The Literary Life

I am a poet
because I write about the sun.
I say things are golden
that aren’t really.

And not surprisingly,
the sky started looking down on me
like a dog looks down
on its food dish
just before it’s filled.

I now have a new pair of creek boots
and everywhere I go
I snicker
and leave flittering salmon
in people’s socks.
I’m a regular Santa Claus
when it comes to that.

I’d rather be an inventor, though
and maybe create things,
things that fly
using nothing but junk-mail—
junk-mail is someone’s poetry too . . .
but he’s not a poet I like at all.

I can’t like anyone who keeps offering me money.
Maybe I’ll just be a poet.
Nobody offers me money for poems,
and so there’s nothing that
is never delivered.
Maybe I’ll be a mailman.

Well, that’s all I have to say.
Except this:
Doom, doom, doom!
This is what I’ve learned
From sipping from a pockmark
On the moon:
A good poet repeats his words
Three times,
A good parrot
Only two.

Maybe I’ll be a poet.
I like to say pithy things,
and the only time I care at all for crackers
is all mushed up
in my soup.

Maybe I’ll be a chef.
I like to eat,
and I could create dishes
out of old poems
soaked in a meat broth.
They would be like those items on the menu
that sound quite bizarre,
but if you ever get brave enough to order them,
you find they are uniquely delicious.
I think I could pull it off.

Maybe I could just be a diner,
but a diner that gets paid:
a restaurant critic.
And I could just sit at tables and eat and drink.
I like to sit at tables, it reminds me of signing books,
and eating and drinking remind me of little people
coming up to ask me what I meant
when I said such and such.
I write my best poems usually
on those little drink napkins . . .
but then I always lose what I say
inside wet circles
every time I put my drink down.

Maybe I’ll just drink at home.
I’ll use a coaster,
nobody ever writes on a coaster,
you’re pretty safe if you drink at home.

Someday I’ll get banned from the bookstores.
After all, I only ever write about the sun,
and I’ll get banned . . .
because I’ll always be writing in other people’s books—
a tiny nuisance of sunlight dawning over their words.
You can publish anything that way,
and anybody will read it.
It will seem more personal.

Someday they’ll lift the ban,
and I’ll be famous for writing in other people’s books,
and everyone, even the authors, will love me.
I’ll get an honorary degree.
Everyone will laugh
and I’ll laugh and twinkle my little solar quill
a la Groucho Marx,
and they’ll all say,
“Tell me your life story”
and I’ll laugh again.
Everybody will be at ease.
And then, maybe,
I’ll tell it.
I’ll throw one dirty creek boot up on the table
sending rattles through my beer.
I’ll smile like a Cheshire rainbow,
tap my finger twice against my nose.
I’ll tell everyone how it is.

[see note on poem]


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