Sunday, April 4, 2010


Christina Katz says she will find me if I write about experience this week, I don't know how, but here I am writing about it. I first wrote as a poet, or at least I was first published as a poet back in the olden days when people wrote by etching into the mud of their caves and published by having someone carve their work into stone. I think that's how it worked. I was 14 and my English teacher Mrs. Janice Wallace had my poem on abortion (abortion wasn't legal at the time) published in a teacher's magazine. I have no proof of this, not even a copy of the poem, but this is what I remember. In my 20's I had more poems published, and I do have copies of them. But the year I was 26, I took a creative writing class at Alaska Community College and my teacher who shall remain anonymous told me that I could write poetry because I could write like a man (like him), gave me a C, and I stopped writing poetry. Later that year I heard about the women's movement and tried to find out where to join up. I went on strike with the rest of the nation, became a feminist and never looked back. Unfortunately, I forgot about poetry until this year. I became a playwright, and have been produced as such for more than 30 years, always
saying I didn't like poetry, didn't understand it, couldn't write it, and so on.
But I became interested in writing a play in verse. So I thought I'd better learn something about poetry. The minute I did, suddenly all this poetry started pouring forth. The beast was
unleashed. I haven't been able to stop. I've been writing twitter poems daily. I've been writing longer poems. Poems from prompts, poems from no prompts, spending hours and hours writing and rewriting poems, bothering my friends with my poems. I've even signed up to read my poems at an open mic in just 10 days. I'll have to buy a poet outfit. (Will someone tell me what that looks like these days? It used to be a black dress and ballet slippers.)
Here's a recent poem of mine:


by Sandra de Helen

Millions of us, women and men

thought we could save her, if

only she would let us or

know us if only we

could wrap our arms

around her ivory soft limbs

whisper loving soft words

nurture her with everything

money or no money could buy.

I know I could have.

I would have kept her safe

from Bobby from Jack

from Peter and Frank. Hid

her in my closet as I did

Mary in our sophomore year

when she was pregnant

her stepfather wanted to kill

her and her unborn baby.

I would have stolen books from

St. Louis public library to

feed her hungry mind. Shop-lifted

the finest clothes Famous-Barr

had to offer. Held her ten to five

through the night terrors.

Told her what a great actor she

was, how I saw through the

bombshell image, saw the true

amazon warrior yearning to

be known. To be free.

But I was born too late

to save her.

Just as she was born

too soon save herself.