Bad Poetry Week: Winter, 1999/2000
“WARN CHILDREN OF THE RISK OF DEATH BY ELECTRIC SHOCK!”
Listen: you have thrust me into this role
much as a director pushes an understudy onto the stage,
and though I watched my own parents play this part,
I don’t have the script before me that surely they had
and have not their natural talent for improvisation
and do not as a consequence know what to say.
How to tell you what you will eventually know,
and when known wonder why I didn’t warn you?
The thought occurs that to speak of evil
is to invite it home and ask it to stay for dinner,
but then one day you will proclaim with some indignation
that ostriches don’t really hide their heads in the sand.
Can one speak, then, of probability and odds
when attempting to describe the multitude of things
that the little angels on the wallpaper won’t prevent?
Numbers and statistics make it all sound less real
and yet by extension also less true,
which makes it therefore merely another ostrich tale.
I would summarize all in a word or two if I could
and by sheer brevity alone force it to conform,
but the world is too big and won’t be squeezed,
won’t listen to reason and certainly not to me,
though you listen to me and perhaps for reason
or, at least, in any event, will want to know reasons.
I would ask those former great actors
who served as my mentors those years ago,
but they are no longer here to recall their lines,
and how can I tell you any of what you need
when I can’t even say why they’re not here
or where it is that they’ve gone except away?
Does telling the truth make it more or less true?
Is hope an absence or a consequence?
How does the ostrich know when to kick and when to run?
You must find out for yourself is all I can say, and this:
The tags you’ll find on blow dryers do not lie
but, oh my child, I have to tell you, people do.