The leaves will soon begin
their descent from the small tree, already brown, their beauty departing before they do so.
They are bilobular, an odd word,
but one that belongs in a poem, even this one it seems, and it is their shape that you first notice.
The tree will all to soon be naked,
branches sticking into the air as if searching for a breath that refuses to arrive.
But we know that soon after
the small buds will open and orchid-like flowers will appear to our all too temporary joy.
I’ve made a practice
which feels more like a demand, that each day I take a few moments or more and stop whatever else I was, or should have been, doing to write a poem.
There are days, perhaps this
one where it seems more a short bit of prose to which I have added line breaks despite the protest of the words, condemning them to bear the mockery, and others when I take a poem, ignore its inherent rhythm and pass it off as prose, that insult remembered, the words plotting revenge but lying low, waiting for the perfect moment to destroy a poem I know is worthy of publication.
When I least expect it, one
may unfurl wings and lift into a clouded sky searching for the hidden sun, or
it may wander off, a child
momentarily free of parents off to discover the real world, or
it may retreat back into
the pen, unwilling to be seen, objecting to its misuse, or
it may sit in front of the TV
and watch soap operas and game shows, not caring what is on the screen, just escaping from the damned page, or
it may sit still, be tucked away
and hope one day to be accepted for all the world to see.
There are two principal problems
with Ireland, and I found both to be utterly insurrmountable.
Every town, even Galway City
at any time of day or night looked like it should be a postcard.
Add to that the horror that in
every pub I visited it was assumed that if asked I would sing a song
or, realizing I have no singing
voice, I would recite a poem from William Butler Yeats
which I sadly could not, yet after
the third pint of Guinness I could, I think, recite my name.
through this bramble of words. Do not allow yourself to become tangled in them though they will certainly try. Tear out this page burn it for faint warmth or steep it into tea, reduce it to simple fibers. Then it will be a poem of some small worth.
A reflection on Case 10 of the Shobogenzo Koans (Do gen’s True Dharma Eye)
Few will dare say it, but I
have always imagined myself among the few at most things so I suppose it falls to me.
The lifecycle of the poet
incises an arc and there are recognizable nodes along its path from beginning to end.
The first poem published in a
journal, no matter how small, then one in a publication others have heard of, if never read.
Next you are in good company in
the Review you could find on the shelves of your bookstore in the deep past when bookstores existed,
then onward to the self-published
book or chapbook, and maybe one by a noted press, the apex for almost any poetic career.
But gravity takes hold, the descent
will be sharp and often ugly, marked by the poet believing the blurbs on the back cover of his book.
I swore, once, that the poem
I was struggling with would be my last.
Actually I swore that more than once,
several, maybe mamy times in fact.
In my defense, that poem
and the others that followed were each the last I wrote under their respective oaths, so there was a fulfillment, however partial, of my vow.
I am not making such a vow
with this one, however, and before you say it, yes it is a poem despite what you may think of it.
Each morning, before
I finish my morning cappuccino, I scan my email, hoping to find a perfect poem that has gone forever unclaimed.
I have enough skill
to alter it sufficiently that I can safely claim it as my own, if the owner ever were to appear, by adding, After XXXXX.
All I have ever found
is the odd limerick and frankly I can to better on my own, not to mention I have been to Nantucket.
He stares at the collection
of pens crammed tightly into a coffee mug whose handle had long since broken away.
He knows some are dead,
awaiting a proper burial, following a brief memorial service paying homage to their illustrious past.
He is certain that one
or more is secretly harboring the poem or story that he has been meaning to write, the one that the journal on the desk has been waiting its entire lifetime to receive.
For those who cannot see the picture above, please imagine this text is the most hated font of all time*:
There are certain sins
a poet learns never to commit, whether by teaching or simply bad experience. Poetic sins come in many shapes and sizes, grammatical, typographical, metaphorical, or just about any -al you choose. Bad rhyme is a minefield, unable to know slant from abject miss, forced form a train wreck with you at the controls, blinded by ambition. But the cardinal sin, the one for which there can never be any excuse, mortal to a poem, is to think you can use this font.
*comic sans, of course.