Jetsam

From a blog on the other side of the world
comes an unblogly thing:
a piece of poem set in a concrete slab
at the edge of the sea, cast up on the rocks
like the sole survivor from a wreck of words,
or as if the poet’s voice, like Alberti’s,
couldn’t take fresh water in its gills
& had to be restored to its native salt.

*

Something about a poem in a public place
disturbs me. Every time I’ve spotted one
among the advertisements on a city bus,
I’ve had to look away. It’s like
surprising a couple in flagrante delicto,
or overhearing someone’s cellphone conversation
with their therapist. At least with a reading,
merciful silence follows, & the bare podium.

*

Then there’s this business of objectification.
Poems grow like agates in the dark,
each according to its own mysterious rules.
Like agates, they are common & impossible to market.
But marketing needs the claim of uniqueness
more than anything, so poetry
gets pressed into service to provide ballast
on the ship of foolish products & bland commodities.

*

Poets, however, are taught to value the concrete.
Seeing such weighty jetsam,
I conceive a sudden ambition for my own work:
to see it published up on the ridge
on some ostentatious boulder, enough in the shade
that lichens of every crustose & foliose form
would find my lines ideal for a slow, private,
thoroughly absorbing read.

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