chosing a poem

Here’s how I’m doing this, chosing.
Flipping pages at random
until I find one that resonates.

But what book?
Whose pages, lines, words?
Neruda? Oliver? Paz?

As I scoop the cat litter,
I think of them all at once
then each in turn.
They are like friends from different parts of my life–
faceless, I know them.

We need cat food and the cats will go without until tomorrow.

Oliver wins.
I open New and Selected Poems,
beginning at the beginning.
(So much for random.)
One poem in, I’m enchanted.

Second poem,
I think about going back to the first,
but the third… is more… I think… me.

When Death Comes
On page ten–cross reference the index–
This poem is four years old
or less!

But it is imageless, or nearly so,
and the emotion is not the same on second read.

So I continue,
nevermind “an iceburg between the shoulder blades”,
I continue.

So much nature in Oliver. So many poems later,
I return to the beginning of the book.

Rain still patters on my rooftop even though
I normally don’t go for multi-page poems.
It starts on page three with
lightning, “When it hit the tree, her body/opened forever.”

And then prisoners escape, and her father stands
next to the grave of his brother.
His stanza is powerful, then
the teacher’s birthday, then
the fifth stanza, two lines,
“I have heard this music before,/saith the body.”

The body. Saith.
So non-colloquial. So uncharacteristic.
I cringe, remember,
how I had first thought this her early work,
on first read.
But less than four years old!
Well past her pulitzer.

Maybe she knows a thing or two.

And the poem ends on page seven
after drowning in images and images and images
after I remember thinking
the snake is a cleche in poetry.
The conclusion:
“He begins to bleed through/like satin.”
It floors me.
And I’m spent.

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