Ten Reflections on Why We Write

Photo credit: pxhere. CC0/Public Domain license.

A poet writes.
A baker makes bread.
Hungry mouths eat the bread.
Hungry spirits imbibe the poem.
Do we write for such consumption,
or only because we must?

Everyone seeks to be useful.
The proprietor of
an Indian restaurant
stands in the doorway
waiting for customers
to consume the lavish buffet:
another tormented soul
blessed and cursed to create.

Today, seven people
I’ve never met
praised a poem I’d written.
Each took time
to craft an articulate statement,
in addition to clicking LIKE.
Circuits were completed.
The poem reached hearts.
This is a poet’s heaven.

Yet that is not why
the piece was written.
That night, walking outdoors,
an extraordinary experience,
followed by a deep need
to express its essence.
Setting to work in a notebook,
wondering how to even begin.
Taking a year to get it right.

Art is shrouded in a mystery,
something to do with making
a significance clear to oneself—
which self is also, somehow,
the Self in all.

A poet is someone
who can’t imagine life
just sliding down the drain.
The sun’s special glint
must be noted.
Beauty, truth, meaning
must be given voice,
heedless of the obvious folly
of this project,
since all such records, too,
will someday dissolve
in time’s ocean.

Yes, a poet is happy
when circuits complete.
An endless circle forms.
Hearts are bridged,
one is part
of the bridging.
Being ignored
may be equally valuable,
deepening as it fans
the flame of longing.

How did you write that,
I ask myself about today’s poem,
which evoked such response.
I begin to feel the need
to “do it again” and start groping
for the technique.
But there is no technique.
like life,

I’m forever discovering
poems bearing my name
that I don’t remember writing.
Dozens of them
filed in various places.
I’m an active volcano
darkening the sky
with my haze of words.
“Must you be so long-winded.
Don’t you ever finish?” I wince,
reading some of these pieces.

But the volcano has spewed forth
a jewel, now and then.
Discovering them,
I become grateful and mute—
like a woman
who has just given birth.

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