I like poetry. There, I said it.
Why does poetry get knocked around so much? It's not fair that the ability to recite a poem is considered pretentious and precious while knowing the final score of the 1983 World Series is respected as some kind of achievement of knowledge. In all honesty, though, I get the problem with poetry. If someone standing next to me in line at the grocery store quoted Wordsworth out of thin air, I would give him the same tolerant-yet-distant smile that I reserve for people who talk to themselves on the street. Especially if he quoted Wordsworth.
Not fair, is it?
I like poetry, though, and I would listen to Wordsworth Man, even while pretending to leaf through People Magazine.
Here's a poem that struck a chord with me this morning. It was written by Jaime Sabines, a Mexican poet who once commented, "poetry happens like an accident, a mugging, a love affair, a crime; it happens every day, when, alone, a man's heart begins to think about life."
I like that sentiment.
You can take the moon by the spoonful
or in capsules every two hours.
It's useful as a hypnotic and sedative
and besides it relieves
those who have had too much philosophy.
A piece of moon in your purse
works better than a rabbit's foot.
Helps you find a lover
or get rich without anyone knowing,
and it staves off doctors and clinics.
You can give it to children like candy
when they've not gone to sleep,
and a few drops of the moon in the eyes of the old
helps them to die in peace.
Put a new leaf of moon
under your pillow
and you'll see what you want to.
Always carry a little bottle of air of the moon
to keep you from drowning.
Give the key to the moon
to prisoners and the disappointed.
For those who are sentenced to death,
and for those who are sentenced to life
there is no better tonic than the moon
in precise and regular doses.
Jaime Sabines Otros Poemas Sueltos, 1981 Trans. W.S. Merwin
*The right thing to do here would be to provide the original Spanish version, followed by the English translation. I am running late already this morning, though, so here is the English.