Poetry Reading

I. A Riddle A man is speaking in a crowd and he doesn’t know whether anyone listens. What does he say? II. Talent Praised for my work, I was irritated. That wasn’t talent; that was dedication and hard work. III. Judgment A student protests his final grade. B+ isn’t good enough; he doesn’t think he’s second rate, yet B+, he thinks, is second rate. IV. Sacrifice At the train station, writing in my journal instead of riding in the train to work, I’m happy. Next to me, the neighborhood tramp picks through the trash for the news. It’s cold on the bench. Villon, starving in his attic, must have chosen not to get a job. V. Altruism A conductor steps back for the blind lady’s bag and at the same time tries to help her forward from the train: “OK, the door’s open now. I’ll get your bag. This way. This way.” The huge train groans under the large angular, wooden frame of the station; the conductor leads her to a phone booth, where she says, “Thank you very much.” And, again, “Thank you very much.” VI. Coming of Age Why haven’t I published? I desire perfection and fear, I admit, rejection. But these principles, I’ve realized, operate independently of poetic value. For instance, recently a poet published in the best scholarly quarterlies, read didactic verse about famous jewels, tried to make me laugh by embarrassing me, and wrenched her lines to fit her tersa rima.

1-23 February, 21 March 1984