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Life Arts    H4'ed 11/4/21

What I want to say has been said (poem) followed by a reflection on its writing

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It was said by a man in a marketplace in ancient Athens,
By a vacuum cleaner salesman in a bar in Wheeling West Virginia
By a cattle rancher in Oklahoma
By a backhoe operator at a tag sale in Worcester,
By a technician at Midas last Monday
By an assistant manager at Hannafords
On August 4, 2018.
It had rained all day.
He was about to dash to his car
But there was a crazy person
Riding his bike around the parking lot
Shouting at some invisible people
Who, it seems, were taunting him.
That was when he said it
To another employee standing next to him --
The same thing someone said
In a bus station in Gdansk 10 years before.
His child had just fallen asleep on the bench
And the loudspeaker was announcing
That the bus, the express to Reda,
Was going to be 25 minutes late
And he was relieved because that meant
That his child would sleep a little longer
And he decided to eat half of the steak sandwich
In his pack, which was, hopefully still warm.
And the words came to him
So he said it to himself.
It was also said by a street musician
In a Brooklyn subway who had just
Decided to call it a day
When a stranger walked up
And asked for "Stormy"
Which he played while the stranger closed her eyes
Leaning against a pillar, and it was after the song
And the woman put a cookie in his guitar case
When he said it to the woman.
So, it's not original, what I want to say,
But it needs to be said
It deserves to be said,
In all places and times.
I am proud to be among those who say it.
And I imagine it is being said right now
Somewhere in the world
Whether I say it or not
So, I don't really feel I need to say it right now.
I'm feeling a little self-conscious.
Maybe tomorrow.


This poems came out of a quandary over why I write poems. Clearly there are lots of reasons, the main one being, I can't help myself. There is a compulsivity to it. A poem carries a certain value all its own and embodies a certain living autonomy that I dare not suppress once it lets me know it wants to emerge. On the other hand, if I make the effort to enlist my intelligence, such as it is, to emancipate the life of the poem, I am accustomed to being rewarded by the feeling of having accomplished something, and I often experience a cleansing wave of relief of having gotten the poem outside of me, something like I imagine a pregnant woman feels to push the baby out.

This poem arrives at the conclusion that it isn't really important that I name the phrase that the poem circumambulates. The compulsive nature of composing the poem, that I just identified as being key to my process, seems weak or missing! But is it really? Or is the poet being intentionally elusive or coy for his own reasons. Maybe the real life of this poem is in its (and the poet's) invitation to the reader to identify with one or more of the handful of people in other times and places who shared the poet's mysterious thought or utterance that seems to be both timeless, universal and local.

(Article changed on Nov 04, 2021 at 8:38 PM EDT)

(Article changed on Nov 05, 2021 at 8:04 AM EDT)

(Article changed on Nov 05, 2021 at 8:22 AM EDT)

(Article changed on Nov 05, 2021 at 9:39 AM EDT)

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Gary Lindorff is a poet, writer, blogger and author of several nonfiction books, a collection of poetry, "Children to the Mountain" and a memoir, "Finding Myself in Time: Facing the Music" Over the last few years he has begun calling (more...)

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