Friday, February 10, 2012

Among School Children

I was invited here to speak
About the labyrinth of art,
The darkest places right in here
(I tapped my fist upon my heart),
The places where the adverbs seek
The mortises which disappear.

I haven’t got a thing to say.
(They didn’t look a bit surprised.)
All I can do is write and read
And keep my heartbreak supervised.
That lights, but can’t provide, a way
To where the joists and tendons bleed.

Monks are men as incomplete
As soldiers, chaste of blood or soul.
How long must half a world compete
With half a world? How long the toll
Of promise must deception meet?
We are dying to be whole.

Questions? (But they were all asleep,
Each head upon a floppy stem.)
Someone? You in the back, perhaps.
(But I was not disturbing them.)
I was that public man who’d keep
Impinging on their private naps,

Dreams of the Dairy Queen, the Slut
Of Winter Park or Hollywood.
Dreams of the Motorcycle Man,
With 6-pack abs, and far too good
For others. Every eye had shut.
I say, The heart’s an empty can,

Drained of a dram and pissed upon.
(Somebody heard one word I said
And tittered.) I’ll be going soon.
When all of you are good and dead,
Be grateful for a Denver dawn,
And praise the stars which ring the moon.

Later the secretary sent
A thank-you note they each had signed
(Though printed with the class PC).
Ensconced in my establishment,
I was embarked on sonnetry,
And books brought other books to mind,

And other books. I had not told
The class about the unblent yolk
Or dancing trees. I had not said
That art was not like growing old,
And no one ever got the joke,
And I too late, and likely dead.

Fair play it was, and just as well.
Brave lads who never shed a tear
And girls repining for a glance,
They speak in tongues I cannot hear
The lessons they were made to tell.
I write when I have half a chance.

4 comments:

Nev said...

RHE, I like this extremely. The title, the length, even, and the intention, invite comparison to the Yeats poem, obviously. Yours is much more down-to-earth -- not done in the high manner and all, and that I like. But what to do about his famous, killer ending that invites comparison to yours? Yours touches down ok, and you know -- it is only by comparison that it suffers. Perhaps I am not imbuing that last line with all the resonances it is meant to contain -- art being a matter, ultimately, of doing what you can when you have the time to do it! A profound comment, yes. You know, now that I re-read the poem, it seems remarkably conversational for you-- except for the italicized passage, the profundity of which is meant to be over the head of the children -- this is a tour in the plain language you often decry. I'm down with it! It is highly readable. I think I recall your saying you were invited to write an essay or something about poetry for some publication, and I'm thinking this is the poem that ensued. Now that I think about it, I have read it before (duh, sorry - guess it would be even dumber to delete my comment!)

Richard Epstein said...

Thanks. Yes, it is a few years old. and the italicized portion is lifted from a poem I wrote decades ago, when I was just starting out, and had a more highfalutin' notion of poetic diction. I will send you a link to my "essay."

Nev said...

I need an "s" for "heads" of the children, pls, if you have the capability of editing comments.

Richard Epstein said...

Sorry. I can't edit others' posts, only delete them. Still, we shall take the intention for the act.