Getting ready for bed, my husband tells me
a joke that I don't get.
To make matters worse,
I'm propped up on six pillows reading
the latest touted book of poems.
It won a prize in New York.
On the jacket the poet is an eminence,
bearded, gray, a this-is-serious
kind of guy.
I read these poems and I don't understand.
What's with the marble wall, and how
can it be "dark" and "sunbaked" both?
And why are lemurs suddenly swimming
down the third verse?
My forehead furrows and my lips
tense up. I crimp my glasses and
I don't want to be lost the night before class.
I feel completely dumb.
Maybe I'm not smart enough to be alive.
Is the true thing finally here,
my smarty ruse a bust at last?
I took Valerian an hour ago.
I'm not sleepy.
Did you get to the first poem yet? My husband calls
from the other room, where
the electric toothbrush whirrs.
I didn't understand it, I mumble from
my billowed perch, the poem my bean
a mattress down.
Good, he intones,
You're not supposed to "understand" a poem,
But I'm the teacher, I say. I'm the teacher.
The soft or shrill voice within us
7 years ago