Amazed and Confused

A fluoro light blinked
in the small lecture room
at the small university,
lightning over an audience,
the author’s teachers, students, friends.

The young poet stood,
patches on the elbows
of his casual blue suit jacket,
shirt cuffs rolled back over the sleeves,
a heavy scarf draped to his waist,
a thermos, thin as he was,
he unscrewed the cup-lid
and poured himself
a drink without a word.

He produced a shining silver pocket watch,
placed it next to the podium, aligned it, slowly
affixed a wired microphone to his lapel, brushed
his helmet of hair with both hands,
retrieved his copy of the book he was selling,
bent, broken and tagged, he stared at it
while we waited.

Before the beginning
of some of his poems, he defined
the words he had used,
lethic, and some other word that meant retraction,
and classical greek
that my mind immediately forced me to forget,
the myths he had referenced, stories he assumed
we would know, but then explained anyway,
characters with their original names,
the earliest versions, the purest ones.

When he had finished,
the question and answer tossed around
a definition of lyric depending
on the century in which you wrote.
This century, it seemed, the definition had been lost,

but he performed his duty, his calling as a poet:
when I left, I was just as confused, amazed,
by the world, the words, the people who write them,
as when I had arrived.


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