Tuesday, August 28, 2012


©  Steve King 2012
All rights reserved

How do you write this stuff?

Just words—

Not so!
Not so very different,
            than you yourself would use
            alone...or to yourself.

I don't do that so much...

            Oh yes.  Perhaps you just don't listen closely...

Suppose I did?   
How would it sound aloud
or to  some other?
You make words seem…different—
there's something lurking between syllables,
a kind of common code,
the way the words display.
Anyone can understand the heady spirit there.
I'm barely articulate—
words can't make their way across my lips
without a mangling.
Sometimes I wonder
if I know myself well enough to try...
So, how do you write these things?

            Ha!  I toss words in the air—
            each one falling back of its own mass
            into a proper place.
            Then I play a game with them,
            find a pleasing pattern;
            they have to suit the eye as well, you know;
            massage more than the one sense,
            assault them 'til they crumble
            powerless before the inevitable.
            But first, of course, there must be an idea...

That's no answer.
The question stays,
attaches to each glib evasion here.
I still can't understand the way it fits...
none of it explains
the way the words lie perfect on a page,
envelope me with pleasure...
and then sometimes the feeling that I get,
as if you've read my mind,
or fathomed something larger—
tapped into the full being of me,
my forgotten parts,
moments echoing from dark corners
I had never seen fit to explore,
and still don't know to comprehend…

If you're unknowing, how may I explain?
You've heard...something,
felt something;
taken something from a phrase:
the essence of some accidental truth
that I have stumbled on
in my candid peregrinations;
a truth that you've kept hidden,
precious for some reason of your own;
a dark facet, yes,
unused perhaps, abandoned or ignored,
but nonetheless a truth
because you know it.
But if you're asking me
how I might know it's true for you,
well, there is yet another mystery...

But you make me ashamed,
my feelings assailed,
left naked in full light.
How do you find these tokens?
How can you lash these nerve ends undeterred
by any sense of modesty?
Is there no shadow immune from this?
No sadness?
No secret?

You give me too much credit.
             I wish I could claim it,
             but the burden is all yours,
             and yours the prize.
             I can ill afford the drain of so much feeling.
             I'm only trying to get something right,
             less imperfect and more beautiful.
             It's work at its worst.
             If I had to pause at every couplet
             to take stock of deepest feelings...
             I don't know how the work would ever end.
             So complex, those things, and incomplete:
             a feeling never finishes, you see,
             it leads right to the next,
             hands off its emotion
             to be used again
 to fuel some other dormant mood.
             I must never lose myself in that,
             must note only the mood
             and not what underlies it all,
             not while there is paper left to fill,
             and some unknown waiting to read it.
             I'm a performer, see; a pro;
             deadlines and all that,
             even if self-imposed.
             No time to plumb the paradoxes
             of mundane despair
             and enervating ecstasies.
             No, let them settle elsewhere
             if they must.

I'm not sure I like you
quite so well as a moment before.
Just a trickster?
Is it all marketing and manipulation?
How do you choose your victims?
Why am I bothering to ask you?

Please, not quite like that...
            Does it seem so bad?
            I guess I was better off
            before I tried to shed the mystery.
            I would never play loose with your feelings.
            I just...borrow them for the moment,
draw them down from the common pool,
            mold them--just a bit--to fit my hand.
            After all, you can't begrudge a tradesman
            burnishing a product with his brand.
            When I've come to the end of figuring
—as best I can—
            I give those feelings back to you
            with just a little dressing up.
            Any value added is my gift,
my thanks for the motive,
            for the quick use of your soul,
            which, itself, has helped me see
            to where I've never been before.

            At least, that's the plan.
            Nothing insidious there, I hope.
            I need levers outside myself
            to orchestrate this world
            in a way that will make sense.
            So you have helped with that.

            In return you have a glimpse
            of what it is I've seen.
            Not the truest world perhaps,
            but one that must suffice until the next idea...
            Yes, you see...the idea…
            If you’ve been tricked to the misuse of your feelings,
            I have at least shown something back:
            that idea that must lie at the core,
            framed in a sharper focus
            than you discerned before.
            My vision is the prism.
            Your soul provides the ready light.

The way you talk,
it’s one allusion then the next,
points hidden in obscuring metaphors;
a graveyard for common words and meanings.

            Well…you’ve surprised me.
            You’ve forced me to improvise,
            no time or method to make clear
            how I may truly mean a certain thing.
            I’ve told you, poetry is work,
            the worst I could devise.
            I try to gather minute meanings
            magnify them to infinite form,
            give you all a chance to share my mirror—

There you go again!

            I’m guilty.
            How may I amend?

I have still the question:
How do you write these things?

            You must find your answer in my silence.
            I can’t exchange this alchemy for science
            the way your wish intends.
            You must grant me magic, at the last,
            where, I fear, both question and answer
            do surely come to a dead end.

            For I still marvel when you see
either charms or mystery
            in any thing that I compose.

            It’s there the magic lives for me…
            For now, let conversation close.