27 June, 2014

Yet Another Too-Personal Poem from the Vaults

Journalist

I laid down private lines
On pages long since brittle,
About touching, later being touched,
And the air being hot and still both times,
About the girl’s chapped lips on my own,
About the man’s callused hands.

In the unfurling of one week, first kisses,
Sweet then sour. It’s turnabout so like the rest:
The stately sight of French Quarter streets
Corrupted by seeing that stranger fed a busted bottle;
The love of three youthful friends buried
In the rococo gilt chill of too-soon caskets;
And, despite the once-frantic quest for life among
Fellow Homo sapiens, no admittance for the damaged.
Sterling equations get so often tarnished
By countervailing aftermathematics. Such is life;

So too death (which is, let’s face it,
Life again). And these dreary themes so long explored
By sensitive boys with their blank hardcover books
Waste paper, ink, and precious time,
And do no favors for us dead and dying.

* * * * *

I think writer John Berryman summed it up perfectly when he said, “Certain great artists can make out without it; Titian and others, but mostly you need ordeal. My idea is this: the artist is extremely lucky who is presented with the worst possible ordeal which will not actually kill him. At that point, he’s in business.” Yet the blade cuts both ways. I still reproach myself for using my own ordeals within my writing, or as fuel for it. This is the dilemma that I think the above poem speaks to.

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