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Saturday, March 12, 2016

Saturday's poem? This seems perfect


“Poetry is for me Eucharistic. You take someone else's suffering into your body, their passion comes into your body, and in doing that you commune, you take communion, you make a community with others.” – Mary Karr

American poet, essayist and memoirist, Karr rose to fame in 1995 with the publication of her bestselling memoir The Liars' Club, set mostly in 1960s Southeast Texas where she grew up.   Now a professor of English Literature at Syracuse, Karr advises her students not to write too soon about their own lives. “Writing about yourself too young is  
loaded with psychological complexities.”

Karr has won a Pushcart Prize for her essays and a Whiting Award, a Pushcart Prize, and a Guggenheim Fellowship for her poetry.  “Every poem (I write),” she said, “probably has 60 drafts behind it.”   For Saturday’s poem, here is Karr’s absolutely wonderful,

A Perfect Mess

I read somewhere
that if   pedestrians didn't break traffic laws to cross
Times Square whenever and by whatever means possible,

the whole city
would stop, it would stop.
Cars would back up to Rhode Island,
an epic gridlock not even a cat
could thread through. It's not law but the sprawl
of our separate wills that keeps us all flowing. Today I loved
the unprecedented gall
of the piano movers, shoving a roped-up baby grand
up Ninth Avenue before a thunderstorm.
They were a grim and hefty pair, cynical
as any day laborers. They knew what was coming,
the instrument white lacquered, the sky bulging black
as a bad water balloon and in one pinprick instant
it burst. A downpour like a fire hose.
For a few heartbeats, the whole city stalled,
paused, a heart thump, then it all went staccato.
And it was my pleasure to witness a not
insignificant miracle: in one instant every black
umbrella in Hell's Kitchen opened on cue, everyone
still moving. It was a scene from an unwritten opera,
the sails of some vast armada.
And four old ladies interrupted their own slow progress
to accompany the piano movers.
each holding what might have once been
lace parasols over the grunting men. I passed next
the crowd of pastel ballerinas huddled
under the corner awning,
in line for an open call — stork-limbed, ankles
zigzagged with ribbon, a few passing a lit cigarette
around. The city feeds on beauty, starves
for it, breeds it. Coming home after midnight,
to my deserted block with its famously high
subway-rat count, I heard a tenor exhale pure
longing down the brick canyons, the steaming moon
opened its mouth to drink from on high ...





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