My daughter doesn’t want a poem to rhyme,
and meter makes her chant the words she reads.
She’d rather voice atonally, and time
her syllables to sanguinary needs.
She’s eager for the shock of the profane,
the punch perverse, the twist of shifted signs,
and little cares if content can explain,
as long as sound and fury fill the lines.
Her mother’s poetry can never please her
regardless of its purpose and intent,
its code as disciplined as any Morse.
It can’t do more than irritate and tease her
when it avoids a blurt for excrement,
or slang for metaphor for intercourse.
The man-child misbehaves again at school;
his sister strives to look a little worse.
December is too busy, festive, cruel –
until the solstice self must be immersed
in working and performing for a role
I challenge and resent with all my heart.
I wobble nearly out of self-control.
It feels like I can’t savor any part.
So here am I, full-occupied today
with shopping, entertaining, office chores.
I sprayed the dog and then she ran away.
My glasses lost their temple screw once more.
I feel so overloaded I could shout,
so stress and feet and syllables pour out.
A listener in search of anywhere
a word is spoken honestly and well,
could make a pilgrimage to find the fair
infrequent truth of speech. Within its spell
that listener might engineer a song,
might link realities with verbal rope,
to weave a concert durable and strong
of two parts memory and one part hope.
Perhaps she’d do an ode upon a tree,
or link a lyric to an ocean storm,
reverberate with phrase erotically,
or send a sonnet home to keep it warm.
By tapping in to daily history
she might provoke the future to reform.
At end of week, the mania asserts
itself again, till she’s compelled to glean
the world of words. She casts about; she flirts
with phrases till conceit emerges clean
enough to press its form upon the page.
And then she works with it and lets it flow
or whispers it upon her quiet stage,
until it dwindles or begins to glow.
And so the sonnets seep and spring from her,
the words as often generating theme
as following ideas that move and stir
the maker who’s a fool for self-esteem,
the jester in the palace of her brain
who juggles to suggest and entertain.
Increasingly, I’ve cherished a belief:
Though agony can spur an artist’s voice,
unhappiness is actually a thief
of honesty, and grief purloins the choice
that every great creation must contain.
Is mania a natural consequence
for hours in coordinating pain?
Must high be gotten through a low expense?
I’ve studied you (I must – you will not leave)
and I have found you tiresome when down,
but when you’re high and happy, I perceive
your smile’s more obnoxious than your frown.
Your moods are evidence my theory’s right,
that only healthy souls can dance in light.
Metal ladder stepping into chill,
mossy wooden ladder into warm,
mist enwreathing treetops on the hill,
valley heat and desert thunderstorm;
crouching poison oak,
avenues of gravelly dirt and brush,
scavenged resined wood that sent up smoke
instead of light,
eye-tiring in the hush;
dripping fog on ancient redwood trees,
pickup trucks and boots and tractor caps;
and half a dozen road and topo maps
together fill a reticule for me
to reference when I weave this memory.
What does it feel like, to rest on your laurels?
Leaning on branches or sitting on leaves?
With all your advances and pausing withdrawals,
do you ever doubt what your master believes?
How would he measure your growth and promotion?
Why did he stop you from climbing that hill?
(You’ve made him your target of love and devotion,
divining fulfillment from marketing skill.)
And where does it surge from, my drive to be writing?
Why do I gather such nonsense to sing?
Though I can be witty, I’m more into biting,
and I still don’t know how to know anything.