November 13, 2010

Deciding to Be a Poet

"The violets in the mountains
have broken the rocks"
~Tennessee Williams

Deciding to be a poet
is like entering a mountain
carving contest with an old spoon.

Trusty as that old spoon may be,
it is not a spoon unlike any other,
it is the same—yet with it you must mine

through layers of catching cliches and matted
sameness until you have unearthed an ore
pure and untouched by man's redundant finger.

The judges want nothing more
than originality
—no faux pyramids,
dense presidents, or gargantuan Grecian urns

they say. They want you to blaze a trail
up one side, and roll a snowball
down the other, or flip the mountain

on its top and spin it like a prism
in a whirlwind thriving

Nothing short of that
may even catch their waxy eye.
Even so,

sometimes you will cut the crown off
and scoop out charred handfuls
of useless lava, which you'll strew

about like mustard seed, planting drops
of mountain everywhere you will never reap.
Sometimes you'll undermine the sound

integrity of the tectonic, technical structure
and cause it to capsize, meter by meter
into an ocean of bubbly fury
—just a personal

natural disaster that will never see the light
of a printed page
—and you'll wonder
what....or how a fledgling poet is to ever rest?

On other days you will incessantly bore
a tunnel
—through the mountain's foot, only to realize
you were always there to dig a cave

as you discover the golden Buddha
patiently aglow at a perfect ending....
which took your life, sacrificially, to burrow.

If you are lucky, it will rain though.
And your mountain will be blessed
with a stream that will hew through

the heart of your poem like molten love,
carrying the universe's spirit
in its small, fertile breadth,

rousing life around it

like an opened birth canal—
yet spanning that immense, barren plain

between blood and soul
in a single skip
of a regular heartbeat.

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