VOLUNTARY COMPLEXITY

To hell (and I don’t mean symbolically)
with simplicity, austerity, clarity.
I’m tired of minimalist, unadorned,
stark, stripped-down, zen-garden bare.
To hell with rooms without clutter,
poetry without license, art without metaphor,
body without magic (the heart a pump,
the brain a computer–give me a break),
stars without myth  (the sun a nuclear reactor),
love without mystery  (it’s only hormones).
I want life intricate, elaborate, rich,
too heavy to hold in one hand,
too sumptuous to digest in one sitting,
life that sounds like a hundred choirs
singing different music from a hundred balconies
all at once, that looks like sedimentary rock
stacked with the history of oceans,
that tastes like salt and wine.
smells like woods in spring–
flowers pushing up through rotting wood,
layer upon layer of mould,
last year’s mat of leaf and fern;
life like a church built on a Roman temple
built on a Celtic shrine built on a Neolithic tomb;
like my study with its dolls and scripture commentaries,
ink pots, angels, rubber chickens;
like a huge ancient house inhabited forever
by the same clan–Grandma’s books
and Great-grandpa’s chair and Great-great Aunt Sophy’s silver,
somebody’s threadbare velvet curtains and Persian rugs,
somebody’s empty laudanum bottles slipped between the walls,
five hundred year old roses in the garden,
the roots of trees cracking through the deepest dungeon,
a thousand pairs of tattered slippers kicked under the bed.

This is an old one.  I wrote it in a fit of annoyance when a fellow poet told me that I “use too many words.”

It was published in  ATLANTA REVIEW, in the spring of 2000, and for a time a copy of it hung on a wall in an art gallery in Australia.

One comment on “VOLUNTARY COMPLEXITY

  1. Burnham Holmes says:

    Simply wonderful.

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