Litlets

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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