Poetry refers to something you have not done—
in this case, a kind of primal square dance
for which at least one partner is required.
Poetry is just something you’re born with,
the loss of which is a big deal in most cultures
predating the Suffragettes, when girls
were prodded before their wedding nights
to make sure they were still full of poetry,
whole anthologies clamoring to get out.
The word for poetry derives from the Latin
for maiden, meaning someone with their hymen
intact, the implication being that the loss
of poetry will leave you forever broken,
though obviously for our species to continue
many of us will have to sacrifice our verse.
Long ago, poets were closer to the gods
and wore fine robes and drank wine all day.
There are also stories of poets being sacrificed
to spare their village from dragons or drought,
like they could perform a kind of miracle
just by existing—then, not. When I was a kid,
nuns assured me that the Poet Mary never once
became prose though in statues she’s smiling,
always, like she knows something we don’t.
—from Rattle #40, Summer 2013
Michael Meyerhofer: “The first time I read the poems in What the Living Do by Marie Howe, I was so blown away that I said something like ‘Holy shit’ after pretty much every poem. This was followed, naturally, by a desire to share those poems with everyone—and to try and pull off the same miracle, if humanly possible. There’s a lot to be said for making somebody so stunned (hopefully in a good way) by something as seemingly innocuous as writing that all they can do is raise their eyebrows and swear like a sailor.” (web)