Damn the poets

Damn the poets
For growing Sapho’s dusty stall
Into the monopoly provider 
For fruit and flowers
That meet the needs of all,
And all occasions suits.
Refined through millennia,
Ensuring perfect blooms,
And always flawless fruits.

Daffodils for flirting,
Roses–of course –for love;
Sweet plums that,
For summer’s passion,
Spill upon the lips;
Bowed fritillaries in
Melancholy’s season;
And quince for membrillo
When the winter grips.

If you step a little closer,
And mention your desire,
They’ll reach into
A less-used drawer
With produce suited for
Dark days and darker thoughts:
Muddy tubers, chillies of fire,
Old mucosal mushrooms–
For anger, pestilence, and war.

The poets’ portalled store
Rises, a citadel above  
Suburban sprawl
Where silly flowers
Rim prissy lawns
And pointless bowers.
Windchimes that clang
Confirm the lack of love,
And ignorance of St Paul.

The competition maestro writes,
Grow me anything you like–
Not love, though, because
It’s all been told.
But prove me wrong,
He adds, and smirks.
And don’t send me death–
It makes me depressed
And already I’m feeling old.

Aspiring poets, oppressed
By noble antecedents
Go out and throw wild seeds
In scratched, uneven drills–
The weeds revealed too soon,
Pretensions unfulfilled.
Or else they fuss
Over a blade of grass
While the sky reddens at noon.

I’ve gone off-grid.
I’m growing my own,
Stooping for long hours.
Each seed that I’ve sown,
Rubbed from my palm
Into well-ordered rows,
And fed with the compost
Of past loves and joys
And recycled sorrows.

I may only grow
Weak flowers that let go
Their petals about the vase
Like butterflies, halved;
And hard fruits
Too sour to eat–
Not fit even to garnish
A cocktail in a dive
On Fifty-second Street.

I labour on this ground
While listening to the sound
Of thunder as it rolls
Across the valley floor;
(Or is that gunfire drawing near?)
For what it’s worth,
Here is the crop of all my loves,
The harvest of my life,
The fruit of all my fear.

I wrote this at the point where I was settling on the unfashionable view that poems need some rhymes. It is the rhyme, I reckon, that gives shape to flat lines, as stitching turns pieces of leather into a boot that’s fit for walking. But I acknolwledge that it isn’t always necessary to stick to a rigid pattern of rhyme and metre.
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