What’s in a line of poetry?
What is a line of poetry?
The drink is determined by the drinker.
A great line of poetry is like a shot of whiskey.
A poem is like a horse race. The horses are beautiful, strong, and fast, and they make the circuit in a few minutes. The race is over quickly, but everything leads up to it. Families mass. The whole ceremony which surrounds the race is delicious and slow. The horses were once colts. On the big day, there are many flowers. The poem is a beautiful blur of beauty. The crowd leans in during those exciting moments to hear what beauty has to say.
We scan the crowd, and if we should see a beautiful face, a very, very rare one, we marvel at how it has the same features as the world, but is beautiful in the extreme, and for obvious reasons that we are yet unable to comprehend, having to do with what we see of minute proportions of common objects: nose, eye, chin; and the way the elegant body carries the head, the hair that falls over the face, a small smile—these bring joy, but it is the sight of a face’s beautiful triumph in micro-inches that expands our chest in sighs, causes us to stop in the shadow of ourselves where a beam of sun in our eye has strayed.
The vast park is silent. The crowd has passed through large boulevards—or small roads that look like any quaint suburb of any large city in the world, with spring-thickened trees, the small shops with freshly painted signs. The millions have hushed themselves to hear the first poet in the 2016 March Madness Tournament utter their treasured line:
Donald Hall, author of hundreds of books on many subjects; old, regal, bearded—we once discussed Whitman with him in a bar in Iowa City—has loved and married Jane Kenyon, has watched Jane Kenyon die—Donald Hall, poet of lyrics and laments and epics and songs, anthologist, populist, pronounces with syllables solemn and slow:
To grow old is to lose everything.
Around the park, no sound.
The tournament has begun.
Now, Jennifer Moxley, respectfully and slow, moves to the podium. All eyes are on her, noting what she is wearing, a black dress—with gold designs tastefully embroidered into the fabric—her skin pale in the bright sunshine blasting the day:
How lovely it is not to go. To suddenly take ill.
The guests shift slightly in their seats as the line descends into their souls.
Donald Hall smiles.
Jennifer Moxley is motionless in the sun.
And the winner is…