A Journal of Formal & Metrical Verse

I I I I I listen

Arrogant soldiers always at salute,
Each growing like a tree without a root,
Your gates stand closed to every thought and sense,
Except what comes from your own present tense.
Your columns, although simplified and pure,
Sport capitals that lack a tablature,
Like what is left when everything’s been stripped
From empty temples carved with long dead script.
You stride across the page in upper case
Insisting only you deserve this place,
Each kingless subject barking like a trumpet,
Informing every noun you’re going to hump it.
“Let me out!” you stammer, stammer, stammer…
Yet you’re the bars that hold you in your slammer,
A convict’s smuggled chisel with no hammer.

Hey! You! Yeah, you! You! You, I mean you, there.
You’re all alone – why didn’t you prepare?
Although you sound like one, you cannot see;
Although you look like one, you are not free.
You say your parts are far less than your sum,
But who can tell? For every part is numb.
Admit your little brother has a point:
No other letter offers you a joint.
Yes, all of your epistolary friends
Have other means and go to other ends,
While hopeful loves, whenever they come near,
Grow silent, thin, and then just disappear.
No, you don’t want to rhyme. Why should you try?
For love obliges lovers to reply.
More perfect to insist and to deny,
Locked forever in a silent sigh.

Your business partners growl and grow irate,
As currency, to work, must circulate,
Which it cannot in your tight credit squeeze,
That would refuse all externalities.
Yet even silver will begin to canker
If held forever by a selfish banker.
Each dollar wanders like an orphaned waif,
Starving in the kitchen of your safe.
Your blind ambition glitters like a jewel
Locked in the darkness by a midnight fool.

In short, you’d be a perfect narcissist
If you could only prove that you exist,
Which you can never do, for all creation
Can only reach its sum in conversation.
So, while there’s no verb you can’t conjugate,
Each time you do it you’re already late,
Transforming every one into an it,
Through endless coils of sparkling, lively wit
In which the green world slowly starts to pale.
How sad that you can’t crack just once, maybe fail.
But that’s beyond your powers. Admit what’s true:
That even you know you can’t be a you.

By David J. Rothman

David J. Rothman is the Director of the Poetry Concentration in a new low-residency MFA program at Western State College fo Colorado. This program has a curriculum that focuses as closely on versecraft and metrics as any program in the country. He is also co-Founder of the Crested Butte Music Festival, Founding Editor and Publisher of Conundrum Press, and served for six years as Headmaster of Crested Butte Academy, an independent school in Colorado. He is President of the Robinson Jeffers Association and sits on a number of non-profit boards. Rothman’s volumes of poetry include Dominion of Shadow, Beauty at Night and The Elephant’s Chiropractor. A new volume, Go Big, is forthcoming from Red Hen Press, and new poetry is forthcoming in The Blueroad Reader, Measure, The Threepenny Review and others. His essays on many subjects appear widely and he has been a bridesmaid for a number of prizes, including a Finalist for the Colorado Book Award in Poetry.