This poem created some disagreement in my writers’ group last week where I wrote it as a response to a short poem by Maya Angelou entitled “Wonder.” I won’t box it into my intended meaning by explaining what was going on in my head when I wrote it, even though the prideful part of me is calling out for clarity, is calling out for me to fight back against the negative parts of the response I received. Instead, I’ll accept my role as “artist,” whatever that might mean: I’ll just take a deep breath, leave this here, and walk away.
To be a poet is to fight with all your mortal strength
How selfish, how arrogant, how naïve,
to admit your fear,
to wear it openly,
Or is it pure genius,
a shell within a shell,
armor encased in armor,
to admit one thing in order to hide
the even deeper truth,
to throw two dimes in the cup as you
fiddle with the crisp twenty in your pocket.
You fill page after page with words and
pat yourself on the back for your brutal honesty,
but always, always,
there is more you don’t say,
more you could admit,
more of yourself you refuse to give.
To be a poet is to try to live beyond yourself,
to bury treasure in the spaces and commas,
to shed a part of your soul like skin,
emerging pink and raw and new,
a shadow of yourself left behind on the page.
But to really be a poet is to shout in silence,
to cry out existence to an uncaring world,
to dredge the ocean of your being
for a single, solitary pearl.