When your face appeared over my crumpled life,
at first I understood only the poverty of what I have.
Then its particular light on woods, on rivers, on the sea,
became my beginning in the coloured world
in which I had not yet had my beginning.
Miss Barbara Grosch gave me this poem, Colours, by Yevtushenko, in 10th grade English class (these are just the first few lines). I learned the poem by heart, and my heart sang this poem to Miss Grosch. She was a flower child from Charlotte, North Carolina, and she taught me about the Holocaust and Black Power. (She looked a little like Dorothy Allison, come to think of it.)
She took me under her wing, drove me around in her orange Beetle convertible (listening to Carole King sing "You've got a friend" on the radio), gave me dinner at her house, and most of all, she gave me her friendship and her love of poetry.
Miss Grosch gave an assignment to write a poem. This may be my first written poem (I used to make up songs to sing myself to sleep). I was 15, it was 1970, and I believe Miss Grosch is solely responsible for my subsequent career as a poet. Thank you, First Muse. If you're out there, please contact me! (Click on the image to see an enlarged version.)
Below is a self-portrait circa 1970. The list is called "Need for Summer" - I was planning what to bring on summer vacation to the Maine coast, the place that inspired my first poem for Miss Grosch. (Click on the image to see an enlarged version.)