What Is Poetry?
A backpack, a stuffed duffel, full
of holey clothes and musty books.
What you wish had happened,
but even more, what you wish
hadn't. Tangled tapes pulled
from ancient cassettes:
what your father said, dying
and what your mother never stopped
saying — your bad judgments,
what you did to your hair, and
how you let things go, let her down.
All the men you've bricked up
in the basement, unmentionable.
Yet out of nowhere, a sudden
sweetness of moist earth and rot.
It's the space between coming
and going, a place to wander,
to launch yourself into or escape from,
dragging your clanking bag of sins
from one terminal to another
through one more security check
that could be the last. It's the click
when something snaps shut
or swings wide, when light strikes
a metal wing, and the air splits open
and you pass through without a scratch.
It's having traveled a great distance
to find a straggling line of pilgrims
glimpsed from high up and far away,
snaking across the mud flats,
singing in a strange key, their words
indistinct, the murmurous hum
of homeward bees, winding skyward
and drifting over the bay.
Originally published in Cram 11: Poetry about Poetry.
©2018 Antonia Clark
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