I’ve been reading through some of my Charles Wright collections lately. Back in the late 90s I was writing a paper on his poetry, and I decided to call him. He was nice enough to answer a few questions. We discussed his poem The New Poem. He said that during the Vietnam War everyone was talking about how art would change things, and how poetry would change the world. And then he said this: “But, Javen, poetry will not change the world.” Initially, this was like a cynical fist in the gut to the young, idealistic college student I was. But I would eventually come to understand that the use of art as a vehicle for message-mongering is the real act of cynicism.
All things in the end are bittersweet–
An empty gaze, a little way station just beyond silence.
If you can’t delight in the everyday,
you have no future here.
And if you can, no future either.
And time, black dog, will sniff you out,
and lick your lean cheeks,
And lie down beside you–warm, real close–and will not move.
Stone Canyon Nocturne
Ancient of Days, old friend, no one believes you’ll come back.
No one believes in his own life anymore.
The moon, like a dead heart, cold and unstartable, hangs by a thread
At the earth’s edge,
Unfaithful at last, splotching the ferns and the pink shrubs.
In the other world, children undo the knots in their tally strings.
They sing songs, and their fingers blear.
And here, where the swan hums in his socket, where bloodroot
And belladonna insist on our comforting,
Where the fox in the canyon wall empties our hands, ecstatic for more,
Like a bead of clear oil the Healer revolves through the night wind,
Part eye, part tear, unwilling to recognize us.
The New Poem
It will not resemble the sea.
It will not have dirt on its thick hands
It will not be part of the weather.
It will not reveal its name.
It will not have dreams you can count on.
It will not be photogenic.
It will not attend our sorrow.
It will not console our children.
It will not be able to help us.
All three poems by Charles Wright