Saturday, April 26, 2008

*The Poet

So one day, about two months ago, I was at my Dodge Poetry class, and there was another guy there whom I've known for a few years. He's slightly past middle age, plays guitar in an Irish band, and teaches at an inner-city school in Trenton. In other words, he's a guy that I respect very much. Well, we sat down and class started and I looked across the table and saw that Billy was writing his poetry notes using one of those small, eraser-less mini-golf pencils. That struck me-- for some unknown reason-- as very profound. How could someone as intelligent, as talented as Billy find it possible to construct anything coherent with such a primitive writing utensil? It later occurred to me that he was just doodling and writing a few notes, hardly trying to search for any deep philosophical truths of the universe.

But that image of a man, a poet, who writes like that... well, it was powerful to me. I really liked the possibility that something profound could be composed with something so simple. And I decided right there that I wanted to try to write something using that image. So, thanks Billy!

The Poet
(with thanks to Billy O'Neal)
by me

He composed his lines with grace
and eloquence and style.
His phrases were candy fresh from pop-pop’s sweater pockets,
crinkling as it’s unwrapped,
hard and sweet
as I slide it through my mouth against my teeth and
Tongue and lips.

Tasting the poems, I wonder how someone could so
perfectly capture any real truth
using nothing but the incompleteness of words.

Once, I saw him from a distance,
As he sat alone in a library
by a window.

He had books open on the table and papers spread around him,
franticly staring down at them,
hand on top of his thinly-topped head,
searching for the secret, the truth, the word.
He leaned over the books like a bird
guarding his young in the nest,
waiting to feed them and then push them off a bough
to fly or fall.

From the isle between Mystery and Biography,
I watched him, never
considering an approach.

He was scribbling on a pad with
a mini-golf pencil--
short, eraserless, permanent—
Mumbling quietly to the words on the page;
Barely visible over the crook of his fingers,
like a ghost leaving a thin lead trail.

As a teenager, I kept scores
On pocket-sized cards during first dates,
Usually flubbing the numbers to make things more fun.
At the end of the night, I put the half-pencil
back into the small box
next to the cash register, knowingly
grinning at the bored kid behind the counter,
winking or shrugging, depending
on how the night had gone.

I wonder if the poet ever keeps score.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

"I wonder how someone could so
perfectly capture any real truth
using nothing but the incompleteness of words."