#375: Poem on April 1, 2021

Okay, first of all, happy National Poetry Month! Second of all, I feel just a little bit of shame that I have not posted a poem on this blog site since April 30th of 2020. I have, over the last seven years, been in the habit of celebrating National Poetry Month by writing a single poem on each day of April. In between the Aprils, I have, from time to time, continued the practice of posting poems here, you know, to keep things moving in the poetry department. 374 poems in all. But 2020 proved to be a dismal year for poetry, as it was dismal in many other ways as well, at least for me, at least until a very late kind of redemption that took place around November. I think I may have written one poem during all of the rest of 2020 after April–and for some reason, it didn’t end up on the site. Suffice it to say that things are a little rusty over here. I have, I suppose, been saving my poetry energy for other things, like writing about The Plague Year, like surviving said Plague Year, not only by remaining healthy, but by trying to keep my head above water in this brave new world of enforced Distance Learning and Teaching. I’ve been talking to myself, talking to a computer screen, talking to 9th graders’ junior high school pictures, all year long. It makes Jack a dull boy. So after this long preamble of excuses for not writing poetry, let’s dig in, shall we? See if we can recapture the spirit, get this poetry department back in order, open for business.

As always, it is my practice, at the beginning of each day in April, to visit the mighty NaPoWriMo website for inspiration. Every day in this lovely place there are things to read and consider and a prompt to get one started, if one needs a boost. The prompts are always optional–we wouldn’t want to make the compulsory poem-a-day feel any more compulsory than it already is by requiring people to write from a prompt. But I find these things helpful and often do take up the suggestion–especially if, instead of a subject matter suggestion, it’s a crafty one. You know, write a limerick–but write it about whatever you like–that sort of thing. Even as I write this I don’t know what I will do–but I will tell you what the prompt is, if you like, just to give you a feel for the thing. Here’s today’s prompt:

“Today, we’d like to challenge you to spend a few minutes looking for a piece of art that interests you in the online galleries of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art. Perhaps a floral collar from the tomb of Tutankhamen? Or a Tibetan cavalryman’s suit of armor? Or a gold-and-porcelain flute? After you’ve selected your piece, study the photographs and the accompanying text. And then – write a poem! Maybe about who you imagine making the piece, or using it. Or how it wound up in the museum? Or even the life of the person who wrote the text about the piece – perhaps the Met has a windowless basement full of graduate students churning out artwork descriptions – who knows?”

That was actually not the prompt from Day 1 of Napowrimo, but the early bird prompt from yesterday for those folks who, for some trick of the sun and the moon and the orbit of the Earth were already in April before the rest of us. I liked that prompt, and immediately I knew the piece of art I wanted to grab, one not found on any of those links. Do you want to see it? Here it is.

This is a piece by a Polish artist named Rafal Olbinsky. It appears to me that it was used to promote a performance of a work called “Don Carlos” by Verdi, but I know it, at least that part of it that begins above the tip of the naked guy’s sword, as the cover of a novel I am currently teaching, and have written about before here on the blog, called Kalpa Imperial by Angélica Gorodischer, a super important practitioner of fabulist, fantastic, or speculative fiction from Argentina.

My god, it’s late. Way later than I wanted to be writing my first poem of the month. The day has been a kind of train wreck. There is a part of me that would like to just bail and cry April fools! But there’s the other part of me, the Catholic part, that insists that a poem gets written today come hell or high water. So I proceed. Trust me. Even in this moment, as I’m writing this, I have no clue about this poem–what it’s called, what it’s about, how it will look. I only know that somehow it will be inspired by the art above, maybe by the novel I’m teaching, and that it will happen on this screen underneath this paragraph.

Poem on April 1

I have a city growing
out of the back of my head.
It’s ancient, built of stone,
full of towers and spires
that reach, as long as I’m
looking at the ground,
to the sky, to the stars
and the blood red moon.
The city out of the back
of my head prefers this
orientation, reaching up
while I’m looking at the dirt.
But if I hold my head upright
and look full forward,
the city out of the
back of my head reaches
behind me, always following,
always trailing, like ghosts,
like memory, memory like ghosts,
ghost-like memory, a whole
city of things I cannot forget,
things I would not forget
even if it were possible.
As much or as best as I can,
I try to keep my eyes focused
ahead; I move my body forward,
try to see straight, while the city
out of the back of my head
continues to grow, building
itself larger than life in my wake.

Published by michaeljarmer

I'm a public high school English teacher, fiction writer, poet, and musician in Portland, Oregon

2 thoughts on “#375: Poem on April 1, 2021

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