THE POEM SHOULD BE THE LAST TO KNOW IT’S A POEM

                          LAST TO KNOW 

     If you want to write a poem, you’d better sneak up on it. Never, I warn you, never mention the word “poem” in a poem, Don’t let the poem know it’s a poem with a cadence, a conscience, a quick conclusion. Let it out like a breath into the air where it can rise and float off without a care or an awareness of its nature, of its own early demise. Don’t let on. Make some excuse for the line break; say you momentarily ran out of ink or ideas. Explain away the alliteration as purely coincidental. As for the metaphor – well, sometimes a river is just a river.
     If the poem finds out it’s a poem, it will become self-conscious, and start to stutter and babble, sensing the urgency to be profound and erudite, inscrutable and poignant, glib and scarcely intelligible, all at once… oh yes, and brief. It’s too much pressure for any piece of writing!
     Better to let it think it’s a novel that can take its time and meander at leisure, while a patient reader abides. Let it stroll along unknowing as it winds around each bend.
Don’t let it find out it’s a poem till the end…
till the end.
Don’t let it find out it’s a poem
till the end.

                          (Mike Cohen – 12/2020)

A CAUSE, AT LAST!

For a long while I’ve been doing poetry just for effect – not for a cause. I didn’t find a cause, not because I don’t believe in causes. I’m all for peace, for curing disease, for ending violence, for feeding the world, for a clean environment, for prosperity, for happiness. But too many words have been lent to such worthy causes. I needed to find a path less travelled, a cause that has not been overly underwritten.

I finally find myself with a cause, pitting my poetry against the penny…
penny-ante and anti-penny.

Pennies are more costly than valuable. Their production is time-consuming and environment-harming. They take up more space and time than they are worth. Americans have a sentimental attachment to them but, folks, it’s time to get over it. The penny has long outlived its useful span. And Lincoln won’t lose face, thanks to the five-dollar bill.   

WORLD HISTORY

Most histories begin with the story of civilization. Before civilization was prehistory. What we know about prehistoric times is limited. But we know it covered a lot of time. If we were to compose a history book with prehistory the prologue, and if the book were done chronologically and according to scale, the history section might occupy the last hundred pages. The prologue would precede it for thousands of pages, most of them blank.

 HISTORIC TIMES – BEFORE AND AFTER 
                                (Mike Cohen – Dec 2020)

The success story of the dinosaurs
was not written. There was no one,
in prehistoric times, to write it.
For the time being, we are here;
the dinosaurs are gone.

We have had dominion now
for about 10 millennia.
The dinosaurs, long extinct,
held their dominion
for 160 millennia.
It took the unlikely tragedy
of a wayward asteroid to curtail their reign.
One way or another, they are gone.

We have dominion now.
But compared to the dinosaurs,
our dominion is fragile –
soon to be short-lived.

Fortunately, the story of our failure
will not be written. There will be no one,
in post-historic times, to write it.

DEAD TO RIGHTS

I confess to have written some dreadful poems.
I’ve abused innocent words –
kidnaped them, held them against their will –
captive, under deplorable conditions,
to suffer in horrible poems.

And I might have gotten away with it
if not for the vanity that compelled me
to incriminate myself
as I do now…

— Mike Cohen

The Crime of Poetic Analysis

            THE AUTOPSY

A mysterious beauty, the poem…

Suspicious, curious, fascinated,

we do what we must

to understand. But

analysis of beauty is not beautiful

There is scraping, cutting, and digging.

When whole, it is too hard to grasp.

The urge to take it to hand is too strong to resist.

We must insist. Must scrape, cut, dig

to make it comprehensible.

When at last we’ve seen enough

to satisfy our suspicion and curiosity,

we understand how grand a thing it was intact,

how terrible a thing we’ve done: The autopsy.

Sorry. We should at least have waited

until after it was dead.

 

But there are autopsies and then there are autopsies…