by JOHN PALEN
That was the summer I packed poetry in a box
and wrote obits. Hundreds, from little towns
like Neosho, Vinita and Siloam Springs.
I left Pound, Virgil and the New Criticism
arguing in the dark in a friend’s basement
and wrote plain words about plain lives
in a sun-lit second-story newsroom
full of desks, ash trays and phones.
They had family, dates, particular names.
Survivors cared. No poem I’ve written
before or since has mattered as much.
I’d stay up late, poring over the day’s work.
Accuracy, brevity, grammar, sentence structure:
That was the summer I learned the bones.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
John Palen has had dual careers in journalism and poetry. He worked as a reporter and editor at daily newspapers and taught journalism at Central Michigan University. He published his first poem in a nationally circulated magazine 50 years ago this year, and his work has appeared widely since.
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