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The Lilac Thief
The open mic portion of the Hoot attracted a Beat Night
regular in June, reading this poem:
The Lilac Thief
She is aghast
as I explain that once each
just about now,
I drive slowly through the
neighborhoods casing likely targets,
and when I find one,
I park just across the
street and walk over
with a great inner calm.
I use the very sharpest
and cut one, two, but never
more than three
clumps of perfectly bloomed
then move on until the
inside the car makes me
I bring them home and
arrange them in vases,
place them where they will
find afternoon light.
But, she cries, that
is just wrong!
Lilacs belong to all the
Yes, I say. Yes.
And I am one of the
Salvatore Quasimodo said, Poetry is the revelation of a
feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as
his own. This free verse poem, read by Portsmouth
performance poet, Young Dawkins, was proof positive. Not
only did the Hoot audience respond during the reading, but in conversations following the
open mic, people either confessed to being lilac thieves themselves or to being aghast
at discovering such thieves in their midst. Strangers,
acquaintances and friends stood discussing flowers and morality. I am reminded by the experience of this poem, how
poetry at its best, reveals to us something about ourselves.
We recognize ourselves in the words and feelings of the poet and come to
feel connected to others through shared human experience.
The connective power of poetry, regardless of its subject, is
not to be underestimated. Young, himself,
calls The Lilac Thief a whimsy, and yet people attending the Hoot
clearly found in it pieces of themselves and our common desire to hold beauty, in whatever
form, sacred in our lives. For some of us,
that means taking the lilacs home, while for others, it requires leaving them on the bush. The poet has declared himself, the rest is up to
- Lesley Gaudreau
"The Lilac Thief"
copyright 2005 by Young Dawkins. Young Dawkins lived in Portsmouth for several years and
has recently moved to Scotland to become the Vice Principal for Development at the University of Edinburgh. Formerly the President
of the UNH Foundation, Young was honored in June with the creation of a Graduate Creative
Writing Prize at UNH in
his name. He has been a regularly featured
performer at Portsmouth Beat Nights and also at Super Beat Night during the
first annual Jazzmouth poetry and jazz festival in Portsmouth in 2005. Young
received his MFA in creative writing
Please note: Poems submitted to this column should not exceed nineteen
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