When I read Dana Gioio’s poems I appreciate poetry more and more. Only one more day left, but I thank you for sticking around and showing your love for poetry.
The Next Poem
by Dana Gioia
How much better it seems now
than when it is finally done––
the forgettable first line,
the cunning way the stanzas run.
The rhymes soft-spoken and suggestive
are barely audible at first,
an appetite not yet acknowledged
like the inkling of a thirst.
When gradually the form appears
as each line is coaxed aloud––
the architecture of a room
seen from the middle of a crowd.
The music that of common speech
but slanted so that each detail
sounds unexpected as a sharp
inserted in a simple scale.
No jumble box of imagery
dumped glumly in the reader’s lap
or elegantly packaged junk
the unsuspecting must unwrap.
But words that could direct a friend
precisely to an unknown place,
those few unshakeable details
that no confusion can erase.
And the real subject left unspoken
but unmistakable to those
who don’t expect a jungle parrot
in the black and white prose.
How much better it seems now
than when it is finally written.
How hungrily one waits to feel
the bright lure seized, the old hook bitten.
I leave this here as a reminder of sorts for the writing teacher who told me that some things could not be expressed. That sometimes only after a long absence we can recall the things that have happened to us. Or to others in our lifetime. I leave this here as a reminder, a recorder of history, because even when we cannot speak, there is always a way to give voice to things…
How to write a poem after September 11th
by Nikki Moustaki
First: Don’t use the word soul. Don’t use the word fire.
You can use the word tragic if you end it with a k.
The rules have changed. The word building may precede
The word fall, but only in the context of the buildings falling
Before the fall, the season we didn’t have in Manhattan
Because the weather refused, the air refused…
Don’t say the air smelled like smoldering desks and drywall,
Ground gypsum, and something terribly organic,
Don’t make a metaphor about the smell, because it wasn’t
A smell at all, but the air washed with working souls,
Piling bricks, one by one, spreading mortar.
Don’t compare the planes to birds. Please.
Don’t call the windows eyes. We know they saw it coming.
We know know they didn’t blink. Don’t say they were sentinels.
Say: we hated them then we loved them then they were gone.
Say: we miss them. Say: there’s a gape. Then, say something
About love. It’s always good in a poem to mention love.
Say: If a man walks down stairs, somewhere
Another man is walking up. Say: He sits at his desk
And the other stands. He answers the phone and the other
Ends a call with a kiss. So, on a rainy dusk in some other
City of Commerce and Art, a mayor cuts a ribbon
With giant silver scissors. Are you writing this down?
Make the executives parade through the concourse,
Up the elevators, to the top, where the restaurant,
Open now for the first time, sets out a dinner buffet.
Press hard. Remember you’re writing with ashes.
Say: the phone didn’t work. Say: the bakery was out of cake,
The dogs in the pound howled. Say: the world hadn’t
Asked your permission to change. But you were asleep.
If only you had written more poems. If only you had written
More poems about love, about peace, about how abstractions
Become important outside the poem, outside. Then, then,
You could have squinted into the sky on September 11th
And said: thank you, thank you, nothing was broken today.