I’ll Start You With An Image
by Alison Stone
One wet elm leaf,
two smashed cars, a bony dog
on a Mexican street.
Breathe into these things.
Take the sounds of laughter, gunshots, waves.
Take that awful thing your father said,
take the nuclear reactor one town down.
Take the owner of a diner
and make his phone ring. Have a man with rumpled hair
sneak from a cheap motel.
Let luck fall where you choose.
Now take a woman with some cells
in her lung growing too fast.
Meet your death staring from her eyes.
What do you feel right now?
That is your first line.
I want you to write this poem.
I want you to write the true poem, the poem of what you see
and settle for and touch,
not the easy one describing what you think you are.
Take the world as it is.
Take out all the flimsy words
like peace and truth.
Replace them with moss, potatoes, hair.
Drive the inside and the outside toward each other
until language and desire meet head-on.
What is the lesson of the elm leaf?
Does someone kick or feed the bony dog?
Published in They Sing at Midnight (MMM Press, 2003)