Monday, May 18, 2020

Michael Brownstein writes


He told them: “Gather them by color.” They did not understand.

He said: “Neglect their meaning." They became restless and began to mull around.

He asked: “Do you sleep with someone’s shape? Do you plagiarize a poem?” They scratched their heads, nodded yes, no, no and yes, maybe, perhaps, who really knows.

“Sometimes,” he instructed, “a poem leaps off the page and into your skin. It is more than a tattoo, a burning brand. Specific lines can stick to you like gum on the bottom of your shoe.

“This is what I have done here. I have stolen three lines from the poet Sheila E. Murphy and made them my own. I gathered them, I have given them my own meaning, I have stolen them as T. S. Elliot had, as others will in time.”

They did not understand. Poetry eluded them. They stood on the lawn before him muttering under their breath.

“OK,” he finished, “any questions.”

No one said a thing. No one nodded yes or no or no or yes or maybe or hey, who the hell do you think you are telling us you can steal from another poet and make their lines your own.

He knew what they were thinking. “April is not the cruelest month. I’d think you’d know that answer lies within the heat of August.” Then he bowed, waited for any kind of reaction, and getting none, stuck the middle finger of his right hand high above his head.

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