lenten journal: life sentence


My friend, Nathan Brown, is a poet and musician who was named the Poet Laureate of Oklahoma last fall. During December, as we dealt with the impending doom of the Mayan calendar, I dubbed him the Poet Laureate of the Apocalypse. He continues to be a good friend and a wonderful encourager to me in my writing. As I was reading The Secret Life of Pronouns today, I came across this sentence:

Recent studies indicate that published poets die younger than other writers and artists. (109)

Understanding the risk, I set about writing a poem — I’ll call it an extended sonnet — for my very-published-friend, Nathan.

life sentence

It might have made sense back in earlier times,
when poets were pushed to match meters and rhymes,
to worry ‘bout tripping o’er iambic feet,
and writing for royalty — not for the street.

But we write in a new age of improvisation
not so concerned with such ornamentation,
one would think we’d outlive everyone on this orb —
that we check out early is a lot to absorb.

I fear by this news you’ll be left devastated
(since you are both published and, yes, laureated);
since life is much more than comparative lengths
you must offer the world your much needed strengths

Life’s going to kill you — that’s fair to mention,
so will listening and caring and paying attention;
all part of the prophet — the poet, I mean —
whether life’s long or short, we don’t get away clean.

We’re not going to fix much — it’s all pretty broke,
but we can tell the truth like it’s no inside joke,
trade the tick of the clock for the beat of the heart
and work for the words that turn life into art.

Here’s to putting down lines that connect and disturb;
May we run out of time ‘fore we run out of words.



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