Reading poetry

Reading human nature
In human language
Is an exercise in humanity
That I exercise alone
In solitary separation
From human neighbours
And wonder why I don’t get it.

Reading Poe’s poems
And Shakespeare’s sonnets
And Whitman’s verse
And Dickinson’s dreams
And Plath and Hughes
And Yeats and Keats
And Frost and Faulkner
And Angelou and Glück
And Baldwin and the Beat
And …
(God, they’re too many!
And I haven’t even shifted tongues:
Hindi, Urdu, and Odia)

(My life is a series of anyways)

Reading these greats
I know I know nothing but:
They have already read me,
The whole of me,
Far far better
And deeper
And clearer
Than I can ever read them.

Read them I must, though:
To know myself better;
To understand others deeper;
To see things clearer;
And to have a difficult pleasure.

But most importantly,
Most critically,
I have to have to know
Who I’m up against.

I read poems now
Not with the wonder
Of the starry-eyed boy,
But the combative,
Careful, discerning eye
Of a self-styled general
Studying formations,
And weaponry, and tactics,
And vulnerabilities
Of fallible giants.

No, I don’t care about fame.
(As a poet. Rest is fair game.)
I don’t want to join them
In their Olympian pantheon.
Who am I kidding anyway?
Beyond the few friends
Who tolerate my blabbering,
Who cares what I write?
Have I given them a reason to?
Have I been of service?
No, I write selfishly
Knowing there is no self.
No, I study the greats,
The giants, the Olympians
To know how much work remains;
To learn how much I have to learn;
To go through writing, not motions;
To come intentionally to the page;
And once in a while, on those days,
To live with myself.

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