Poetry Class

For Nancy McCulloch

When the fourth graders begin writing

I wait in fear and deep humility

for the poetry that opens my sleeping third eye,

whispers from God; answers to unspoken hope,

messages from trees, unrealized wishes,

the small thing that never seemed to matter,

the way a child and a rat love one another

the green force that drives the blossom.

The answer, I surmise, has to be reincarnation:

little Ezra Pounds with big ears roping cattle in Idaho,

four-foot tall girls in braids, already pillars of Haiku,

joining Master Basho; and also Issa.

T.S. Eliot unawares, in a soccar jersey,

William Carlos Williams chewing on his pencil,

and unkempt Dylan Thomas jumping hills on a yellow dirt bike,

John Berryman tipsy on a skateboard. Sylvia Plath

looks over our heads and mutters to herself.

I try not to plead, or badger, but

What did you mean by that line?

Tell me, how did you think of it,

where did it come from?

How did you ever think of anything like that?

Do you know what it's called, what you did?

The old souls, with their fruit-leather breath

and questionable hygiene, sweat lines

beneath baseball caps

shrug, shake their heads, push up their glasses, mumble

I Dunno.

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