Pragmatic Capitulation


Plain clarity is better than ornate obscurity.
~ Mark Twain

Most mornings I am up before dawn, captive
to my little dog’s internal body clock. After
her outdoor business we settle on the couch.
She curls up next to me as I read poems from
the Poem-a-Day digital poetry series, emailed
to subscribers daily. The series tends to highlight
the esoteric.

This free online service presents a featured poem
with an explanatory rider (often as cryptic as the poem)
and three other poems of like themes. The site also
links to archives of other poems.

Rarely do the featured poems fit easily into my
field of comprehension. Many are obscure to
levels that stretch beyond mere ambiguity.

I have to navigate around the site to land on a poem
here and there that might fit with my ability to discern
meaning. Despite these barriers to understanding
I occasionally challenge myself to decipher one or two
of the more arduous offerings.

Today the lead poem is an exercise in rampant
word-flinging, as evidenced by its opening lines —
In the mercy of the more hollow sister
A serene fog of moons sprinkled with plum
the vexed haint of Quasimoto is patient
her tongue leaps from her mouth like a tombstone . . . .

Undeterred, I take on the rest of the poem, adorned
with equally arcane phraseology. I work Webster’s
and the thesaurus, mix and match words and
phrases, play with word sounds, strive to piece
together themes. My attempt at even a snippet of
understanding leaves me soundly defeated.

Steadfast, I try another poem, Engines Within the Throne.
I grapple with a few lines and quickly capitulate.
I’m feeling the struggle with overwrought poetry
may not be the best use of my time and mental
energy during these sweet predawn hours. I could try
lighter fare, the other end of the spectrum, verses
with friendlier rhythms, relaxed coherence.

Kindest Regards, by Ted Kooser, lies on the coffee table.

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