I look at some of the things
I’ve had to write about recently –
and I have had to write about them,
or else: why even be a poet?
Things like my father’s suicide,
or the strangeness of a lifetime of separation
from my family.
And I think:
no wonder I’m not writing
whimsical pieces of fluff and la,
or fast-paces comic poems
exploding with rhyme.
It’s in this frame of mind
that I pick up the latest Billy Collins collection,
but instead of helping me lose myself,
his wistfulness lights my short fuse.
Can’t you write something with a bit more impact
than a gentle breeze?
While you were looking at a bird,
drinking a cup of tea,
or ruminating on an early morning,
did Fate never stab you in the back,
and then push you down the stairs?
I scribble words,
use brackets and crossings-out,
draw arrows, mark insertions,
erase the obvious misfits
and, courtesy of some rewrites,
arrive at an ending.
What a relief
to have been exercised about something
I return to the collection and read a poem.
‘What a Woman Said to Me After a Reading in Nappa Valley’,
and lose myself in wistful poignance.