Tuesday, February 4, 2014

One Hundred Poems

©  Steve King
All rights reserved

I wanted to write one hundred poems
because it seemed so difficult to do.
I wondered at the mountain of old dreams
that I would have to mine for right ideals;
how I’d manage aspects of reflection;
the vacuum I must fill with new-made words,
and airs to uplift unimagined songs.

That empty platform waiting within me,
upon which all of this would be designed,
seemed small and so unsuited to the call
of fine finishing work:  visions constrained
by amateur habits and unschooled rote
so easily tempted by lush false notes.

One hundred poems seemed more than enough.

Words were so distant—like the scattered dust
that hovers throughout each galaxy
unclaimed by gravity; foreign to the ear,
loosed from all meaning, ‘til by accident
of proximity and random vector
some few waiting strains do fall together,
not at heat, begetting afterglow,
but with slow accretion, as something
emerging soft from where old shadows were,
the voice of new insistent harmony
whose life crests only for an instant…

…but then to find its way to some dark place:
the wellspring of a fool’s patient desire—
titles and footnotes, arcane references
replete with scrambled talking points
for why this word or that, and no other
did sanctify each sudden thought complete.
Rhythms cast themselves around each line
to pacify the unrelenting beat
of new metered feet poised to stampede
across the boundaries of each open page;
and at all times, the whithering debate
among familiar spirits gathered close
to freshen or impede the ready hand.

Somber recitations echoing around,
sonorous in predictable empty hours,
rolling from the all too ready tongue,
divorced from mundane words, or so one thinks;
and even from the quotidian chore
of counting to one hundred.  So one thinks.

One hundred voices for all occasions;
words for every subject, every tone,
and catch phrases to caption every brand.
Those brilliant families of syllables
and strophes hung with their perfect adornment—
one hundred verses, polished to their fault.

And I could see them all in bold array,
standing, to the last, in that old chain
that linked me with first things; ties to a past
that pointed towards a future left unknown,
at least beyond that number, one hundred.

But when the verses gathered, each said and done,
old barely finished before new begun,
I could not trace distinctions that had come
to mark those many lyrics I had spun.

Far less than my hundred, I saw I’d writ but one.

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