The Poet’s Tale

The poet is born in squalor, his first love. Some of the poet’s favorite words include seedy, shabby, seamy. These are words made with a hissing sound. In phonics, that sound is called a sibilant, and is produced by forcing the tongue toward the teeth, with the lips near closed, forcing air out like a snake whistling. But opposite words are equally valued by the poet: classy, stylish, exclusive. Even if the reader uses words without really caring about words as such much. The poet is not primarily concerned with getting a point across, and is held harmless if some point hurts its object in the bargain, even if so much the better. If an annoying sound appears to sharpen the point, there’s value added. The poet is in love with words.

But it’s easy to confuse poetry with sarcasm, satire, or irony. And the true cynicism of poetry often gives way to stoicism. This may occur when the poet realizes there is no point to anything, including his own poetry. Innuendos may still be highly valued (particularly where points may be scored), for all words have their beginning in figures of speech, which is to say, metaphor. That is precisely what an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is meant to solve. Words disallow mistake when artificial trade-offs are refused. But language is no place for despots, try as they might to exert control, to establish absolute authority. Who controls the movement of words over space and time?

Words are all substitutes. No one can claim dominion. One is as good as another. Language is democratic. And that is why the poet is married to shame, his own mother, at once virgin and harlot (that is to say, vagabond, a beggar for words). In a truly democratic society, where everyone is equal and all words hold common sway, and competition without compromise is useless, it may begin to appear the only way to have a-leg-up-on is to attempt to subject another to shame. But shame has never worked as a measure of control. And that is why poetry can be so hard to get, and why hard times come so often to poets.

The poet stands accused of nothing and nonsense. His love of words and sound and color is scorned and mocked. He is the scapegoat for confusion.

On Letting My Hair Grow

letting-my-hair-grow

I’m letting my hair grow.
It’s starting to snow.
Nothing to be done,
Estragon fond.
“Now I’m a donor,” I told Susan,
“on the recent license renewal.”
“They’ll take your anatomical
hair,” she said, the young one
at the Department of Motor
Vehicles: “On your license,
be a donor?” she asked me.
“Sure, and why not.”
“It’s not like you’re going
to be needing it,” she laughed.

I don’t need it now,
I thought to myself,
she in Santa Claus costume
red and white furry thick
and outside snow falling
and her hair black maroon
hanging tussled out
the Santa red cap rimmed
white and the big white
ball at the end bouncing
about as she whirled around
to grab the form
for me to be
an anatomical donor.

My papers in order –
DD214, Birth Cert.,
proof of address – but,
“We don’t need them
this time,” she said.
“You’re in the system.
You showed us all that
last time. You only
have to prove it once.”
(On this I did not
correct her.)
“But let me see
that discharge sheet.
Why don’t you have
VETERAN
on your license?”
She read down my DD214,
taking her time.
I was number 106,
the DMV not crowded,
middle of day middle of
week middle of month.
Not any, any, any.
Middle, middle, middle.
“There it is,” she said.
“Other than dishonorable,”
she happily smiled,
as if given a gift,
or handing me one,
the white ball again
twirling as she turned
and grabbed hold
another rubber stamp.
I was 18, number 16,
that first drawing,
I might have told her.
I looked good a few
of the squad said
of my shaved head
coming from the barber
at Fort Bliss, zero week.
I went in full curled
long and wild just out
of the surf at El Porto.

“OK,” she said. “Take
this to the photographer,
end of the counter.
Merry Christmas!”
And I said it back
to her. It’s best
when at the DMV
to remain calm
and try to relax
and let your hair grow.

“Number 107? 107?”

Sentence Fragment Run-on

Go. A sentence fragment. Having one must avoid. All the handbooks say. Danger. Caution. Draw ire. Pounce on error. Incomplete though. I think I thought I was running on. Stop.

Go. Thinking of writing post on sentence fragments, how they irk writer reader argument. Murky sirens fill air writing tinnitis. Word wringing. All writing no end to it antecedent. Stop.

Go frag for short. Correction reading for proof of fragments. A post of sentence fragments, a can of worms, the kind that spring in one’s face when one lifts lid. One who? You, Boing! Laughter. Practical joke fragments not funny not at all good writing. Nothing. Go on about nothing? Stop.

Go. Fizzles. Beckett. Master of sentence fragment, incomplete thought, dead end. Dead end. Deaden. Dud. Duds. Fizzling fragments. Not to mention run-ons. Do not. Stop.

Go. Mention them the run-ons go on get in line in front of the fragment and talk spend some time talking run-on go on run-on running on, wait, the comma splice just one kind of run-on remember fragments connecting commas the runaway the runaway the runaway reader the reader who ran out of the text through the margin and fell off the page. Stop.

Go comma splices stop in tracks fragment tool linearly linear. Early line. Line ear. Listen. To the fragments. Words falling, failing. Green to red. Color of hope to color of despair. Save. Transition. Stop.

Go. Mark it up here mark it up there: frag there, R-O here. Stop.

Go. Exceptions. For fragments or run-ons. Poetic license. Incomplete though. “The great head where he toils is all mockery, he is forth again, he’ll be back again” (Beckett, “fizzle 1”). Stop.