This is not a poem. It doesn’t declaim anything, recite
Candy floss words melting on the heat of the tongue,
Chewy bubble gum ballooning on the faces of the young
Ground to a happily nonsense pulp from pink to filmy white.
Poems are different. They aren’t the spittle of fright
Collected in blind corners of lips, and then whistled and sung
As though it had meaning, as though it inevitably hung
Together in one grave, luminous arc of meaningful insight.
Someday I’ll be able to explain. Explain the hows, and whys,
What is, and what is not a poem. The lime-wash of a few
Rhymes on a life, a bit of fear and love, an element of surprise;
A torn page of loneliness held a little gingerly askew
Can’t be crumpled into sonnets with a few haphazard tries.
This is not a poem. It isn’t. But it’ll have to do.
It isn’t about any one single thing, monumental yet delicate
A distinct spasm of a great narrative convulsed into a ballad
No patterns in the veins of moods, nor some trace of blood
Clapped into the chanting rhythm of fourteen years of sonnets.
Mostly it just sits there alone, lumpy, inarticulate
At one with its surroundings, digging its toes into the mud
Unaware of the lilting moves of the Ramayana and the Iliad.
But lifts its head to search for a thing that it thinks isn’t here yet.
This is not a poem, nor does it think it can be one.
A lift of eyelids towards a cloud as toes fondle wet clay
A sudden lurch of heart towards a bamboo-skewered horizon
Abruptly lyrical in silhouette at the two endpoints of the day,
This can’t be stabbed into a verse, there is no choice of weapon.
This isn’t a poem, but it’s all there is. To recite. Or brush away.
Many are not quite poems, though I like to think they’ll be
If I try hard and long enough. If I am laboriously sincere
Stuff will arrange itself into patterns pleasant enough to hear.
But poetry isn’t a function of the depths of sincerity.
It’s true the same symbols repeat, the migrant birds, the naked tree
Come back in the same formats to haunt me year on year.
The peacock-feather oceans swill to transparent turquoise and clear.
But some of it just passes me by, without the poetry splashing me.
So this is not a poem, this waiting by the white foam line
Where the gentle palms wave at the winds playing hide and seek
Where the tide recedes to film the sands with the last sunshine
And it coats the ocean with highlights of a fluorescent mystique
This waiting, wandering, resting, in the woods of whistling pine
This doesn’t make a poem. But it’s all there is. To whisper or to speak.