An Apology for Poetry by debgrant
I get a lot of "I'm not into poetry."
I get it.
I read plenty that leaves me.
Just that. It leaves me.
Like de-cafe coffee or
I treated myself and a friend to
multi-starred restaurant overlooking
the more starred sunset landscape
of Pittsburgh. Lights on houses on the
hills across the rivers' confluence.
The waters last tossing of sunlight.
The city scape taking on the melody of
I ordered something I never had before
and would never make myself.
A hardy yet tender meat, cooked with
juicy loveliness wrapped in
Flaky, buttery pastry.
My eyes filled with starred and my
tongue tasted verses I have memorized.
Last night, I watched a compline service
on social media.
A friend I knew was leading it.
A hulking guy.
He sat with the darkness over his shoulders
with his face and tshirted chest and tattooed arms
lit by 3 candles.
He led the liturgy of the end of the day
with a voice that was barely in tune
and unremarkable. He was confident
in what he had to offer could transform
anything with its grace.
The poetry of the litany was ancient
and grand and slid next to his voice
and turned him into a gentle candle
on a dark night.
After compline, I watched a movie
about a Russian literature professor who
was sent for 10 years to a workcamp in Siberia
during Stalin's reign of terror.
She clung to a tiny memorized poem
to slap herself from the abyss of despair.
I will quote it for you here
because it, along with the memorized Beef Wellington
in Pittsburgh at sunset and an honest compline
was the best defense of poetry for me
on a night I didn't need lite beer
but rich hope.
A poem was the rosary of memory that
kept a woman alive so that she could love
again in the middle of long Siberian winter.
Yeah, I get it. We are not always into poetry.
But sometimes poetry is into us-
Surprising us with flavor,
or keeping us alive
or just keeping us company on a sad, dark night.
A poem by Osip Mandelstam translated from the Russian
by Paul Schmidt
"Somebody gave me this body -
what do I do with it now?
It's a very remarkable body, and
nobody's body but mine.
I'm alive and I breathe, I'm strong and tall -
won't somebody tell me who to thank for it all?
I'm the gardener and the flower, too,
And in this prison of a world I'm not alone.
When I move, when I breathe, I leave my mark
on the everlasting windowpane
that keeps out the dark.
It's the mark of myself! And that mark will remain
on the cold transparence of that windowpane.
Life beyond the glass may darken, day to day,
but my mark on that windowpane will never go away."