Tuesday Poem

Why the Poets always Read First and the Fiction-writers Second
at the Sunday Afternoon Readings at the Art School in Carrboro, NC
The reason is that poetry was present
at the poorly advertized
first audition of the Universe
when a slight breath of cloud
passed over the dark waters

Poetry was in fact that cloud
which passed effortlessly
through God's ears

While the ancestors of fiction-writers
took tenthousand centuries
to evolve
toiling sideways in the primal mud
on their miniscule legs, gossiping
intensely of their plots and

because poetry came out of the tree
like a bird
without a nest

because poetry is so close to dance
and therefore swirls and twists even
if ever so slightly
and allied as well to music of flutes
and drums recalling certain rituals
for example — two people, a man and a woman,
howling, alternately, in the dark cave

because poetry came out of the tree
very slowly
and then darted right back into it
because the students of ontology
and deontology continue to bow
their heads in disbelief and
cannot make up their minds what
sort of universe this is
but meantime the rock can skip
across the waters
and the sea mammal can rise
out of the deep, snorting and braying,
and so God is probably
a poem, still in the process
of composition by an undeniably talented
but distracted surrealist who was there
in the Garden of Eden and
whispered to Adam: “Isn't that a mango?”

because in the pitchdark
I take off my clothes and stand
in the not-so-sacred woods bathing in
moonlight, waiting for you
perfectly sober, perfectly aware
that what I do
is destined by the chains of protein
rattling in my cells
and I am locked to the wall of my being
noisy with pleasure, waiting
to be extinguished

the reason is that this arrangement is
practical. the poet has to leave earlier.
he has fewer words but those few
are strangely heavy. so he will unwrap
them a little, let them cry out like an infant
whose discontent
we cannot figure out. all we know is
sooner or later
it will sleep
because there is the missing nest,
the bird, the puddle in the rain
and the branch vibrating with
what is about or not yet about
to exist.

by Lou Lipsitz
from Seeking the Hook
Signal Books, 1997