Even our Poems are no longer Huggable
When I went to replace my ancient and wheezing fridge last year with a brand new one, my first question to the dealer was “will it take refrigerator magnets?”
Inside, a refrigerator is all about food and its preservation. But Outside –
Outside, a refrigerator is all about photos, magnets, greeting cards – and poems! My fridge gallery always includes a couple or three poems that quietly pulse into the room like a little camp fire, keeping the wolves at a reasonable distance. On my fridge is written, “Poetry: An Embraceable Holiness.”
Recently – meaning within the past six months – I have witnessed a notable shift in the poems I review for inclusion in my fridge gallery: No matter what a poem pretends to be about, it's been totally saturated in advance with an apocalyptic view of things: Climate Change, Pandemic, and the worldwide erosion of Democracy. We're drowning in it; we have all sprung leaks, so that freshness, joy, appreciation of raw beauty – formerly the driving engines of Poetry as an Art Form – are being temporarily overwhelmed by a kind of desperate stoicism. The bees have finally become immune to our smoke, and we have lost our protective veils.
Here are two examples – my current fridge poems – . A few lines should give you the idea of the seriousness of the infiltration.
“Listen, no one signed up for this lullaby.
into the same day you dreamed of leaving –
get up and at it, pestilence be damned.”
~Rita Dove ("Incantation of the First Order," Poem-a-day Oct. 18, 2021)
“Easy light storms in through the window, soft
nest rigged high in the maple. I've got a bone
I've said You know what's funny? and then,
Ada Limón, ("Lover," Poem-a-day Oct. 4, 2021)
And returning to the immunity-of-bees as a metaphor, here is a different slant on what happens when the world can no longer postpone presenting its final bill – complete with immensely generous (already used up) discount for all comers. This poem is beyond revenge, beyond justice even – simply a new pathway to the heart's core.
Death of the Bee Keeper
Humming that swarmed his ears seemed also pain,
Because of honey, he forgave them, even
Their duty was death
The slow savor of which
from “Strountes” by Gunnar Ekelöf. Michigan Quarterly Review,