Marcus Bales
Letting One

At the table half an hour ago
I got that old familiar feeling,
You know the one:
A slight pressure in the abdomen
from leaning over forward
after having spent the afternoon laying back
on the couch trying to write a poem about
Life with a capital L
and not getting too far, really,
until I got hungry
and decided it was time for a sandwich.
Rye bread, last night’s leftover corned beef,
sharp cheddar cheese,
a little butter because what doesn't go well with butter,
and a dollop of mustard because I like
the word "dollop",
and my new favorite drink,
a mixture of cranberry and grape juice,
favorite because it says
100% juice on the label
and because I like to write the word "juice".
So there I sat, with the laptop's cursor blinking at me
from the other side of the plate,
when I got that feeling
the small tensing
the slight lean to the left
the blank look of concentration on the face,
because by my age you’ve learned
you can never quite trust that feeling any more,
and I want to eat the sandwich
and drink my juice
and not spend the next ten minutes
dealing with my pants and taking a shower
But this time it all works

A Nice Piece Of Free Verse

A couple days ago I read a nice piece of free verse –
nothing offensive, a woman talking about her sex life,
her many disappointments, her few peak experiences,
her children, or perhaps it was the lack of them,
her husband, or maybe it was her lover –
I can’t really remember if it was a man or woman.
The poet, and the poem,
were so blandly determined not to say anything
that for a moment I thought I was reading a transcript
of an Administration official testifying before Congress.
When did we grow so weary and suspicious of truth?
The smarter we think we are
it seems
the more we insist
there is no such thing as truth,
or human nature,
or even common human experience.
Everything is always and only personal,
and never arguable – not even discussable.
Of course there are limits
to what we can see or say
about other people and other cultures;
but there is also a limit to what we want to see,
or hear said about, well,
about you.
Out of context,
just because you exist,
even if you’re writing what you’re going to call a poem
with the blithe assumption that when you write about
your own childhood memory,
your own special notice
of your own comfy slippers,
or your own private thoughts
about your garden, your house, your family,
your cats, your sex life, your children,
your siblings’ children,
or their, or your, or your parents’, health,
even your own feelings,
any and all merely because they are your own,
is just not that interesting.
Then your poem is like my cat, who,
seeing my focus caressing the keyboard with my fingers,
leaps up to demand my attention.
She, too, has no agenda except
her own immediate self-gratification;
she, too, wants praise
only for being herself,
she, too, is hungry, just like you:
good kitty,
good kitty.