April 20, 2009

Poems for April 18th and 19th, 2009

The poem for April 18th is a true story. I haven’t knowingly embellished anything, but who knows what tricks memory can play? Not that factuality matters in poetry.

One Regret of Many

At a bus stop almost thirty years ago,
before sunrise, the sky not yet blanching.
The other person there, an old woman —
old to me, at least, green as I was then —
gray hair, white teeth, dark glasses, white cane,
a red scar across her throat, puckered and stitched.
“They couldn’t help me at the police station,”
she chanted, then laughed rhythmically,
“so I took my problem to the United Nations”–
again that amphibrachic chortle.
I stood silent, hoping she’d think herself
alone, and listened to her rhymed rambles.
I was afraid she’d take off her shades to show
gashed eyes, empty sockets or I don’t know what.
My bus came, and she stayed behind.
Five minutes later, it could have been a dream.
But she wasn’t. Likely nothing I might have said
would help her, but I’m sure, now, she knew
somebody was there, and she was alone.

–Carl Bettis


The April 19th poem is an ars poetica and a credo. (Pretty slight thing to bear that much weight, but it’s all I have.)

Matter of Faith

Time was, workman and craftsman could take
their centuries to raise a cathedral,
sure they’d see it finished — death no more
than a rainy day’s interruption —
and certain they’d be well paid. I can’t build
on their schedule, and their coin
is useless to me, but I can add
my stone carefully nonetheless,
and be satisfied with my service
if it’s home only to spider and mouse.

–Carl Bettis


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