Tuesday, April 08, 2014


I can never let a poem alone.
I fiddle, diddle and twiddle-
Replace a comma here, nail an adverb into that spot-
OK, that leaves a hole in the third stanza,
but it’s nothing an adjective or twelve can’t fix.
Maybe a bag of bright, shiny new conjunctions
will make all the difference
-Hey Amazon’s got them on sale this week!

I suddenly sit up in the middle of the night,
having stumbled upon the exactly appropriate phrase,
found in that hazy vagueness between sleep and waking,
and I watch as it zips away from me,
full consciousness slapping it down, burying it-
I grasp for those words that I know
will make the poem perfect-
but they are gone in the darkness,
and I spend the rest of a sleepless night
regretting that I ever glimpsed them.

Getting lost in your verse sounds exciting.
Telling someone that the hours slipped away
and you lost all track of time while
creating a new poem sounds terribly romantic
and sophisticated-
until you stop and admit that its just an excuse-
 a rationalization for why you forgot to put gas in the car,
or why you didn’t start the dishwasher after dinner.
-But instead of being truthful we’ll stick with
romantic and sophisticated,
because romanic and sophisticated and poetic sounds better
than careless,
and forgetful,
and lazy.

One  month I tried an experiment-
that month I spent as much time organizing my life
as I do my words-
I put as much effort into my relationships
as I did into counting off syllables,
and looking up synonyms-
Everybody judged that month as a success-
I had touched contentment,
I had found an inner peace-
 -and I had fuck-nothing whatsoever to write about.
It was Hell.
It was The Bridges of Madison County in 24-point type.
It was a Dan Brown novel, with extra adverbs.

So now I’m back-
I’m back to ignoring the overflowing recycle bin-
I’m back to forgetting to put butter on the shopping list
when I use the last bit on my toast-
I’m back to playing with my words the way
that teenage boys play with themselves:
obsessively, compulsively-
with no nobler end in mind than a moment of pleasure,
a mental ecstasy,
mindful masturbation.

And Society tells me it’s ok-
Hell, it even encourages me
to play with my words in public.
I don’t have to hide my poems,
 -though sometimes,
in the deepest part of night,
I dig them out from under my mattress
and thumb through them under the covers,
by the feeble glow
of a secret flashlight.

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