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Discovering Poetry

May 17, 2011

Although I wrote lots of angst-filled love poems when I was a teen, I’ve never been someone who really appreciated *ahem* other people’s poetry. A recent issue of O the Oprah magazine inspired me to change that, and a few days ago I checked out a few random books of poetry from my local library. One of the books I selected is The Trouble with Poetry: And Other Poems by Billy Collins; I was attracted to the let’s-not-take-ourselves-too-seriously-now title, which was a good indicator of the tongue-in-cheek verse inside. Here’s one of my favorites so far:

Theme

It’s a sunny weekday in early May
and after a ham sandwich
and a cold bottle of beer on the brick terrace,

I am consumed by the wish
to add something
to one of the ancient themes –

youth dancing with his eyes closed,
for example,
in the shadows of corruption and death,

the rise and fall of illustrious men
strapped to the turning
wheel of mischance and disaster.

There is a slight breeze,
just enough to bend
the yellow tulips on their stems,

but that hardly helps me
echo the longing for immortality
despite the roaring juggernaut of time,

or the painful motif
of Nature’s cyclical return
versus man’s blind rush to the grave.

I could loosen my shirt
and lie down in the soft grass,
sweet now after its first cutting,

but that would not produce
a record of the pursuit
of the moth of eternal beauty

or the despondency that attends
the eventual dribble
of the once gurgling fountain of creativity.

So, as far as the great topics go,
that seems to leave only
the fall from exuberant maturity

into sudden, headlong decline –
a subject that fills me with silence
and leaves me no choice

but to spend the rest of the day
sniffing the jasmine vine
and surrendering to the the ivory governance

of the piano by picking out
with my index finger
the melody notes of “Easy to Love,”

a song in which Cole Porter expresses,
with put-on nonchalance,
the hopelessness of a love

brimming with desire
and a hunger for affection,
be met only and always with frosty disregard.

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