Pilot Light
A Journal of 21st Century Poetics and Criticism
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The Art of Poetry

isn’t sleep. Isn’t the clock’s steady
one and one and one though seconds eventually make
an hour. And morning passes
into a thing it might not recognize by afternoon.

Or you practice the ordinary art
of shrinking strangers back to children, who they
could have been: bangs cut straight across,
boys and girls the same.
I blink kids into grown-ups too, who they
might become, the exaggerated gestures we do,
the weight on each word
a warning, kindly
or just so full of ourselves,
we can’t help it. But this odder

elsewhere not old or young, male,
female, this century
or that. It simply visits, this who, this
what. This art
of suspension. Wait.

If you’ve ever acted, you understand what it is,
standing in the wings, the dark
murmur out there. Every dream
for days you nightmare that. Saying or not saying.
Then wake to lights, the other
pretenders on stage bowing, happy enough.
Except it’s not

like that, this wish
being small: to make emptiness
an occasion, the art of calling-it-down.
To wonder for the first time as I write it. And elegant
is good. Wild, edgy, half-uttered in fragments is
good. And always that sense of the dead overhearing.
Or simply: voice I never,
not once in the world, give me a sign.
I’ll pick up the thread. Dally with it, sit in its coma,
wait for its news in the little room
off the nurse’s station. Don’t be

maudlin, says the garden, don’t
be pretty pretty pretty, and don’t think whimsy
unto irony disguises.
Because it is
a garden. You walk and walk and twilight now,
its darker half
half floats a yellow still visible in high spiky things.

There’s a dovecote where nothing nests. There’s an expanse
orderly as blueprint but flowers get wily, and only
make believe they agree the best place
to stand or lean. It’s not the sun.
I can’t decide anything. Can’t decide.

Begging bowl, ask
until asking
is a stain. Any garden’s a mess.
Am I poised at an angle? Am I listening?
A stillness in summer
so different than winter’s. Lush and forgetful though

all the lost summers lie in it, ones
in old photographs. Children a century ago, a few
who never thought to leave, still busy
in certain pictures making houses in the yard out of
porch chairs tipped over,
and sheets. Their worn shirts, their hair every
which way. Someone loved them.
She raised a camera.

But I don’t,
don’t mean that. It’s the art of the makeshift
almost house. Or how the children
don’t see her, so aren’t
dear yet.