(31) This Poem


Sometimes poems just show up and they seem radically perfect for the moment and perhaps your whole life. Such is this poem by Jack Spicer. I suppose I should know Mr. Spicer, as he was one of the San Francisco Bay poets, a man who was in the audience when Allen Ginsburg first read “Howl.”  I haven’t looked yet to see if I know any of his other poems because this poem has me captivated. And I don’t even want to get into the reasons why, even though this is a blog and I’m supposed to pontificate about such things. I think this is one of those moments where I am not going to look for fixed answers as to why this poem speaks to me. I’m just going to revel in the aliveness.

(I will add that the otter picture is specifically for my friend Liz, who told me the otters were her favorite part of the poem.)

Any fool can get into an ocean
But it takes a Goddess
What’s true of oceans is true, of course,
Of labyrinths and poems. When you start swimming
Through riptide of rhythms and the metaphor’s seaweed
You need to be a good swimmer or a born Goddess
To get back out of them
Look at the sea otters bobbing wildly
Out in the middle of the poem
They look so eager and peaceful playing out there where the
water hardly moves
You might get out through all the waves and rocks
Into the middle of the poem to touch them
But when you’ve tried the blessed water long
Enough to want to start backward
That’s when the fun starts
Unless you’re a poet or an otter or something supernatural
You’ll drown, dear. You’ll drown
Any Greek can get you into a labyrinth
But it takes a hero to get out of one
What’s true of labyrinths is true of course
Of love and memory. When you start remembering.
Source: Poetry (July/August 2008).



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