::Literate Blather::
Wednesday, June 25, 2008
Poetry Smells Like Talcum Powder
We like to think that Poetry is dead. We like to believe that the Modern Culture killed him.

We imagine Poetry running breathless down a dark alley slick with rain. A car skids to a stop, blocking the egress. Poetry’s black loafers slide on the pavement and he backs up. The sedan doors pop open and men with guns climb out. Their faces are black masks of shadow caused by the lone street lamp behind them. Poetry, terror etched on his face, turns and flees. But no one can outrun bullets and the lead cuts him down.

Poetry dies, eyes wide open, in a puddle of his own inky blood.


At a fancy French bistro, Poetry dines at a round table draped in a lace white table clothe. She lifts a wine glass by the stem and the burgundy leaves bloody streaks on the imperfections in the glass bowl. Poetry gazes at her dining companion, a twinkle in her pretty eyes, as she takes a long sip. Her eyes widen as her throat constricts. Poetry starts to choke and looks accusingly at her companion as the poison churns through her system and begins to boil her blood. Finally, she dies face down in the lobster bisque.

But Poetry hasn’t been murdered. Few are passionate enough to want her to die with such… well, poetry. Unfortunately, Poetry is alive – a shut-in at the nursing home.

He lives on the third floor in “an assisted living facility” on the edge of a Mid-western city. It’s hot in the summer and the air conditioner is faulty and only spurts out tepid air when its feeling generous. He can’t walk without a walker – propped up next to the front door. When he hacks up the phlegm from his lungs it sounds like he’s coughed up marbles. He spits the wads into a waste can that’s rusty on the bottom. He’s frail, doesn’t remember Frost or Kipling or even Cummings, and spends more time staring at his age spots than reading.

Someday, maybe soon, an orderly with bad tattoos will find him lying in his bed without a pulse, and his adult diaper soiled.

And that will be that.

But Poetry isn’t dead yet. She is simply ignored, forgotten by the many like some ancient god, no longer worshipped, no longer treasured. You can find her in the bargain bin or in some dusty corner of a chain book store.

Oh, there’s a few who deign to visit her now and then. Guiltily bringing her flowers and then sitting awkwardly across from her trying to pretend her breath doesn’t stink and convincing ourselves that we still love her. In fact, sometimes we can see the beauty still lingering in her eyes.

But we visit less and less.

(Hmmm, the last book of poetry we read was “Nine Horses” by Billy Collins and that was more than a year ago – at least. Maybe we can throw in a few Bukowski poems here and there as well. We keep fingering a new edition of Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass” at the bookstore, but so far we haven’t bought it.)

Wouldn’t it be fun to imagine Video Games in the same state as Poetry? But Video Games is a strapping, young lad with thick arms and a barrel chest. He wears his baseball cap backwards and shuffles around in flip-flops. So what if he’s got the beginnings of a gut and his hair’s a bit wispy on the crown? He’s got powerful thumbs and a cocky attitude (only wish he’d bathe more often).

Even TV is doing better than expected. Oh, she’s a had a couple of face lifts (and augmented her breasts), but she’s still a looker (especially in candle light). She still dresses elegantly and her smile is white and dazzling. And can anyone hold her attention better than TV?

But neither Video Games nor TV, of course, visit Poetry. Do they even know her? But then again look around at your friends and family. How often do they talk about Poetry? Is Poetry part of their lives? Most people would rather talk about DVD. Even Poetry’s close friends like Literary Magazine just give her lip service these days (hey, let’s publish another free verse poem about sex!).

Maybe Poetry’s stronger than we think. Maybe the old girl will make a comeback – find the Fountain of Youth. It seems to have worked out all right for Comic Book. Look at how fancy he’s gotten since changing his name to Graphic Novel.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...
Maybe if we create a video game about poetry, we can rejuvenate him while at the same time kicking the knees out from under that Wii punk. The first scenario you described fits the bill: come up with a rhyme fast before the bullet hits! Alliterate to accelerate around corners, you car's engine churning in time with your pentameter. You never know, fans of The Princess Bride might enjoy it: no more rhyming now, I mean it! (anybody want a peanut?)

Blogger GFS3 said...
We could call the video game: "Poetry Slam Death Match." It would feature all the poets with the best suicides. The kids would love it.

Anonymous Sandwich Recipes said...
Lovee this

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