“The Poet at Eighty” Rob Ingraham

Rob Ingraham


Some Kimberly from network news is coming by.
They want an interview before I die, to shoot
me for surviving eighty years in poetry.
Five minutes they’ve allotted to explaining why
I won a Pulitzer (is rap legit?) and how
I manage twenty public readings in a year.

We’ll open in the garden; I’ll pretend to prune
The rosebush back and make some well-worn parallel
Between the natural world and literature.
And then we’ll tour my picture-perfect brownstone home,
I’ll introduce the cat, relate an anecdote,
recite her favorite poem, then it’s a wrap.

Reporters rarely read enough to know my work
has been described as small elaborate brooches,
exquisitely precise, but only jewelry.
With age I see they’re right: I’ve never worked in stone.
Nothing I’ve built can be seen from a distance.
I’m best read in a minor tone, inside, at night.

I suppose it’s not too late to write an epic,
but why upset this fragile truce I’ve struck between
my weakling talent and the bully of my luck?
Who ordains success and why is really what
the story is about. It’s not my age that’s news,
it’s this surprising durability of doubt.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

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