National Poetry Month: “I Want To Be Your Shoebox,” by Catherine Bowman

April is National Poetry Month and to celebrate this year I chose to profile this wonderful poem by Catherine Bowman.

Catherine Bowman is the Ruth Lilly Professor of Poetry at Indiana University and the author of the poetry collections NOTARIKON, ROCK FARM, and 1-800-HOT-RIBS which were reissued in 2000 by Carnegie-Mellon University Press as part of its contemporary classics series. Her writing has been awarded the Peregrine Smith Poetry Prize, the Kate Tufts Discovery Award for Poetry, the Dobie Paisano Fellowship, a New York Foundation for the Arts Fellowship in Poetry, and four Yaddo Fellowships.

Ms. Bowman was inspired to write this poem upon learning that Memphis Minnie’s classic blues line “I want to be your chauffer” was miscopied in an early Folkways recording song transcription as “I want to be your shoebox.”

I Want To Be Your Shoebox, A Poem by Catherine Bowman

I want to be your shoebox

I want to be your Fort Knox

I want to be your equinox

I want to be your paradox

I want to be your pair of socks

I want to be your paradise

I want to be your pack of lies

I want to be your snake eyes

I want to be your Mac with fries

I want to be your moonlit estuary

I want to be your day missing in February

I want to be your floating dock dairy

I want to be your pocket handkerchief

I want to be your mischief

I want to be your slow pitch

I want to be your fable without a moral

Under a table of black elm I want to be your Indiana morel

Casserole. Your drum roll. Your trompe l’oeil

I want to be your biscuits

I want to be your business

I want to be your beeswax

I want to be your milk money

I want to be your Texas Apiary honey

I want to be your Texas. Honey

I want to be your cheap hotel

I want to be your lipstick by Chanel

I want to be your secret passage

All written in Braille. I want to be

All the words you can’t spell

I want to be your International

House of Pancakes. I want to be your reel after reel

Of rough takes. I want to be your Ouija board

I want to be your slum-lord. Hell

I want to be your made-to-order smorgasbord

I want to be your autobahn

I want to be your Audubon

I want to be your Chinese bug radical

I want to be your brand new set of radials

I want to be your old-time radio

I want to be your pro and your con

I want to be your Sunday morning ritual

(Demons be gone!) Your constitutional

Your habitual—

I want to be your Tinkertoy

Man, I want to be your best boy

I want to be your chauffeur

I want to be your chauf-

feur, your shofar, I want to be your go for

Your go far, your offer, your counter-offer

your two-by-four

I want to be your out and in door

I want to be your song: daily, nocturnal—

I want to be your nightingale

I want to be your dog’s tail”

Catherine Bowman

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About rhapsodyinbooks

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16 Responses to National Poetry Month: “I Want To Be Your Shoebox,” by Catherine Bowman

  1. Jon says:

    I really like this poem, great stuff! 🙂

  2. Sandy says:

    Nothing better than an Indiana morel! I always say I’m not a poem person, but I just loved that one!

  3. Serena says:

    Like this poem, and the poet has certainly made her mark in literature. Thanks for profiling her and her work.

  4. Jenny says:

    I like “I am your missing day in February”. I am fascinated by the missing day in February. 🙂

    • softdrink says:

      I always wanted to have a February 29th birthday…I thought that would be so cool.
      I’m not much of a poetry person, but I love this poem!

  5. Margot says:

    I’ll bet Catherine Bowman had great fun writing this poem. It was sure fun to read.

  6. Alyce says:

    There were so many fun lines in that poem. I’m glad you shared the story behind it too.

  7. Staci says:

    That was a fun poem to read…I’ll have to show it to my son Marc. He loves poetry! Me, not so much 😀

  8. Ok, I know it makes me sound like an idiot…but I don’t really ‘get’ most poetry. lol

  9. zibilee says:

    I really need to get back into the groove of reading more poetry. I liked this offering that you shared with us. Very creative and original. Thanks!

  10. Jenners says:

    Oh I just LOVED this! I love the inspiration and I love the playfulness of this. Excellent choice!

  11. Julie P. says:

    I am so not a poetry reader. I love that you’re sharing one with us that’s so much fun.

  12. Kat says:

    Being an IU Eng. Dept. grad…I have a special fondness for Ms. Bowman’s work. Sadly, I never had her as a Prof. but I am well versed in her wonderful poetry thanks to the program 🙂

    Great pick!

  13. Valerie says:

    Love the poem, but I have to admit that I started thinking of Fox in Socks by Dr. Seuss almost right away!

  14. Jeanne says:

    That’s a fun poem. Thanks for introducing me to it.

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