I’ve been unfaithful to poetry. Poetry with a capital P.  I’ve been careless and indifferent. Taking Poetry for granted. Now I’m paying the price. Poetry has given me the cold shoulder.

I try and explain that I have to make a living, even a meager one, and there’s more money in Prose. Poetry just stares out the window. I say that I wouldn’t write as well as I do without my affection for Poetry.

Poetry scowls, “You come home late smelling like Fiction. That’s just rude.”

I apologize all over myself. I say that I’m back if Poetry will have me. The checks are so small it wasn’t worth it. I don’t know what came over me. It was spring and I’d had a couple of mojitos. Poetry should understand intoxication. Poetry is intoxication itself.

We eye each other warily. “Well,” Poetry says, “what are you working on now?”

With a sigh of relief I say, “Take a look at this opening. It’s promising, don’t you think?”

My Grandmother
cut the chicken’s head off
and the body ran amok.
Poetry nods. Slightly. “I like amok.”
“Me, too. So far, so good, right?”
“What’s next?”
“Well, umm, well, that’s why I came by. I thought you might have an idea.”
“I just keep picturing you tooling around with Prose in that big red car.”
“But that’s all we did. Drive around. Nothing happened.” I reach for Poetry’s hand.
“So how about a little inspiration. Just a spritz.”
Poetry sighs. “Try something having to do with yellow feet.”
“The chicken’s, right? Not mine.”
Poetry stares at me. “Can you hear yourself? Lie down with Prose, get up with a tin ear.”
I opened my notebook. The words came easily.
The boy I was cried. The man
I would become noticed the yellow
feet, the stagger and twitch,
my grandmother’s leer.
Poetry nods. A little. “Leer is nice.”
“Great! Thanks. It doesn’t seem done, though.”  I looked at Poetry imploringly. “Or is it?”
“You know what,” Poetry said. “I’ve been helping young poets who love me and only me, but they’re poor. You, on the other hand, can afford to take me out for dinner. I know I could think clearer by candlelight with somebody pouring a chilled California chardonnay.”
“And then we’ll finish the poem?”
“We’ll see.” Poetry started for the door. Then turned. “But are you really going to wear that shirt?”

Ron Koertge is the author of more than a dozen books, most of them novels for young adults. These include Margaux With An X, Stoner & Spaz, and The Brimstone Journals as well as Shakespeare Bats Clean-Up and the sequel Shakespeare Makes the Play-OffsStrays was awarded the Bank Street College Best Children’s Book of the Year and chosen as a Best Book for Young Adults by the American Library Association.

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