Every semester someone
mistakes the black and white portrait of Pablo Neruda
for Alfred Hitchcock. And every semester,
there's a student who sighs and rolls his eyes
when the discussion is stalled
by those who argue
whether a poet should change
the gaze in her poem from “frozen” to “fixed”.
I want to tell the eye-rollers how, last week,
over beers at the Dell, I swooned when a white haired poet
said that in his twenties, he got in a fistfight with another poet
over whether or not William Blake was a genius.
This afternoon, I can write the saddest lines.
Winter is coming, and when my father calls long-distance,
I don't listen as much to words he's saying, as I do
the spaces between, watching
the sky darken in the window behind my eight year old daughter,
as she sits at the table writing love letters without the vocabulary
to disguise her ache, scrawling,
Why won't you take my letters? How would you feel
if I wouldn't take your letters?
This afternoon, I can write the saddest lines,
but when I drive home, toward
dishes, e-mail, laundry, my own impending death,
I'll remember this day,
my students raising their voices, the room
blooming with argument over the merit of a story,
one young man throwing his pen
on the table in disgust,
while Alfred Hitchcock/Pablo Neruda
looked on, smiling,
all of us ignoring
the boxfuls of decades-old literary
journals shoved in the corner of the classroom,
filled to bursting with words
that someone wrote long before
they ever imagined they'd stop sweating
or singing; long before they imagined
they'd be able to listen to a poem
without taking a swing.
All rights reserved.
An early draft that is trying to do/say a lot. Any feedback is appreciated. And if you're ever in Omaha, NE, stop in room 218 of UNO's Fine Arts Building to get a look at the infamous Neruda/Hitchcock portrait.