An Apology for Poetry

An Apology for Poetry by debgrant

I get a lot of "I'm not into poetry." 

I get it. 

I read plenty that leaves me. 

Just that. It leaves me. 

Like de-cafe coffee or

lite beer. 

I treated myself and a friend to 

multi-starred restaurant overlooking 

the more starred sunset landscape

of Pittsburgh. Lights on houses on the

hills across the rivers' confluence. 

The waters last tossing of sunlight.

The city scape taking on the melody of

windowed stars. 

I ordered something I never had before

and would never make myself. 

Beef Wellington. 

A hardy yet tender meat, cooked with

juicy loveliness wrapped in

Flaky, buttery pastry. 

My eyes filled with starred and my 

tongue tasted verses I have memorized. 

Last night, I watched a compline service

on social media. 

A friend I knew was leading it. 

A hulking guy. 

He sat with the darkness over his shoulders

with his face and tshirted chest and tattooed arms

lit by 3 candles. 

He led the liturgy of the end of the day

with a voice that was barely in tune 

and unremarkable. He was confident 

in what he had to offer could transform

anything with its grace. 

The poetry of the litany was ancient

and grand and slid next to his voice 

and turned him into a gentle candle 

on a dark night.

After compline, I watched a movie

about a Russian literature professor who

was sent for 10 years to a workcamp in Siberia 

during Stalin's reign of terror. 

She clung to a tiny memorized poem 

to slap herself from the abyss of despair.

 I will quote it for you here 

because it, along with the memorized Beef Wellington 

in Pittsburgh at sunset and an honest compline

was the best defense of poetry for me

on a night I didn't need lite beer

but rich hope.

A poem was the rosary of memory that

kept a woman alive so that she could love

again in the middle of long Siberian winter. 

Yeah, I get it.  We are not always into poetry.

But sometimes poetry is into us-

Surprising us with flavor,

or keeping us alive 

or just keeping us company on a sad, dark night.


A poem by Osip Mandelstam translated from the Russian

by Paul Schmidt

"Somebody gave me this body - 

what do I do with it now?

It's a very remarkable body, and

nobody's body but mine.

I'm alive and I breathe, I'm strong and tall -

won't somebody tell me who to thank for it all?

I'm the gardener and the flower, too,

And in this prison of a world I'm not alone.

When I move, when I breathe, I leave my mark

on the everlasting windowpane

that keeps out the dark.

It's the mark of myself! And that mark will remain

on the cold transparence of that windowpane.

Life beyond the glass may darken, day to day,

but my mark on that windowpane will never go away."