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Hazel Tells LaVerne: With A Vengeance

This is a poetry assignment for a literature class I took some time ago. The goal was to make a continuation of the poem "Hazel Tells LaVerne" written in 1976 by Katharyn Howd Machan. Here is the original poem:

last night
im cleanin out my
howard johnsons ladies room
when all of a sudden
up pops this frog
musta come from the sewer
swimmin aroun an tryin ta
climb up the sida the bowl
so i goes ta flushm down
but sohelpmegod he starts talkin
bout a golden ball
an how i can be a princess
me a princess
well my mouth drops
all the way to the floor
an he says
kiss me just kiss me
once on the nose
well i screams
ya little green pervert
an i hitsm with my mop
an has ta flush
the toilet down three times
a princess

The whole deal about the assignment is that the poem does not mention what LaVerne is like, or who he/she is. Our goal was to make up a personality for LaVerne and write a poem which illustrates her response to Hazel. Here's the damage I did:

“Hazel,” I says
I says “you been seein frog aginn have ya”
And I’s jes stone cold stunned at th’ situation
‘Cuz I seen the frog too
He visits when I’m so lonely
And he asks me ta kiss him and I kiss him
It’s kinda gross because he’s in the crapper
But he makes me a princess
In the middle of th’ red roof inn womens room
(the frog shows up there too, he loves us both, Hazel)
I become a shining beacon of purity
In a desolate wasteland of old toilet paper shreds and plungers
I feel special for that one incredible moment
And then, the frog goes down th’ toilet
And I checks my mental pills, an’ they’s gone
So are Hazel’s (she gone and not taken her pills since a few days ago)
We finish up our scotches and ride off into th’ sunset
We have a therapy meetin’ in half n’hour
Mi’se well find a pharmacy on th’ way there an’ get some new happy pills
Or else we get put back in the halfway house with the frog.
Hell, Hazel.

My whole idea was to make LaVerne into another strange hotel custodian. It turns out that Hazel and she have a pretty tumultous past, which I used the frog to represent. The whole thing comes off as a surreal and funny poem that doesn't really have any underlying structure, but in reality it's actually about resolving your inner conflicts, looking forward to a better future, and having friends to support you. Here's the second part of the assignment which goes into this in more detail:

In this poem, I create LaVerne’s personality in a fashion similar to Hazel’s. Hazel is a longtime friend of LaVerne, and they even have the same type of job. LaVerne also is from the same kind of home and social class as Hazel, and I create that image by having LaVerne talk in the same kind of tone as Hazel does (like “you been seein frog aginn, have ya?”) and also sounding kind of crass (“It’s kind of gross because he’s in the crapper”).

In this part of the poem, I also made LaVerne have an encounter with the frog. However, as you read through the poem, the frog starts to have more of a negative connotation. I purposely made it unclear, but the general direction I went in was to have the frog represent an unsavory aspect of Hazel and LaVerne’s past. To “kiss” the frog would be to return to a previous state of mind (which is represented by the change of style and tone at line 11.) However, returning to that state of mind is bad for her and Hazel, which is why Hazel beat it back down the toilet. LaVerne gave in for a few lines of the poem, but then comes to realize what she’s doing.

At the end of the poem, Hazel and LaVerne are revealed to be psychiatric patients. They also mention living in a halfway house with the frog (which is bad, hence the “Hell, Hazel” after this line), which again shows the bond between the frog and an unsavory part of their past (drugs, lower psychological health, prison, etc.) By going to their therapy session together and getting their pills refilled, they are fighting against their regressions into their past and entering the future triumphant against the frog and the sins he represents, and showing how the two of them support each other as best friends.

That was all of the assignment. I think I got a B- or something on it. I can't remember for sure, it's been at least a year since I did this assignment. I'm aware of how this doesn't really fit in with the style of the other stories, but I figured that some people might appreciate this, and on top of that, I'm killing two birds with one stone by turning a homework assignment into website content.


February 2007

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