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Another Poetry Disaster


Reports today of a poetry spill on the 5.

Highway Patrol has all lanes blocked, a real

mess in both directions. It was a truck

which somehow left the highway to fly

nearly over the railings to the open fields.

They are treating it as a possible

terrorist incident. This was highly refined

poetry. PhD quality stuff.

We’ve all become used to poetry. As I drive the

girls to school we pass tankers of it, warehouses and

that big MFA factory. It’s all part of the literary industrial complex.

The nine-year-old, fatalistic, points at hurried,

unmarked vans. “That one. It could be carrying sonnets.”

“No, Elizabeth.” I say, “Don’t scare your little sister.”

At the spill, even before the cleanup crews,

there are protesters. One stands before the

camera in a Cowboys jersey.

“It’s poison,” she says. “No one even knows

how much poetry is too much. How many

parts per million. They give you a little when

you’re in grade school and next thing you

know you’ve got shelves of the stuff.”

Reporter: “What should be done?”

“Ban it.”

Reporter: “But there has always been poetry. It’s

mentioned in the Bible.”

“Then control it. Keep it in silos somewhere like Minnesota

or North Dakota where there are no people.”

To become certified a HAZ-LIT Response Team

must take 16 hours of training with an annual refresher.

Receive a three-ring binder and certificate.

First you must learn to correctly identify poetry.

Some of it is easy. Haiku. Villanelle. You learn

to look for indicators: iambic pentameter, trochee.

It is the free verse that gives people the most trouble.

It comes in many permutations. It mutates.

I have read that scientist have found

some in everything we eat. In the soil.

Scraps of paper blown through fences. In

the sweet flesh of Montana trout.

Traces remain in stoppered amphoras

beneath the Aegean. Bits of poetry

in every word we say.

this poem first appeared in

Variant Literary Review

October 2019

my thanks continues

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