Poetry is All Around Us: Poems on Poetry 2020
Happy National Poetry Month to us all! Here are some poems that reference poetry itself, or poets. Find links to more such poems at the end, and click each poet’s name for more of their work at EIL.
Industry Is All Around Us
The clematis climbing its trellis,
the radish seeds small stretch
before ballooning underground
like an inflatable heart, tender
to the core and sharp as pepper
on the tongue. Sometimes,
the growing works only
to conceal the purpose
of its making. Underneath
what we are accustomed to
is all the love we are creating
in earth’s more indolent spaces.
We give no credit to the dark.
The lazy. Or, maybe, we value
only image. Most poems,
for instance, end on an object
in ambiguous movement. The rule
is never explain too much. Give
the reader a puzzle, a task. But
what is there here to uncover?
One shy girl grown up. The sun
a beacon in her backyard.
Some moments are so perfect
even language cannot destroy them.
It was not promised to me write a poem for the ages.
Not promised, happiness like a path
down to a river, sloping gently,
carrying me along. Not promised the peace
that passeth all understanding. Instead,
I was promised rain on an empty street
in a provincial city far away
from the center of power.
Promised red geraniums in the rain,
headlights on a distant bluff, trees in wind
bearing up under that rain,
as if born for it as dancers are born
for the warm ups as much as for the performance.
Not born for happiness, no, but to see, instead,
the small boy carrying an umbrella
in the rain, holding the hand
of his hatless father. Yes, that.
Reconciliation was never
the point. Nor the violence emanating
from the capital. But, yes, the way rain
is a home for those who thought not
a thing in the world mattered as much
as their sorrow. There is a way to hide
and still be found. There is a stillness
which begins only after the final mourner
has left the church.
When I finally came to from my nap,
I thought of Tristan Tzara, the father
of Dada. Had Tzara wished to write
a love letter or send a token of affection
from Zurich, what might he have done?
Perhaps he’d realize the truth: love is
greater than one man and one woman.
I picture him sending a stuffed spotted owl
or an elegant peacock, the plumage alone
greater than anything a poet might say.
Maybe he’d have sent an exquisite corpse
composed with his friends—Andre Breton,
Aragon, Reverdy, Eluard, and Max Ernst.
Or maybe he’d wrap an empty wine crate
and call it “Handkerchief of Clouds.”
I rolled over in bed, eyes open on the pillow.
I imagined Tzara donning his monocle
and sending one of the new gramophones
so recently conceived and invented—
the black record spinning, the music flowing
out of a lovely horn made of polished brass
or sculpted mahogany painted with roses.
After all, wasn’t it young, monocled Tzara
who extolled spontaneous poetry? Who said,
“I love you because you are simple and you dream”?
Or could I be misremembering? It’s a long time
since I read Tristan Tzara. And have I ever—
sitting up and rubbing sleepy eyes—listened
to music flowing like balmy summer breezes
out of the flower-shaped horn of a gramophone?
The Word Heart
The critique group warns me
I’m walking a tightrope when I use it.
Their mouths are flashing lights—their red pens
bars lowered at the railroad crossing.
We must all be watchful of this word.
It will stick like tar, drown a poem
in canned syrup
no one can stomach for long.
I look back on all the mistakes I have made–
even when I’ve tried excluding the word,
it has come back with a force
solely its own,
like the lover who won’t give up,
like the muscle that must be used or die.
[previously published in Yaya’s Cloth (Iris Press)]