The History of Poetry
Once the world was waiting for song
when along came this. Some said it was a joke
funny ha-ha but at the end too lachrymose
to last. Others that it was writ
holier than thou and should be catechized,
then set to turgid dirges, wept over
with gnashed fang, wrung palm.
The ancient declaimed it fad,
the young, old fogies play.
Almost everyone agreed, except the children,
who didn’t listen, it was kid’s stuff.
Centuries yawned and fell back, stuporous,
eons stretched out, soaking up beauty sleep.
Then one day a peasant, knowing he hurt too much,
remembered hurting too much, told his wife
he might have written it
if, in another life, he’d been born better,
at least literate.
And when the gods heard this
they hungered suddenly to become mortal
and join with us in lecherous praise.
Thus hereafter follows the story of their sins,
their cries made flesh by euphony and trope
they whispered to us that we take them down,
there great debauches, all made up
that we should emulate with our blood, pay in blood,
while they in the cheap seats, stomp the floor and clap—
all loss, all the fallible, all poetry.
by Peter Cooley
from Poetry 180
Random House, 2003