Poetics, Advice

You will learn that words
will survive nuclear winter
by eating cockroaches
but that your best idea is frost
on a warm finger:
it never loved you.

From Patrick Lane
you learn to raise words
like sticks and bright embers,
from Maya Angelou you learn
cadence.
You learn humility and rage
from Mary Oliver and Adrienne Rich,
balls-out bold from Whitman and Ginsberg.

You will learn that you have cataracts
where Annie Dillard has eyes,
that you come to speak poem
the way you found your physical voice:
imitate, emulate, absorb,

until your pores sweat words like garlic,
until your head hums a chorus
of sanskrit crickets,
leaf-blade swords, chariot whispers,
parrots the color of pomegranates
and lime.

You will learn
that syllables eat like cats:
rarely when you want them to
and never what you have.

They want to eat doubt
and wild moss pink from your hands;
when you have fresh mangoes
they will want the salt and dead skin
from the corners of your mouth,

and when you have given up,
drained and dry,
they will run their
sandpaper tongues along the edges
of your sleeping thoughts.

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