I meant to read a newsletter today
while I unwilling willed myself to work,
but then the train-made wind chased it away
too fast for me to follow. With a jerk
of final gusting strength, the funneled gale
that blew before the train took every page
and dumped them down where hums the powered rail,
so I’m bereft of reading something sage.
I know I’m not in charge of space or time.
I can’t control much other than my mood.
Resentment of a breeze would be a crime
against all sense. I’m feeling neither rude
nor stupid, so I’ll take my pen in hand
and write some characters I understand.
I sent a sonnet in an envelope,
with reading fee, to some address back East,
and with it in the mail I cherished hope
for praise, encouragement, or at the least
a helpful phrase or usable advice.
Instead, I got a terse rejection slip
on half a piece of paper folder twice.
But paper cuts, and this one made a rip.
I don’t know who’s “the editor”or what
that unnamed person chooses for the ink.
I’m clueless at submission business, but
a comment would be better borne, I think,
than quick response in photocopied font.
I didn’t get the dialogue I want.
If I, for fifteen minutes every day,
assign myself an exercise in prose,
it’s probable I’ll find some things to say,
for doing drives declaring. I’ll compose
a quarter hour’s words before it’s night,
and then I’ll set it free to multiply.
The muse instructs me, now’s the time to write,
and doesn’t yet care what – just that I try.
I’ll put a pen to paper, or I’ll sit
before a keyboard and computer screen.
I’ll string together words appropriate
or maybe not, to get at what I mean.
If nothing else, I’ll force my work to birth
and learn before too long or late, its worth.
The color leaves of sycamore become
before they fall – the pale of wild grass
that dries to hay beneath the August sun –
these tones describe my dog. From burnished brass
her aging coat now whitens at her chin,
and fondled ripples like the desert sand
before the evening breeze: as warm within,
as fine as lint, as soft as shadowed tan.
My mind is purple but my wisdom’s green.
I don’t believe I dream in black and white.
I had to study 30 years to learn
the color of my silence. Now between
assertions I allow a little light,
and let the spectrum of ideas return.
You say it can’t exclusively be sex
we write about – you post those words to me
above a flood of big X little x
upon our sheets of toned typography.
But I inside reply to you: why not?
Impressed to fit together, we’re too old
to be platonic and we neither got
the habit of relating self-controlled.
I say let’s yank the covers lover down
to where they’ll form a cushion on the floor.
You’ve ravished me with adjective and noun;
now play redundant verbs on me, explore
in lust and trust we’ll open deep and wide
to plumb the sweets we quarantine inside.
Eleven years ago, on Mother’s Day,
the day they pulled the final tubing out,
I wept with weak relief. Repaired, I lay
upon that bed and knew without a doubt
that I am built like everyone – my heart
right here and liver there – and I like they
will die someday, but that stay was a part
of life – my death will come another way.
Eleven years ago, I was renewed,
discharged from pain to home to be alive.
My renaissance began and I have viewed
it since progressively: at 35
I found the room behind the kitchen bricks,
and I’d moved into it, by 46.
I wound myself so tight, I wounded me.
I spun until I sickened my own heart
with hurt and anger wrapped concentrically.
And then I pulled his fourteen lines apart.
Repelled by “cunning” at the very first
I found offense in tone, conceit, and word.
I read imbedded sexism and worse –
he forced his rhyme and meter to absurd.
But literary criticism seems
a superficial way to spend my time.
Avoiding it in school, I always deemed
my effort better spent creating rhyme.
I do not know him yet. I can suppose
the fellow’s proper medium is prose.
Provisions, shelter, offspring: these propel
us all, we know, for so the experts speak.
Now some add altered consciousness, and tell
us getting high’s a further goal we seek.
But are these all? Are we that simply framed
and limited by instincts, like a brute?
And are these drives reality, or named
beside the truth, with “height” a substitute?
I want to add creation as a goal.
In this we image God, and celebrate
all artistry. To pick the word or tone
that captures what I live contains my whole
delight today. Select, and thus create,
to learn by doing what in heaven’s known.
Innately odd or early turned, I keep
perceiving differently what’s under rocks.
I seem to note when others don’t – they sleep
more time than I; they tremble less from shocks,
as if they’re comatose. The scholars list
the relics under generalities,
but I’m inclined to think of those they missed,
who favor purpose over policies.
My people never lived as Cather wrote.
We leave the anthropologists no clues.
We each were old at five without a vote.
The bell curve can’t express our stubborn views.
So I’m compelled to transcribe what I see
in syllables of urgent poetry.
The caliber of poetry and song
today is woefully inadequate.
Composers wedge in words that don’t belong,
or clashing sense, or syllables unfit
for rhythm or so baldly overused
they only reinforce cliches. I flinch
when I attend to lyrics, pulse-abused
and ear-insulted, moving not an inch.
It’s not that hard to start the inner drum,
and like a puzzle solve to fix the stress.
Describing, track the meter with your thumb
and speak aloud the impulses that press
your passage into scaffolds as you age.
Be honest. Now be lively on the page.