A barometer? A thermometer? A balladrometer?

What’s the standard for judging poetry? What are the guidelines? Is there an instrument we can use to decide the worth of a particular piece? I have answers to exactly none of these questions (well, I’m guessing there isn’t such a thing as a balladrometer). Poetry, for me, is like modern art; I can love and appreciate some of it, but some poems read like candidates for the Turner Prize. Who decided this was art? Am I just not cultured enough to understand it?

If you have a very distinct idea of what good poetry is and is not, you probably shouldn’t read any farther, because I’m sharing. Yes, I’m sharing one of my poems, mainly out of curiosity. This poem doesn’t necessarily stand out to me as being better than any of my others, but it got a good grade and some appreciative comments from a professor. If you’re daring enough to read it, I’m certainly open to critique, and I’d also love to hear some opinions on poetry in general.

Luke

His eyes are blueberries in cream

and maybe if I take a class I can uncross

the wires in his brain.

He smells like Old Spice he didn’t apply himself;

the pitch of his voice is burnt orange

and I keep expecting yellow.

Grandpa Jim wouldn’t recognize him if they passed each other on Maple Street

but then again, he doesn’t go to Maple Street.

 

I’m almost a perfect stranger to him

But you would be number one in my strafing line

If you wouldn’t take a bullet for him already.

 

He was born like this

because there was lead in the paint

because of the gluten in the bread

because God fucked up

because the clouds were too puffy on March 10, 1997.

 

“Maybe it’s a milk allergy.”

It isn’t. Glad you got your happy ending, though.

We’ll be over here, trying to navigate the smoggy maze of hopelessness,

sending up red distress balloons

and pretending this puzzle piece represents how we feel.

 

He has screamed a hole through hell’s ceiling

but heaven’s floor has maintained practiced stoicism. We all know

I’m in no position to ask God for any favors.

As if God grants favors or has favorites.

Maybe he does.

Maybe we’re just not the lucky ones.

 

He barely knows my name and I don’t know his favorite color,

but maybe it’s the thought that counts. If that’s true, I should’ve said

I love you, little boy

a long time ago.

 

The empty picture frames are giving me a round of applause

and the size 10 shoes are rating my performance three stars.

Sometimes I forget him, and the more I forget I realize

finally, finally realize, when it’s too late and the ruts are too deep,

that it’s my wires that were crossed after all.

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