On the occasion of two honored poets’ decline*
Not exactly a pissing shame.
It would have been enough to scrawl
No! on the title page of the book
that pays you royalties, even if
a poet’s payment is never royal
enough. The act of pen scratching
against page, your magic scribble,
what she wanted to see
even if she couldn’t read it,
didn’t want to, you know, sell it
on ebay as anything recognizable
by you. A mark blossoming ink
into the story she would tell her son
when she took the feather-paged,
broken-backed book down
forty years later, fingering a line
you once conceived. Being eleven,
her son was still young enough
then, to believe in the infallibility
of heroes. The type, she said,
was only a bit of postmodern retrofit
to the synapse blip of a poet’s brain,
but this, this handwritten scrawl
on the title page, this sprawling
human urge to reject, this illegible no
was written by the great Seamus Heaney, a poet
who remembered what it was
to believe in men larger than life.
It is almost a pissing shame,
what you forgot to say
when you read your poem-
in-progress. Sometimes the nose
leads one astray, eh? Bad rhymes
in your name, almost
a pissing shame. I, new poet
on the block, forgot
how undivided attention
to the lure of a line
will make others attest
that writers (I am too
often with my pages, too.)
let the written word usurp
connections of the human kind.
I apologize for my intrusion.
I intended only a moment
for you to sign.
Yes, definitely. Yes.
It is a pissing shame. If only
you had read something,
after you pitched us to run fetch
books from the Labyrinth with our
hard-earned cash and 15% discount,
well-trained Labradors returning
with slobbery balls and lolling tongues.
I could have bought your book too,
or maybe, I mean, I could have
chosen something else, say, tickets
to a Mariners game to watch
J.J. Putz shut out another batter,
or skipped poetry altogether,
changed my flight to Vegas
knowing if I turned up two kings,
I should bet it all
on a three-of-a-kind.
*to sign books.
Princeton Poetry Festival. Princeton, NJ. April 27, 2009.