Monday, April 30, 2012

a poem about being naked


                                  P  O  E  M
                      You've probably right away noticed
                the title of this poem is "Poem"
and that's because this is exactly
                               what I plan on writing—in fact
                   I've already begun, sort of.
            I still need to find a subject 
       for such a serious theme—
            nothing too trivial or self-conscious.
                   We've all read poems called "Poem"
                             about would-be lovers or pie-bald foals,
levitating saints or the flowering
                                  of transplanted trees, and I
                          figure a poem called "Poem"
                                  ought to be about something
                  likewise worthy and dignified. But all that
                          sort of stuff seems to be taken.
After finding a topic (we haven't
              but it's more important to keep
                          the damn thing moving) next up
                   is the proper tone, which can't be
too solemn—that's been covered
                                    by folks like Thomas Hardy
                              who let's face it I'm not gonna top—
               but also not too clever, some middle
         ground, tattooed chemo-nurse
                or stepmom-at-a-rifle-range type 
                         of deal. We don't for example
                                 want this poetry professor who's 
been at the lectern the past hour
                                    attempting to detonate himself
                 with hip locutions in
                      between gray mastodons of verbiage,
            proving he's down with Motown despite 
                     being so freakishly erudite.
                 In the midst of his many-sectioned opus
                                      on the history of the human condition,
                                  somewhere between Pol Pot
and the advent of the bikini,
                            I begin wishing he would instead
                        read us a poem about his embarrassing
                            throwing arm, on display at second base
                         in the poetry vs. prose softball game
at the M.F.A picnic. The fact
                                    that he's six-four made it all 
                               the more heartbreaking and I
            wondered, as the ball died
       in the dirt well short of first,
              as creative-nonfiction writers circled the bases, 
                      how he survived his childhood.
                               Was there a father or uncle on the scene
to stave off the catastrophe,
                                     hurling fastball and "Attaboy"s
                in the back yard while Mother
                            peeked through the kitchen blinds?
                Were schoolyard bullies happy 
                       to assist with his emasculation,
                                       or did he have kind friends, a cohort
                     of thoughtful children with international parents
who cared about politics and dance
                             and used star fruit in their cooking?
             Or was it poetry that led him
                        being able to move in the world,
                   marry, reproduce, and eventually take
the field, pound a mitt, and be
                                   naked among the people he loves?

—Douglas Goetsch
published in The New Yorker, April 16, 2012, pp 84-85

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I wouldn't have noticed if it wasn't for Facebook, that today, May 30th, is the last day of National Poetry Month. I wouldn't have known it was National Poetry Month at all, since I don't pay much attention to those sorts of things. But one of my "friends"—who I think I met maybe once—posted a link to a reading of T.S. Elliot's "The Waste Land" and I remembered a poem I read aloud to my husband the other night, a longish poem I thought was very funny and poignant.

The poem is lovely, particularly for its last lines. Because they capture what it is to grow comfortable in one's own skin. I suppose this is the glory of middle age: to no longer be neurotically self-concerned, to find it in you to expose your weaknesses in full sunlight—perhaps not heedlessly, but at least with a sense of humor.

I cannot say I am there. I still have enough neurotic self-concern to fuel a small city. I strive, though. I can see it, that ease that says not when I am... but heck, as I am, now. Because being who I am is all I'll ever be. I'm not going to become, though some feat of exertion, someone more glamorous, chatty, fluttery or athletic. I am just me, and I can be naked, here, with those I love. Heck, even those I do not love. 


Manuela said...

YOu not only are talented visually but also with your words. I love the last paragraph, especially "Heck, even those I do not love."

Mark Janssen said...

Thank you for posting this poem. It says it well. As to your reflections "I suppose this is the glory of middle age...," I would suppose rather that it is a consolation of old age.

Julia said...

I like the poem a lot, and your reflection on it as well.