Monday, January 9, 2012

Proving Ground

The regimen involves eight hours a day,
the hands more than the feet, the old contrast
between thought and motion, but it’s no way
to grow old, let me tell you: Give up art.

The mind can’t handle the pressures of love.
What can a body do, it doesn’t have
staying power, an old man’s razzmatazz.
What is music now if it can’t be jazz . . .

All the smart made-up rhymes, the make believe
conjuring act, lies to engender love.
There’s always one word you may trip over,
you know what it is, no need to wonder.

Think of art as a way of life, or death.
More stumble when they don’t know the word soul,
they confiscate and lock up the laurel
the precious few would change into a wreath.

It’s the sound of things they teach you. You learn
the lesson well, but you still fail to see . . .
In that enormous, sun-basked world they warn
you, Tell the truth, stay alive, never lie.

Here we are awakened too early now
to do anything but what we are told.
You have created in your sun-crazed mind
what you were told from the first you can’t know.

And now you come to the most difficult
passage. This may be where all gates clang shut.
That’s how it looks when you are lost at sea.
You know where you are but you don’t know why.

What you hear never helps if you can’t see.
When an ocean becomes your proving ground,
look where you’re going. Watch out: a big wave
can undo the breath and the body shut down

the mind. Which is not mental. You need this
unthinking pleasure you considered loss
when you were so young reveille was taps,
when art became a petty thing, mere dross.

Now comes the hard part, your Humpty Dumpty
restoration project, no wall in sight,
no men, no horses, just your paltry art
to mend cracks, or pulverize. Choose the way

and here you take the other side. That way
goes underground: where once it was a street
now it’s open ground, where sea used to be,
a city. Don’t lie. It’s not day but night.

(9 January 2012)

copyright 2012 by Floyce Alexander

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