It takes only moments for someone
to ask for a definition of poetry.
That task is at once terribly
simple and equally impossible,
a poem is many things
but not now or ever:
a paean to a self-aggrandizing
leader without soul
or sense of direction,
moral and literal;
a rant on how
all are conspiring
against you despite
your stable genius;
a Jeremiad decrying
to what you wish
them to be;
any attempt you
make or condone
“The New Colossus.”
A woman’s purse is inviolable territory
she tells me, and no man dare look within
unless invited and that is as unlikey to happen
as a man is to fully understand a woman.
What she doesn’t say, but what time has
demonstrated to me repeatedly, is that
within that small space is the solution
to most of life’s pressing problems, a balm
for small emergencies, and a truth, the release
of which would loose upon those proximate
the sort of shock that Pandora only promised,
and I have more than enough problems of my own.
She asks what I keep in my over-fatted wallet
and I tell her it is not money, but thoughts
that haven’t come to fruition, and dreams
unrealized because they defy reality.
So, she says, your wallet is full of the stuff
that gets you through a day, that give you
hope for the next, and that marks your
ever present failure of irrational dreams.
We are, he is convinced,
devolving into verbal neanderthals,
losing are ability to recognize
the linguistic tools that once
set us apart from other species,
or at least so we assured ourselves.
She knows that what truly sets us
apart from other species is the arcane
skill we have at being able
to convince ourselves that
delusion, firmly held, is fact.
Still, she cannot disagree with him,
simplicity is a too close cousin
to inanity, and nuance is the first
relative to be cast out. And so
with ever fewer words, we seem
to have ever more to say,
and speaking endlessly, say ever less.
It hardly seems all that long ago
when we were immortal, when
we measured our days by the number
of dares we undertook, each
with its own level of stupidity
which we took, mistakenly, for courage.
We are older now, we would like
to think far wiser as well, but the line
between truth and illusion is thin
and almost impossible to discern.
We now measure our days in open rooms
with small clusters of neatly arrayed chairs
and the odd table piled with magazines
that have faded with time and disuse,
occasionally a fish tank where it
is hard to tell who is less interested
we or the fish, but they, at least,
aren’t waiting for the nurse to call us,
take our vitals and say in a shocking display
of honesty, “the doctor will be with you
He sits, suited in black, with 88
keys at his command,
and we fall silent.
He opens the lock of joy,
the lock of sadness,
the lock of elation,
the lock of tears,
the lock of laughter,
the lock of darkness,
the lock of light,
the lock of surprise,
the lock of compassion,
the lock of love,
and we peer through each door,
unable to enter fully
unable to turn away.
As we walk out, we know
we have tasted Buddha’s promise truth
and we go off in search
of the 63,999 remaining Dharma doors.
The Good news about rom-coms
is that Hollywood (and occasionally
Paris, Lisbon and Madrid, but never Berlin)
crank them out endlessly, and each
contains that grain or two of truth,
like salt rubbed in the wound
of a failed first marriage, and the balm
of the discovery of true and abiding love.
The small pail of rom-com truths
is easily carried, sometimes off
a too strong wind, but it is never enough
to build a dune to hold back
the waves of emotion that attend
the most fragile and passionate
of all human relationships.
Yet we sit, smile, and watch hoping
that this one’s grain is the one that tips
the scale ever so slowly in our favor.
The thing with mirrors is
that they always want
to tell the truth
where we what is lies,
or at least a little fibs,
some wrinkles smoothed,
hair now a color the mirror
is more than capable of reflecting, but
mirrors don’t bend
to our wishes, and when
they do, at carnivals mostly,
the result varies between
horror and hilarity.
This time when we move
the question could be asked,
are we moving to somewhere
or away from somewhere
or, you fear asking, away from someone.
That may be a truth left
unsaid, saying requires
an explanation, a ripping open
of a wound just scabbed over
or still raw around the edges.
And there is a hidden risk
in the question, for an honest
response might hold up a mirror,
one you never imagined might
show the world your face.
It may be that it is the right
time and the right place,
nothing more, so we offer that
and you may grasp it if you wish,
it might even be the truth,
but you’ll never know, will you?
You so very want
there to be no ending
but there must be, just
as there had to be a beginning
and you had no say about that.
Endings are hard, they remind you
of small deaths, all but one,
but each is also a birth of sorts,
and like you know, they arise
and you have no say about them.
These few lines will
soon enough draw to an end
although that may be one
you don’t so much mind.
But as you put them away
they are the beginning of a thought
you never imagined would arise.
Denial grows easier with practice
until you get to the point
were even the existence
absolute proof is little more
than an obstacle to be skirted.
They know it is easy, a facile task
to an audience that wants to believe.
That is the key, for wanting
to believe is enough to make
the false true, and even beginning
to step deeper into the swamp
will not stop them, for even
as the water rises about them
they see what might be
and ignore what is, and
what will be, for a promise believe
is always enough, until it isn’t.