Today's poem is by Chris Green

Living with Poets

Living is like reading James Wright, for example.
            I mean, have you read Wright, experienced the uplift?
He once wrote a poem that features a plump squirrel:
                    "Today I Was Happy, So I Made This Poem"
                    —it ends with an eagle in heaven crying, This is what I wanted.
            I mean, as Nazim Hikmet says, "Living must be your whole life."
            Living can be laughing,
but it's no laughing matter.
      For example, if I were to tie you up and forget you in a small room,
      then have a parade to make a point about the way of the world,
      it would be true, but no one, especially you, would be laughing.

Or else, life is a laboratory.
      I can't forget the Philip Larkin poem about the ape
      experiment room,
The Ph.D. putting questions to flesh and his nympho wife who—
      But, I was saying, science can save or kill.
      Art just does it with more charm.

Let's say you're seriously ill,
which is to say you may never feed a squirrel again,
                        only feel the top of a white sterile table.
Though you must feel sad, it's impossible not to,
                        you must still laugh and joke. Even if you look out
the window and see it raining—
make some crack about the weather
                                                for the living's sake.
Life is something worth fighting for,
                    death's the same.
Know it, death and life, with a curious anger,
      but don't put it in prison or a laboratory
      (Hikmet in prison had a curious perspective.
Death and war were a worry, yes,
but he didn't worry himself to death;
imprisoned for poetry, of all things,
13 years behind iron doors,
                                                    he always opened his heart).

The war will last the rest of your life,
it's all struggle and wind.
            Of course it's not easy to forget.
However, Emerson believed Power ceases
in the instant of repose—and so,
            he refused to mourn the deaths of his brother, wife, and son.
At which point, you want to ask,
            Ralph, isn't your "I" tired?
His last years he had alzheimers,
his life to him as memorable and meaningless as Thoreau's last words—
he lifted his head from the pillow, whispered,
            Moose, Indian.

As a young man reading "A Blessing,"
I remember thinking all poets were happy ...
I never saw the "break" before "blossom."
                                    Today, as 1 read James Wright,
a young squirrel calls from a branch, his tail a question.
      Jim knew he could die, but in poems he survived.
      His voice like the sea, mournful, moody, resilient,
      spoke against Martins Ferry and Hazel-Atlas Glass,
      but in This Journey, his last book,
he sings of Italy, of Annie, of getting well.
Somewhere in Ohio where the land and river touch,
            the wind dies, a man walks in,
                        and it's not James Wright.

Copyright © 2007 Chris Green All rights reserved
from 5AM
Reprinted by Verse Daily® with permission

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