2011: Uses of Poetry

it’s 2011

i’m the City’s Poet

chosen to laud us

to declaim us, to name us

exhort us, inflame us

 

actually, people often ask me

what does a laureate do?

 

it is not, i assure you

a position designed

to discover just how

bitchy, back-stabbing and vain

poets can really be, for

how little money.

 

nor is it meant

to test the layman’s

disdain for the wordsmith

and suspicion that poets

are all elitist snobs.

 

i begin with a poem

in five languages, some of which

i cannot speak, but which symbolise

who we are, looking out, and our history

of stumbling on one anothers’ tongues.

 

when i hang a dreamcatcher

in City Hall, with table and book

inviting the public to write

the poetry of our lives, it will reveal

truths bright and dark:

 

how near stands the courthouse

how helpless a feeling, a loved one’s life

weighed and measured, how empty

a public hall must sound, without them;

 

how far some of us come, and how little

it takes to move from despair to faint hope

pick up our courage, build a life;

 

yet how many ways impossible it can be

to say, i love you too, in the quiet, when i know

mine is that open hand that still

must let you go.

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