January 12, 2008

Bar Poem

This poet walks into a bar, sits down,
and scribbles notes on a cocktail napkin.
The barkeep says, “Hey, did you know we named
a drink after you?” “Really?” the poet asks,
suddenly looking up. “No, but we figured
you’d be self-absorbed enough to believe it.”
What cheap cocktails might a poet inspire?
Fuzzy Navel Gazer? Arse Poetica?

Last night a bunch of poets got together
here and read their poems against the war,
not realizing that most Americans
would see a night like “Poets Against the War”
as a good argument for taking up arms—
if not against Iraq against the poets.
Before he died, one of my best friends
asked me, “How many poets does it take
to screw in a light bulb? Two. One to write
about the light, the other to gaze out
the window.” He was a photographer and knew
about the light, and teased me that the only
light I ever wrote about was Bud Light.
After my friend died, his wife asked me
to write a poem for his memorial,
which I read in front of a couple hundred mourners.
I felt like a creep capitalizing
on a captive audience, on my friend’s death,
catapulting my poetic career,
such as it is or ever could be. Poet!

At the bar there’s a flyer from the “Poets Against
the War” reading. On the back someone
has written, “Oh shut up”—no doubt another
poet impatient to take the podium.
The lights dim and the bar grows crowded. Shadows
crawl up the walls, and the bar grays with smoke.
I tip an Arse Poetica to my friend,
to those about to die in the coming war,
which poets won’t stop since poetry best
helps the living when honoring the dead.

—Richard Newman
from his latest book, BORROWED TOWNS (Word Press,

Posted by dwaber at 07:04 PM