Poetry is the Art of Not Succeeding
By Joe Salerno
Poetry is the art of not succeeding;
the art of making a little ritual
out of your own bad luck, lighting a little fire
made of leaves, reciting a prayer
in the ordinary work.
It’s the art of those who didn’t make it
after all; who were lucky enough to be
left behind, while the winners ran on ahead
to wherever it is winners
go running to.
O blessed rainy day, glorious
as a paper bag. The kingdom of poetry
is like this—quiet, anonymous,
a dab of sunlight on the back of your hand,
a view out the window just before dusk.
It’s an art more shadow than statue,
and has something to do with your dreams
running out—a bare branch darkening
on a winter sky, the week-old snow
frozen into something hard.
It’s an art as simple as drinking water
from a tin cup; of loving that moment
at the end of autumn, say, when the air
holds no more promises, and the days are short
and likely to be gray.
A bland light is best to see it in.
Middle age brings it to flower.
And there, just when you’re feeling your weakest,
it floods you completely,
leaving you weeping as you drive your car.