Sunday, May 21, 2017

Some Things a Poem Can and Can’t Do

            Exhibition of Mark Rothko's Black Paintings
                     at the National Gallery of Art

A poem can’t raise the dead, and it can’t
stop a rising river flooding the marsh;
It cannot brook toleration of cant,
cannot sweeten a suite that’s harsh.
A poem can’t wet a wilting flower,
it can’t end even the mildest drought.
It can’t right a slightly tilting tower,
nor relieve a gourmandizer’s gout.
What a poem can sometimes do is inspire,
or sometimes, more humorously, amuse.
A poem can express love, grief, or ire,
but it cannot drink or replace a fuse.
As has been true since at least the Fall, 
it can do some things well, others not at all.

                                    Robert Forrey