National Poetry Month: Day Late and a Dollar Short

As usual, another National Poetry Month
come and gone,
and I’ve written exactly nothing.

Not exactly nothing, I suppose:
a lot of work emails;
Corrective Actions for employees who
refuse to show up on time;
some Facebook posts and Tweets
displaying my amazement or frustration
with some aspect of human existence.

But nothing poetic. Nothing I could
say took something of reality and
lined it out in a way that others would
deem worthy of attention.

And that’s just it, too. Nothing worthy of attention.

I could have been more aware. Then
maybe the words would have come to me,
and also some way to breathe the breath of life
into marks on a page.

Could have, but wasn’t. And so the usual fears,
the worry that something deep within,
the old well-spring, has finally dried up. . . .

This time is different. By now
I’ve seen this enough to know
that wonder and words
will return.

They will return.


Neighbor’s cat 40’ up the pine,
clinging to a limb.
I’m not afraid of heights.

The extension ladder rests
against the trunk.
Rung over rung I ascend.

The silent cat watches.
At the top of the ladder
I stretch my comforting arms.

Snarls and spitting hisses.
I descend, cat-less. A helper
should not be clawed and bitten.

They told me later the fire dept.
brought a bucket truck.
The cat felt forced to leap.

There should be
some deep lesson here.
Some poetic significance.

Is it bad of me that
all I could think
was catapault?

Why I Haven’t Written in a Good Long While

I feel this need to get the words
out of me, out
of my head, or heart,
or wherever it is they’re formed,
letter by letter, from the haze
shrouding observation and experience;

to shake the syllables from their long doze,
and sometimes the very thought
of doing something so momentous
and risky and, perhaps, useless,
makes me hush the need right back
to sleep.


James Woods: You Can’t Eat Poetry


This poem will cost you.
It will not register Black voters in Georgia.
It will not wash oil from ducks.
This poem will starve the big-bellied babies
in Angola, if they send it.
It . . will . . not . . get . . off . . the . . page
to convince the President
that loaded guns are dangerous
and should be kept out of the hands
of infants and senile demagogues.
This poem will not feel around under your dress
down by the lake. It will not be generous
with its time, nor forgive. It can’t be
warmed up at midnight after the skating
nor charm the miser out of his hole
nor proclaim amnesty. It’s words,
God damn it, it’s words.

–James Woods