Thomas J. Erickson
I am an attorney in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, and often write or think about writing poems while I'm sitting in court. My chapbook, The Lawyer Who Died in the Courthouse Bathroom, was published by Parallel Press (University of Wisconsin Libraries) in 2013. I am a member of the Hartford Avenue Poets in Milwaukee.
Another Poem About Writer’s Block
I can’t write about the time
in Little League when I tripped
over third base trying to catch
a pop-up, falling face first
in front of the Plymouth Panthers’
bench. Everyone laughed at me.
Even the umpire, who was my dad.
And I can’t write about walking across
the Kingston Plains with my brother
to get way upriver where
no one fished for brook trout that summer
and stumbling upon an old bear stand
with desiccated cattle parts spiked to
splintered 2 x 4s rising toward
the Upper Peninsula sky
like some unlit pagan pyre.
And I can’t write about being
in that very trout stream when I was
14 and stepping into a sink hole
and I was stuck, really stuck, until
my dad, who was trailing me and
scavenging all the trout I missed,
dug me out – handful by handful
of sand and water and loam. Otherwise,
I’d still be in that river—my bag of bones
floating to and fro in the summer and
frozen still in the winter.
And I can’t write about getting
the phone call today from my dad
who wanted to talk about the NCAA
tournament and how 2 15s beat 2 2s
within 3 hours. Now that’s poetry.
Poetry Aphorisms for the Here and Now
Poetry presents the thing in order to convey the feeling.
The thing is the investigation into Russian interference
in the election but my feeling is that the White House will
obstruct long enough and that the public will stop caring,
as if it even cares now.
Poetry should be precise about the thing and reticent
about the feeling.
It is precisely because of a cabinet full of climate-
change deniers that I am reticent about Earth’s future.
Immature poets imitate, mature poets steal.
He puppets the racist tropes of George Wallace--
“Make America Great Again” is a dog whistle
and it has awakened a deep, dark strain in
our country. Nonetheless, you can’t steal
respect or pilfer leadership.
Every attempt is a wholly new start and a different kind of failure.
Replacing Obamacare, the Muslim ban, bombing Syria, building the wall.
Poets understand that truths are merely lies we refuse to let go.
Truth is the first and best and last casualty of this presidency.
The lie of it is that we should be the least bit surprised.
Our astonishment at the speed of the unraveling of truth
is what is astounding.
The poet is the representative of the complete man.
Steve Bannon is the representative of an incomplete man
and he pours doggerel in his man’s ear.
Poetry is the process of connecting the disconnected,
of finding the similar in the dissimilar.
Politics has become the art of connecting
with the disconnected, of making the masses
of the disconnected vote dissimilarly with their interests.
The poor of Appalachia elect a millionaire.
Poetry is the social act of a solitary man.
I used to be able to escape-- trying to pick which
of the 26 letters I wanted to use to form the next word,
pondering where to press “enter” to break a line
or start a stanza in my quiet solitude.
But now, I must enter the arena. We all do.
©2017 Thomas J. Erickson