“I fancy that no poet has ever been much good
at carrying through any job that had any work in it
except only poetry.” –Tomás O’Crohan
What ever shall we do?
Dry a few, pickle a few
–they get mushy when frozen–
compost the rest.
Open a shelter–
those we can’t place in homes
we can, perhaps humanely, put to sleep.
There are far too many;
they are not respectable,
they are not properly educated,
they do not know the forms.
They are writing to hammers,
writing to drums,
to wooden spoons stirring the soup.
They are chanting outside the ivory walls.
Here is an old woman naming hurricanes,
a logger chopping away at the fog;
here a child gazes out a window,
writes mountains in a blue notebook.
Here teenagers sit huddled in hidden corners
writing as fast as their pencils can move,
begging for more time to tell us
they are skidding across a chessboard
like distorted pawns in a nightmare game,
they are blaming themselves
for the deaths of their fathers.
Stop them! Break their pencils!
Take away their solitude!
Fill their empty time!
Do not let them speak!
There are too many things
we do not need to know.
Too many–there are already too many
people looking at mountains,
too many people with vital organs exposed,
too many people revealing our secret names.
Soon there will be a poet on every corner–
there will be no hiding place.
Remember the Irish filidh
who could kill with satire?
Remember Tomás, cutting peat on a fine day,
waylaid by the dreaded poet Dunlevy
who sprawled on his back in the heather
and all morning long recited his poems?
Young Tomás listened furious under the Blasket sky
while the turf went uncut
and his milk turned to stone in the bottle.
Send them away! before it is too late,
before the Earth is spun askew
by the weight of their words.
Hang them, burn them!
Pay them not to write
–now there’s a thought–
or distribute the surplus
to the undeserving poor.
We have better things to do
while the sun shines
than listen to their measured voices
April 12, 1999
This is an oldie–it was performed with “Quatrain” and is included in the chapbook: “Sing in Me, Muse.”