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Page 244

Lucky the page is blank, or I'd never be able to see
the poem coming. Here on the wide-open, sunlit prairie
of page, no rocks or trees or purple prose to hide a poem.
If the page were vined and interlaced with words,
a jungle of serifs, ascenders and descenders and suspenders
that snap in one's face, monstrous hungry
significances looming between the lines – on such a page,
you might be ambushed by a poem. It might pounce
on you from behind or drop onto you from above, its sharp
consonants sinking in, its soft vowels tightening,
squeezing your rib cage before you'd had time to think:
"This is IT – a poem!"

Some poems are lithe, subtle, sinuous. You don't hear
the thud-thud of the's, the crackle of wit –
the sudden silence of a thousand shrieking similes
and chittering iambs as they sense the shadowy presence
of a fierce, swift appetite that can devour them all
unless they can evade its attention. (I hope it enjoys
all the fat, juicy adjectives I've been dropping to distract it.)

"What is it?" one of us asks, voice cracking.
"Shh!" We stand very still, wondering what
will emerge from which shadow, wishing we were
on the next blank page already, anywhere but here
in the depths of an inky maze of possible outcomes
that could lead us anywhere or nowhere.

Sometimes the silence is only silence. Sometimes
the shadows are only our own. Sometimes the poem
ended at the start: "Lucky the page is blank,
or I'd never be able to see the poem coming."
Now that's a poem. The rest of this page
is an attempt to make something out of
what is already complete. Sometimes the poet can't see
that the poem (like the swift sword that has killed a man
who is still standing there, not yet realizing
he has been killed) has already come and gone.

Note: Stanza 1: In printers' parlance, letters like "do" and "b", with extensions upwards, are called ascenders, while letters like "g" and "p" with extensions downward, are called descenders. "Suspenders" (not part of printer talk, that I know of) might be ellipses: "...", but mainly they are elastic gizmos that might snap back on one like the branches one moves past in a jungle.

I like this one. It's true, I said it all in the first two lines, but it's also true (for me, as one reader) that the first two lines become more meaningful by my having taken many more lines to re-discover them.

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