Jeffrey Skinner

Failure, an Update
September 19, 2019 Skinner Jeffrey

Failure, an Update

The question is how long will she sit there
waiting for something good before
she opens the notebook and just writes, something,
anything—nonsense. Or, gives up for the day.
Many good poems begin in nonsense,
some moving piecemeal into the realm
of sense, albeit poem sense, which is not
common, often not sensible. Just how
a poem thinks. Other poems begin in nonsense
and stay there, but remain good: the reader
cannot say exactly what the words
are up to, but nevertheless feels meaning
flexing beneath the lines. Or, because: pleasure—
to read, to be a moment inside words.
Many have never had the pleasure
of poetry, which is shameful and would take
a book to explain, while people who do know it
are often writers, and they, after a period
of ecstatic reading when young
come to a place where someone else’s poem’s
obscured by judgment and envy and
the pleasure drains. Finally, we see
the nearly immobile woman shift in her chair
and uncap her pen. “I wish that robin would shut
the hell up,” she writes. After she has read
this line fourteen times she realizes it is true
but neither tasty nor nonsense,
and leans back on her chair and stares
out the window. After another two hours
of disobedient words she has mercy on herself
and the page, and gives up. Well, looks like
it’s not too bad out there, she says to the weak sun
in the window, rising, and—I almost said,
“puts on her hat and strolls a little in the forgetfulness
of the forest.” But no one wears a hat anymore.
So out she goes, bareheaded, skipping
the forest to walk directly to her car, because
in the enormous space outside poetry
time moves in tight circles, like a housefly,
and she has places to be and the robin’s
screaming, and she has done what she can—
it’s hardly her fault the project has imploded—
and presses a button that starts the car.

Jeffrey Skinner‘s new book of poems, Sober Ghost, will be out in May of 2024.   Other of his work appears most recently in Volt and Action, Spectacle.