I keep throwing books out of windows.
‘Poetry should defy gravity!’
I proclaim to my audience of gravel,
tarmac, houses, trees,
sky, birdsong, and rain.
But so far, the books are not defying gravity.
Frank O’Hara’s Selected Poems
lands with a small thud; a sort of sub-thud.
‘And I had such high hopes for them,’
I say to a parked car.
All poets are Mad Emperors,
issuing their unreasonable decrees about reality.
The words we use have no sentience,
even when we put them with other words;
even when we read them.
They form lines,
and mine are increasingly disorderly.
‘An if bicycle under because another of cannot whom.’
Syntax and semantics seem to have stepped on a landmine.
What might these words say to each other?
‘Hello, my name is bicycle. My purpose is unclear.
Am I supposed to be doing wheelies or something?’
But if is delighted.
‘I’ve become an adjective! I’ve become an adjective!’
The enthusiasm of if the adjective is catching
and I find myself intrigued by the notion.
What is an if bicycle?
How about an if tree? An if sky?
Maybe this is an if poem?
An idea occurs.
I type the poem up, make a couple of edits,
and print it.
Opening a window,
I release the poem to see if it defies gravity.
For a second,
it shoots sideways then up –
at last, a gravity-defying if poem! –
it clumsily descends, finally landing on wet tarmac.
Perhaps, I consider, the only way for a poem
to defy gravity
is for it never to be written.
I look out of the window again
and contemplate an if world.