Poetry and Communication

From a time in my late teens when I couldn’t yet write poetry I’ve salvaged this fragment:

Fathers:
perennial movement
tumescent adolescence
caught by webs of clotheslines
on a ladder of muscle and bone
into the womb.

Mothers:
perfumed shadows
secrets beating tiny fists
from a bloody plunge
to a spring back
up with flowers.

It’s from a confused and very bad poem that stays with me because of its subject: an inability to communicate with those who should be closest to us. It seemed to me then that nothing was more heartbreaking. Today I still can’t think of anything worse. But it takes more than feeling to produce a poem that works. A couple of recent efforts have been published in Watershed Review. I’m glad the two are together because they go back in theme or flavor to my first serious attempts to write poems.

One needn’t look far to see the devastating consequences of communication failure. What does the shock and awe of the U.S. presidential election result signify, above all, but a series of communication failures, not simply in the media or between Republicans and Democrats but, more seriously, within the parties amongst those who purport to have the same ideals? When I was a teenager communication began to break down with my mother who was a fundamentalist Christian. Fundamentalists do not or cannot recognize worldviews other than their own as valid. My mother gave me a book by one of the founders of the Christian Right entitled, How Should We Then Live? Today I like to ask the question: ‘How should we then communicate?’ Sometimes it seems hopeless.

And sometimes it seems to me as if we are all inside a dream, dreaming this life we live as a society. We don’t know, as a group, that we are dreaming. But those who suspect it are trying to create messages within the dream to alert the others. We don’t know if it’s possible to wake up, much less dream another dream. But we have to hope, if logic holds, that it is possible. Meanwhile, neither life nor death wait. As one creature breathes his last all points rush furiously outward.

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2 Responses to Poetry and Communication

  1. Like pre-verbal insights involving all the sense.

  2. angela says:

    Enjoyed both of your poems, Mark… this especially struck me

    We all know what happens at night
    and whether the red wheelbarrow
    has gone from the yard
    or gone to rust
    it’s a morning of rain
    for just us chickens.
    Whether sun or hunger ahead,
    it all depends.

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