Stanley Moss

Ben Jonson indicated,

never quite stated,

God prefers to be praised

in various meters, prose or free verse,

not in rhyme. I was raised

on rhyme and worse,

taught by example

not to praise God at all.

I offer, Jonson was wrong,

what about the Psalms and Song of Songs?

I count and wash the feet

when I write a poem,

Pope John XXIII washed the feet

of prisoners in Rome.

I dreamt I had a telephone call

from God. I said “Hello.”

He said, “Wrong number.

I never quite got out of my slumber.

I dialed nine-one-one.

I was not rescued by a bawd or a nun.

I knew Lady Macbeth walked in her slumber.

I was saved by poetry,

resuscitated by English prosody.

(Its hero, Shakespeare, gave me breath.)

I will work till I perish.

I speak and write American English.

My other languages are often a wish 

For rhyme, a sonnet will make lovers go

naked in deep snow,

instead of to bed, instead of to bed.

Music doesn’t rhyme,

there’s harmony at bedtime.

A shepherd wakes when a dog barks at his flock.

To me this morning, rhyme is an alarm clock.

Rhyme for readers like us

is promiscuous.

I’ve monkeyed around

with words, the meanings of sound.

The sound of the words “blood” and “bread”

comforted the Christian dead.

I know ocean speaks

to rain, my roof only leaks.

In New Zealand, a river’s a person.

In the States, a corporation’s a person.

It’s late, I do not speculate:

anyone who rhymes can sing,

Joseph Brodsky would sing

Christmas poems often

while Lenin slept in an open coffin.

“Rhyme wrestles words from their true calling.”

Auden rhymed about love and falling

in love. He loved God,

might he say, “I fell in love with God”?

He fell in love with Chester and languages.

His Caliban rages, language ages, meaning changes

for reasons like wars, defeats and immigration,

the future’s an asshole beyond imagination.

Rhyme’s a vision, a point of view,

it helps some poets chew and chew

in Hell and further beneath,

even when Sailing to Byzantium.

Rhyme always has a mouthful of teeth,

a bridge, some cavities, some false, some wisdom.


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Author: The Best American Poetry