of winter’s keeping. Fox dares
his scent outward, mocking hounds . . .
Three lean wolves, their silky throats bared,
cradle the moon in song. The glare
of harvest curls the hills’ black mounds
to saffron. He-whose-feet-are-round
keens stridulant notes—until snared—
Many thanks to Ellen Steinbaum for reminding me of this poem–I hope others like it!