To the Reader it May Concern
by Moneta Goldsmith
Maybe you can help me. It’s spring outside, and I’ve been having a hard time naming this poem of mine. The problem is, whenever I take a pen to it, all the words shift their order around underneath my pen like sand beneath a torrent of water in the middle of a squall. Which is just what my pen has become whenever I go to name this thing. Whenever this happens, whenever the metaphors cry out for help as if to tell me they did not belong there in the first place, whenever the adjectives beg and bend their way toward oblivion or toward the edge of the page (whichever comes first) it is almost as though my pen were a premature coffin soaked in limpid tears, or a scepter clutched by an ancient stone just waiting for the right person to come along (that’s where you come in) to loosen the grooves in its bindings, to shatter the glass with your gaze.
In order for you to name this poem, you’d probably like to know first what it is about. Well, that is another trouble I’ve been having. You see, I like to believe this particular poem is not easily reducible to summary, that it resists the penury of all things permanent, and all of the other timeworn artifices having to do with plot, and character development, and an effective use of style and other rhetorical devices. This poem, you might say, and I wouldn’t disagree with you, is about nothing and about everything at the very same time; this poem has its sights set beyond the common marketplace, beyond the atmosphere, the biosphere, the galaxy, the cumulus of galaxies! This poem is, in some very clear sense, what all poems have always been about, at least as far back as the Greeks on Olympus, the Egyptians lording over Persia, the Hittites in caves and the Sumerians with Stylus: strictly speaking, this poem is about Fucking and it is about Being Fucked.
You might think it easy to name a poem after these two quintessential themes of all poetry. You might think that you can get away with calling such a poem, “A Letter from the Government,” for instance, or else, “A Trip to the DMV on a Sunday Afternoon.” You might make the mistake in thinking, as I first did, that a title as broad and simple as “Sunday Afternoon” could fit the bill. And it’s true, all of these titles get to the heart of what I feel all poetry is about. What’s more, all of these titles have the added benefit of another deeply cherished philosophy of mine when it comes to poetry—and that is, the imperative to write about what you fear rather than about what you know. In fact, while I allow myself to linger on this subject for a moment, I’d like to offer you a couple of other titles, which you should almost certainly want to dismiss out of hand when it comes time for you to name this poem of mine. These are: “The Time I fell in Love with My Neighbor for Telling Me That My Typewriter was Too Loud,” “The Afternoon I Made Love Twelve Times, All of Them by Myself (which explains a lot).” Or what about, merely, “Sunday Afternoon”?
All of this brings to mind a memory that may have even been the impetus for this poem and, now that I think of it, may provide some much-needed insight into what you’d like to do with this poem when the time comes. I am speaking of the afternoon I came home early from the DMV, because this was a Sunday and the DMV has always been closed on Sundays, two things I didn’t realize were the case until I got there. So in any case, when I came home I could see, even through the casement window beside the entrance to my apartment, that my best girl was lying in bed with a strange man, the two of them rolling to my side of the bed like a couple of sweaty Twizzlers, rolling right where I usually keep my bed-time things—my industrial-strength ear muffs and my Oxford Critical Companion to Paul Gauguin, things like that—and so here I was, not sure if I’d ever get these things back, or even whether I’d get to sleep in my own bed again without having to cause a scene; and I guess it’s not so much that there is one title out there more or less accurate than another title—any of the titles I’ve suggested, in fact, bear in mind my philosophy of poetry, albeit some more heavy-handedly than others. Still, the fact remains that I’ve only just thought of these and here I am at the end of the page, and by now, well, I guess this is the poem, you know?
Moneta Goldsmith is a writer, teacher, and the author of two ‘poetry’ chapbooks, including the forthcoming They Haven’t Invented a Pill for This Feeling Yet. His writings can be found in such magazines as Sparkle & Blink and Gorilla Troop, among others.