the muse apprentice guild
--expanding the canon into the 21st century



The famous poet pushes away from the lectern,
Like one done with a meal, adjusts his tie
And with a small nod toward the exit
Walks to where we were promised refreshments.
We follow in groups of twos, threes, still
Hushed from the experience. The famous poet
Gulps down several cups of fuchsia punch—poetry
Makes you thirsty
. Several bystanders agree.
One corners the famous poet, an elderly man,
Who, by his own admission, is glad to be here,
Glad to be anywhere, really, at my age,
and starts
Talking aggressively about the function of the line.
The famous poet gulps more punch, peels apart
Crustless finger sandwiches. He examines
The meat—roast beef, most likely—and pushes
It back under the salad leaf. My student,
The one who earlier asked how long do we have
To stay
is late for study hall. The famous poet
sweats a little—it’s hot here, hot and humid.
We exchange meteorologically sound predictions
About hurricane paths, the second in a week
A fetid fecundity rises from the bayou below.
We, seven stories up, with our feet firmly on
Clean, blue carpet, talk food—where to go
For good jambalaya to give the famous poet
An experience away from the noise
Of high school teachers in the next room
Shrieking over door prizes. He has already
Raised an ironic eyebrow (it was ironic,
Wasn’t it?). Elevators manufactured
By a company implicated in the death of a girl
Crushed weeks earlier take us to the first floor.
Past the door, there’s the bayou, the wet air-- it’s dark
And mosquitoes are gathering around the light.



It said everything
It could in the space
Of five lines--my poem
Exhausted from the effort

Plops on the sofa
And does not speak
Another word. We enter
Into a staring contest--

Evening comes. My poem refuses
Dinner. Mostly I talk
To my poem—the war
Is on my mind

And dark unwashed European
Men, brooding with a sense
Of purpose. The neighbor’s dog
Barks, he’s useful that way—

But he does not listen, not
to the planes overhead,
to the bombs hammering
the outskirts, to the exaggerated

voices on the screens.
He barks. Barks.
It is dark now,
All the cars have come home,

And women in kitchens
Just like mine
Stand over large pots
Of something good.



I see right through them: all holy
and wasteful—conspicuous consumption
of the heady (four, by my count) sort,
pointing at cardinal directives
with the moral authority of rodents racing

through Beverly Hills. They sell themselves
to Time—full page, full color; to Hallmark—
all rhyme. They pimp for Springer (you
fat slut!), hawk natural breast enhancers
at 4 a.m. These spokespeople

of the latest-breaking miracle gather round
water-coolers, bend over just so. Now
that they walk among us, it is tough to deny
their morbid fascination with flesh. They poke
under shirts and swipe belly buttons.

They grow too fat to fly, sometimes crashing
dangerously close to schools and hospitals
and other places of refuge. On clear days,
you can see them torment god: eating
meat on Fridays and dancing on pins

without seat belts. They smoke hand-rolled
Bugle Boy cigarettes. They’re not jealous
of us. They don’t pity us. They’re not desolate.
They have digital cable, three-dimensional
puzzles and pictures of themselves at Mt. Rushmore.