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Stephen Dobyns: Can Poetry Matter?

Heart feels the time has come to compose lyric poetry.
No more storytelling for him. Oh, Moon, Heart writes,
sad wafer of the heart’s distress. And then: Oh, Moon,
bright cracker of the heart’s pleasure. Which is it,
is the moon happy or sad, cracker or wafer? He looks
from the window but the night is overcast. Oh, Cloud,
he writes, moody veil of the Moon’s distress. And then,
Oh, Cloud, sweet scarf of the Moon’s repose. Once more
Heart asks, Are clouds kindly or a bother, is the moon sad
or at rest? He calls scientists who tell him that the moon
is a dead piece of rock. He calls astrologers. One says
the moon means water. Another that it signifies oblivion.
The girl next door says the Moon means love. The nut
up the block says it proves that Satan has us under his thumb.
Heart goes back to his notebooks. Oh, Moon, he writes,
confusing orb meaning one thing or another. Heart feels
that his words lack conviction. Then he hits on a solution.
Oh, Moon, immense hyena of introverted motorboat.
Oh, Moon, upside down lamp post of barbershop quartet.
Heart takes his lines to a critic who tells him that the poet
is recounting a time as a toddler when he saw his father
kissing the baby-sitter at the family’s cottage on a lake.
Obviously, the poem explains the poet’s fear of water.
Heart is ecstatic. He rushes home to continue writing.
Oh, Cloud, raccoon cadaver of colored crayon, angel spittle
recast as foggy euphoria. Heart is swept up by the passion
of composition. Freed from the responsibility of content,
no nuance of nonsense can be denied him. Soon his poems
appear everywhere, while the critic writes essays elucidating
Heart’s meaning. Jointly they form a sausage factory of poetry:
Heart supplying the pig snouts and rectal tissue of language
which the critic encloses in a thin membrane of explication.
Lyric poetry means teamwork, thinks Heart: a hog farm,
corn field, and two old dobbins pulling a buckboard of song.

Copyright 1994 Stephen Dobyns. From Velocities by Stephen Dobyns published by Penguin.

5 comments on “Stephen Dobyns: Can Poetry Matter?

  1. Barbara Huntington
    May 18, 2022

    I needed this. Thank you🤣

    Like

  2. Deborah DeNicola
    May 17, 2022

    Ditto to the remark above. Dobyns is such an original. I love this poem!

    Like

  3. Elizabeth Romero
    May 17, 2022

    the old cow, she is dead

    Like

  4. maryjanewhite
    May 17, 2022

    This is absolutely hilarious!

    Like

  5. leabaron@aol.com
    May 17, 2022

    Hi, Mike: That brilliantly witty poem of Dobyns’s will send me back to the shelf for VELOCITIES. Publishing his poems was almost enough in itself to make editing NEW ENGLAND REVIEW worthwhile!

    Stay well, my friend, Syd

    Like

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This entry was posted on May 17, 2022 by in Humor and Satire, Opinion Leaders, Poetry and tagged , , .

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