Common Experience

All around— watering my plants, the upstairs neighbors squeaking on the ceiling, waiting at the checkout stand with milk and bread, at a stoplight on University Avenue, other people, concerned and unconcerned, the radio reporting from Manila and Johanesburg, in a department meeting arguing pros and cons, chatting in the hall, looking out the window, anger with my boss, why does L. repeat herself 10 times? would P. like me more if I gave it a chance? is so-and-so jealous? struggling to express myself, the self-deprecators against the self-aggrandizers, traffic accidents, accidental suicides, the reason he does that is that he hates you, he doesn’t just forget, intimacies, illusions, shortcomings, some things I don’t want to talk about, what is a proper subject for poetry? Reduced to essentials, poetry expands beyond the traditional— birds, flowers, the seasons, Greek myths. Words are a part of us; so I say. More than a medium, like water color. You don’t have water color in your head. Water color doesn’t tell you what to do. Buy Acme Soap, the only soap made just for you. If I were to paint a picture, I am likely to frame it carefully, a picture postcard, give a big smile, paint the sky blue, but every trivial moment can have the pristine clarity of art.

7 February 1986