The New Aesthetic
The Crone curled up in the doorway
is gracious when I plead, "Sorry,
I can't spare any change, I just put
my last ten dollars into the hat at a poetry reading."
"That's OK honey," she reassures me,
"the dude probably earned his dough."
She turns her back against the slanting drizzle.
We don't debate the new aesthetic:
The Poet howling his song of self,
describing heavy metal's throb,
Friday nights with Black Sabbath,
his lusty glee as he trumpets despair;
the date who walks ten paces ahead of him
into a party, flirts with better-looking men
spills barbecue sauce all over his fine white shirt.
He explains the difference between a poem and a joke,
does not correct the kid who calls out
"Wordsworth! you know, that guy, the first
to have his complete works posted on the Internet,
"Henry, but not Wadsworth, his sleep poems,
now that's poetry for me."
I think of the editor who rejects my work;
"Not bad," he admonishes, "just not our aesthetic;
read our website more carefully."
Suddenly I sit at my Zada's Passover table
drunk on the harsh rhythms of Hebrew.
I dance the lindy; Elvis belts out "Hound Dog";
There's a symphony of street games;
paddy cake, who stole the cookie, ring-a-levio one-two-three.
My Teacher appears in her mauve dress,
framed by fern and bougainvillea, whispers
"You only owe the world YOUR art."
I kneel beside my sleeping oracle,
inhale her musk along with the rain.
She gathers her blanket with a soft mewling sound.
Whose mother is she, whose daughter, whose child?
I recite the blessing I neglected
in my haste to sign up to read.
Dodi Ani -- Welcome my friend -- Welcome Sabbath Bride --
make the gesture for lighting candles.
I wonder if anyone
can pinpoint the precise moment
when "aesthetic" became a bullshit word.