[loud] Just Between You and Me

[soft] and the immortality of the page destined for some dusty shelf [normal] is the distance between us made immediate not only by the fact you hear the words I speak and construe them much the same as I mean them but by the fact I’m no mere poet I’m God. [head up, stern look] You may scoff; scoffing doesn’t change anything. You sit there as though you already knew what to expect, so you think this couldn’t possibly be true, but hear me when I say the truth will soon be obvious. If you think poets are the “unacknowledged legislators of the world,” you can well imagine, with all the pretenders with their robes and rituals, that I, the poet of poets, am used to not being taken seriously. I know I sound like all the rest of them, but go ahead and tell me: Why shouldn’t I? Appearances are deceptive, you know. You don’t take my other appearances seriously either. I admit I don’t do this very often—no often enough— just whenever it really gets on my nerves that you haven’t been understanding my intentions and have gone ahead and misinterpreted the simplest things, polluted the air, the water, the earth, and fouled the eyes, the ears, the nose, and the throat. When you’ve gone right ahead and started silly territorial skirmishes and supported evil men and killed good men and created enemies by your blindness and your ignorance and kept secrets and invented fictions perverting the minds of others to hide the consequences of your mistakes, when you’ve failed to give writers a means to live by their work and have raised the price of postage and of paper, not that I think you’re equally to blame, but I see you don’t understand what I’m getting at. I realize this isn’t easy for you, especially considering your weaknesses, not to stress the fact you’ve got to hustle for a buck, but if you could identify with me a little more you’d make my work that much more effective. You must think it’s easy being God. In fact, it’s no easier than being a poet, than standing up here in great anxiety and reading poems carefully afraid of losing their cadences afraid of stuttering and slurring thick syllables with a tongue of muslin, as if you didn’t know damn well you knew these were the words of genius. We have here an identify crisis. You have to empathize with those you wish to understand and it’s hard for you to empathize with me because I’m so much above you. Some of you probably didn’t know you should try. So that’s why I’ve decided to write this poem and read it before you. I thought I needed the practice in being humble, but, also, I knew I could make a fool of myself so well that you were sure to wish yourself in my shoes. With the understanding you thereby gain, you can go out in the world to make things a little more my way. Earthquakes, volcanoes, hurricanes, lightning—they’re nothing; they don’t teach anybody anything anymore. The real miracles are and always have been under your thumbs— whether they’re written by God or by men—poems.

26 January 1980, 9 February 1981