Poetry Lesson

Give me something
to write a poem about
a reason to write
an observation
an insight
a moment
turned inside out
said the girl
to her teacher
who said, Describe for me
a spiral staircase. Don’t
use your hands.

That’s a cliché
said the girl, that’s
been said before
and what does it really mean
anyway?

Does it have to mean
anything? said the teacher.
A poem should not mean
but be.

Be what? said the girl.
What’s the point? I get to the end
and what’s the point, who cares?
And most of all – how do I know
it’s a poem if it doesn’t rhyme?

How do you know it is a poem
if it does rhyme? said her teacher
as she ran a long brown finger
over a pear, a plum, a mango
lying in a bowl between them.
A poem, she said
should be palpable and mute.
Like a globed fruit.

That rhymed! said the girl.
Say, did you just make all that up?
No, said the teacher, it was
Archibald Macleish
and the girl said, I think
I heard a him, yeah
I’m pretty sure
I saw him once on TV.

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