How to write a poem
is one thing you thought you’d never forget
but after a while even the wobble escapes you.
Wheels warp, refuse to align.
Months of days passing the place you stashed it
before you notice it’s gone.
Stolen? At first it seems so, a ragged hole
the size of your fist
in the door just below the lock.
Nothing else has disappeared though,
at least nothing you can quite call up.
Do abandoned fragments simply erase themselves
from shadows and shelves?
Does memory fold the extra fabric, sew smooth the seam?
Conservation of energy perhaps.
Painted angels, band T-shirts, decisions made
by an earlier self who absconded with the packing list.
You the robber and the robbed.
You the bystander who can’t quite recall
seeing what you saw.
A third of the way
into a paperback unearthed from a battered box in the closet,
you find a letter from someone named Dave
to someone named Matt. You’ve know a dozen of each
at least, could be any
or none. A bent hand on notebook paper. Dave scrapes open
a corner of his heart.
Matt folds this into a story
that means something
until it doesn’t.
Maybe if you fall in love again.
That always shifts your center of gravity.
The poetry is tedious but oh, the surge!
Synaptic zing, oil and air,
the whole earth tilts downhill
as you fly over rime-seared shoots, the salted skin
of open road. Winter stands no chance
against your burn. Something like that
could certainly work a poem from the clench
of its frozen hull. But what comes first?
or the warming back to life?
How to write a poem
that spreads you
like the way the red maple unfurls eventually from its crimson fist?
Like a page?
You could use training wheels.
Letters, as Dave knows,
grip the earth. Each begins with a salutation
then a wish for well being.
Before the next stroke, a thread of desire
tracing the outline
of what’s gone missing.
You pick up a pen and draw a circle
on the lined blank back.
You ink this shape again and again.
it breathes itself into a different circle altogether.
It becomes crankshaft
and wheel, it becomes chain links spinning
on a multitude of rivets
fast enough to slide off the page
then narrow again
and narrower still until you finally tip
into the scuffed space where poetry
used to live,
your momentum ripping the seams
spilling a jumble of forgotten things.
The ragged hole
in the door. You slip your hand up through,
flip the lock
and steal back
Image: Michael Valenti, Spring Ride, at VeloTykes