Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Hug a Poet -- it's National Poetry Month!

I have been remiss. My friends and family expect to find a poem a day in their e-mailboxes in April. I am nothing if not habitual in my flogging of poetry.

I don't think they do it to humor me. At least, I hope they don't. I fervently hope, instead, that at least one poem startles them into realizing that language is the most beautiful art in the world. That words can stir emotions, images, thoughts, memories in ways they forgot. That poetry is as fun now as it was when they were children reading nursery rhymes and Ogden Nash. That silliness can wrap a serious idea in a bewitching way, lure them into reading just one more.

Maybe they'll pick up a book of poems at the bookstore. Maybe they'll listen to The Writer's Almanac on public radio. Maybe they will secretly try to write a poem themselves and, with great surprise, realize that poem is perfect. Maybe they'll share it, maybe not.

In honor of National Poetry Month, and with a generous thanks to Garrison Keillor for doing all the hard work, I share the following poem, with a promise of many more:

Unwise Purchases

They sit around the house
not doing much of anything: the boxed set
of the complete works of Verdi, unopened.
The complete Proust, unread:

The French-cut silk shirts
which hang like expensive ghosts in the closet
and make me look exactly
like the kind of middle-aged man
who would wear a French-cut silk shirt:

The reflector telescope I thought would unlock
the mysteries of the heavens
but which I only used once or twice
to try to find something heavenly
in the windows of the high-rise down the road,
and which now stares disconsolately at the ceiling
when it could be examining the Crab Nebula:

The 30-day course in Spanish
whose text I never opened,
whose dozen cassette tapes remain unplayed,

save for Tape One, where I never learned
whether the suave American
conversing with a sultry-sounding desk clerk
at a Madrid hotel about the possibility
of obtaining a room
actually managed to check in.

I like to think
that one thing led to another between them
and that by Tape Six or so
they're happily married
and raising a bilingual child in Seville or Terra Haute.

But I'll never know.
Suddenly I realize
I have constructed the perfect home
for a sexy, Spanish-speaking astronomer
who reads Proust while listening to Italian arias,

and I wonder if somewhere in this teeming city
there lives a woman with, say,
a fencing foil gathering dust in the corner
near her unused easel, a rainbow of oil paints
drying in their tubes

on the table where the violin
she bought on a whim
lies entombed in the permanent darkness
of its locked case
next to the abandoned chess set,

a woman who has always dreamed of becoming
the kind of woman the man I've always dreamed of becoming
has always dreamed of meeting.

And while the two of them discuss star clusters
and C├ęzanne, while they fence delicately
in Castilian Spanish to the strains of Rigoletto,

she and I will stand in the steamy kitchen,
fixing up a little risotto,
enjoying a modest cabernet,
while talking over a day so ordinary
as to seem miraculous.

by George Bilgere from Haywire
© Utah State University Press.

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