My dead TV is flashing
words at me in Arabic script.
I catch them from the corner
of my eye. I do not understand
Arabic, but I believe these words
are saying that I must soon write
a love poem like those
from the days of Arab Andalusia.
Why not believe that?
It’s four in the morning,
I can’t sleep, and I will slap meaning
on anything at this hour
if I can rest when I’m done. After all,
I spent hours tonight snarking with friends online
as we laughed at the Grammy
Awards, fer Chrissakes. I don’t think
that was a waste. Anytime you can see
that much information about what is valued
in a society in one place, it’s worth watching,
even if only to examine again why you recoil
from so much of what is around you. And
in any such exercise, you’re bound to be taken
by something — for instance, by the sight
of a nearly naked woman dripping wet
suspended above a shiny crowd as she sang
something slight and ephemeral,
exposing herself to danger and ridicule
in the name of — Art? Artifice? Both?
There were those chiming in who thought it was foolish
to even be watching such crap, some of whom
were poets who hide behind contrived stage names
and adopt personas to perform in venues
seen as ridiculous by others. It’s all the same,
isn’t it? It’s about money, identity, and industry bent
to the service of getting something out there
that matters to someone, that gives someone else
a chance to believe in redemption
through the setting up masks we can believe in,
to spectacle aimed at a commerce in filling
the emptiness of our lives. And I’d lay odds every love poem
we honor from the old days
wasn’t written by a pure soul.
Some of those poems
were written for money, some to get laid,
some were written by cynics seeking fame
who knew exactly how a reader would take them to heart.
If I want to believe
in finding truth in the illusions foisted on me
by a trick of the light on a TV screen,
I will. If I want to believe that Lady Gaga
might offer me some glimpse
into something worth considering,
I will. You find your meaning
where it finds you. And if I want to imagine Cordoba
tonight, while meditating on the afterimage of Pink suspended,
and if I then decide to write a poem that re-imagines her
drenched by Spanish fountains
under a twelfth century moon, singing to her lover,
who dares to say that what it took to write it
was not worth doing? I see Arabic script
and a moistened beauty
on the TV screen, and something is calling me to write
about them, even if neither is real.
Things are only worthless if you allow them no worth.