What Matters

In the future, poetry had become
the arrangement of tangible objects.
Everybody had a poem, outdoors,
along an imaginary line on the lawn
in front of their house. A disparate
array of items was important, but
not mandatory. Almost invariably,
these included a very large rock.

Typically, poets would only use
material taken from nature: bird
nests, driftwood, icicles, dead snakes.
Lately there had been a faddish
tendency to add a six-pack of dwarf
marigolds. One rather self-referential
composition was nothing more than
ten metric wrenches laid end-to-end,
and an emerging surrealist had buried
a bicycle to its axles in green sand.

Its practitioners were secretly
insecure about the parameters of
their art. They sometimes met in
open parks and pastures for public
displays of new work, most of them
pulling little red wagons laden with
the lumpy tools of their trade.
The unburdened were those who
specialized in found poetry.

The most critical aspect was the
length of the line. No one knew
what the ideal dimensions ought
to be, but they all carried folding
rulers. Passers-by would often stop
to measure a poem that seemed
inadequate or excessive, and argue
at great length about whether
size mattered.

©2003 F.J. Bergmann

"What Matters" was the runner-up for the 2004 Stephen Dunn Award and appeared in words & images 2004.

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