I don't have any poems on my wall, but I do have poems that kind of prop up the walls of the poetry space inside my brain. I've shared some of them here on hubski. I think we've talked about how I love Dean Young and Kenneth Koch, James Tate and Alan Dugan. One of my favorites though, is Dean Young's elegy for Kenneth Koch and the titular poem of Young's book, Elegy on Toy Piano.
One might complain that Young is a surrealist and as such, does not deliver on that front in this poem. But for me, I like being familiar with Young's style and seeing the restrain involved in this poem and instead of the usual irreverence, reverence for whom I consider to be one of the great poets of the 20th century. It's a love poem in the way that elegies are love poems.
Elegy on Toy Piano
BY DEAN YOUNG
For Kenneth Koch
You don't need a pony
to connect you to the unseeable
or an airplane to connect you to the sky.
Necessary it is to love to live
and there are many manuals
but in all important ways
one is on one's own.
You need not cut off your hand.
No need to eat a bouquet.
Your head becomes a peach pit.
Your tongue a honeycomb.
Necessary it is to live to love,
to charge into the burning tower
then charge back out
and necessary it is to die.
Even for the trees, even for the pony
connecting you to what can't be grasped.
The injured gazelle falls behind the
herd. One last wild enjambment.
Because of the sores in his mouth,
the great poet struggles with a dumpling.
His work has enlarged the world
but the world is about to stop including him.
He is the tower the world runs out of.
When something becomes ash,
there's nothing you can do to turn it back.
About this, even diamonds do not lie.
I don't know for sure why I love elegies, but it might just be that they're prayers that I can believe. An epitaph will fade in time and surely poems are forgotten, but that someone takes the time to construct a poem in order to snatch another person or thing out of time is to me, part of what poems are all about.
I've said before that I consider poems to be little machines, designed to perform small feats of magic. That poems exist on paper and the fact that someone took the time to arrange those words in a certain way so that the intangible object that is the poem, the poem as it exists in the mind, is to me a wonderful thing. It cannot be touched. Even if it is forgotten, it still exists somewhere in that in-between space between the page and memory, creation and oblivion.
I like to think that the space I'm talking about receives impressions of things said or made and that has an overall effect on whatever this is, no matter how small it may be. I don't really care if it's true or not. "Necessary it is to live to love" and "Necessary it is to love to live."