julia alvarez

13 september 2013

Poetry Makes Nothing Happen?

Listening to a poem on the radio,
Mike Holmquist stayed awake on his drive home
from Laramie on Interstate 80,
tapping his hand to the beat of Longfellow;
while overcome by grief one lonesome night
when the house still held her husband’s pills, May Quinn
took down a book by Yeats and fell asleep
reading, “When You Are Old,” not the poet’s best,
but still, poetry made nothing happen,
which was good, given what May had in mind.

Writing a paper on a Bishop poem,
Jenny Klein missed her ride but arrived home
to the cancer news in a better frame of mind,
The art of losing isn’t hard to master… .
While troops dropped down in Afghanistan
in the living room, Naomi Gordon clapped
to the nursery rhyme her father had turned on,
All the king’s horses and all the king’s men… .
If only poetry had made nothing happen!
If only the president had listened to Auden!

Faith Chaney, Lulú Pérez, Sunghee Chen -
there’s a list as long as an epic poem
of folks who’ll swear a poem has never done
a thing for them … except … perhaps adjust
the sunset view one cloudy afternoon,
which made them see themselves or see the world
in a different light - degrees of change so small
only a poem registers them at all.
That’s why they can be trusted, why poems
might save us from what happens in the world.

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