POEM WITH A JAVELIN AT THE END
All poetry is about hope.
thank you The President
for canceling my debt.
I will use this reprieve
from hopelessness to write
one poem, early in which
the speaker will discover an absence
of hopelessness is not exactly
hope, more like emerging
from too-warm water
into the wet air
and you left your towel
in the car, also you locked
your keys in the car, also
the car’s on fire and you’re late
for your endoscopy.
the great poet Dean Young
died this week and all
I have to say about grief
he said better, in a number
of books it should frankly
be a crime to be able
to write. I am trying
my best to love life
as it vanishes, it’s just
the more I love it
the more apparent
its vanishing becomes.
did you know the armed forces
of Ecuador once airlifted
to safety a population
of Galápagos tortoises
too slow to escape
the erupting volcano
they called home?
all I have to say about that
is me and who?, which is also
what I’ll say about the time
they gunned down from helicopters
tens of thousands of feral goats
mucking up the place. imagine
living one hundred and fifty years
just for some goats to eat all your food.
now imagine living sixty-something years
just for every level of government
to give up on protecting you
from the novel coronavirus.
everything is so stupid
these days, as opposed
to the rest of history,
which I recently through
the power of mindfulness
experienced all in one flash.
much to unpack! what I’ll tell you
is Shakespeare was definitely one guy,
the strong have never given willingly
to the weak, and Peter actually denied
Christ four times, the last one
under his breath. look, everything’s useless
until the moment there’s a use for it,
even knowledge, even grief, even this anger
I don’t want or understand, even these rusted
swords, this tunnel with no light at either end.
I’m told we have to imagine a better future
before we can build one
and here I’m stuck imagining a better past,
Columbus tripping overboard, Lincoln keeping
Hamlin on the ticket, all the other dominoes
falling that way instead of the way they did.
maybe the thing’s to imagine the present
as if from the future, a very distant future,
a world of pristine consequence
understandable only by turning
that big bronze telescope to the ancients,
e.g. you and me and whatever it is
we’re doing here. graduate students
of tomorrow, hello. I hope you are compensated
fairly for your labors. I hope your research
is funded by an endowment taxed out the wazoo.
mostly I hope your world is as alien to me
as mine is to you, that I have not by living
this life condemned you to the torments
of my own lineage. may whatever javelin
you’re sharpening be purely ornamental,
a javelin of peace, even a javelin of celebration.
I wish I could celebrate with you, but alas I died
many centuries ago after a long handsome life
solving all of humanity’s problems with my mind.
you’re welcome. I’m so sorry. please don’t fuck it up.
—from Poets Respond
August 28, 2022