Who knows how far his poem will travel? For many of us, most of our poems won’t make it past the rectangular space of our door. And, if a poem does manage to make it into the world and thrive, it’s often without our intent. The poem makes its own way, finds its own home, and seeks its own friends. And who knows if one of the friends won’t be an old acquaintance of yours upon whom, years before, you made a poor impression? And who knows what relationship that person will have with your poem, and how such a relationship might affect the regard in which you’re held.
Part of the mystery of writing is that the destination of our work is often concealed from us. Still, we continue the daily ritual of waking early to sit at our desks and sail seas full of fragmented ideas, blurred beginnings, and uncertainties with the hope of arriving at some distant shore where what’s beyond us comes together in the language of our experience.
How We Know We Are Forgiven
We know when our words
Are finally allowed
To travel routes of the heart
That once were barricaded
Against them as strangers
And they are given reign again
To stretch out upon sands,
Chat with newly arrived travelers,
And left alone to haggle
With silk and spice merchants.
Instead of being kicked
From tents and caravans,
Our words will once again
Be pulled into the crowds
By friends left behind,
Wiped clean of grime
Collected in the desert,
Then given fresh robes and pants,
Before being led unto hammocks to snore
After bread and wine.
In this poem, there are custodians of the imagination who impose and preserve a normative world view. And we see to what lengths these “wise men” will go to make children think “what’s right.” It seems to me, however, that sometimes writing is the act of dancing the wrong dance – the act of taking elements of the taught-imagination and stretching them as far as one can.
Solomon’s Montessori School
The school is popular among children.
And upon their gathering,
Each swears of her own experience –
“Yesterday, I saw ten golden gates
Standing without fences”
“Today, I saw god appoint Winds as sages”
“I’ve seen angels floating east” –
To suppress these claims,
Wise men from town
Stand children against the wall
Without food, for hours
Until each confesses a change of heart –
To the relief of parents
And the esteemed Council of The Wise –
That Solomon’s school never existed
And is only seen by the mad.
Precisely at that moment,
A girl hears Solomon’s invisible call.
She pulls down her veil,
Listens to the hymns,
Then runs like one taken
To begin studies
“In how to climb god’s fences
And wrestle with Winds.”
After years of toil, how does a writer handle himself when his work is finally recognized? Some writers become lost in the pageantry. Some accept the recognition for what it is, are grateful for what they are given, while keeping in mind that what’s more important is returning to that place of unknowing, which often is the source of poetry.
The Measured Notion of One’s Self
How blessed the man,
Who despite praise,
Acclaim and applause
Remains in the end,
Essentially as he was –
Unaffected by the ribbons
Taped to his door,
The bouquet of flowers,
The certificates framed
In his halls,
And in his study,
The hung medallions.
Not for this man
The quiet relief of being paraded
Through the village on borrowed horse
All for being the first of its sons
To sail the Indian Ocean and
The first to write several volumes
Scholars hold in high estimation.
Quite admirable that after waving
Through the confetti and horns,
He returns home not thinking
“Tomorrow praise is again assured.”
But that it is already gone
And he is again as he was.
No wonder he is now at his door
Untaping the ribbons.
No doubt he’s taken down
In the morning,
He’ll return the horse.