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middle eastern market

Would you read my poems, kind sir?
You’ve commented before. My heart’s
in chaos, life’s a hurtful blur.
Oh, please, I’m not sure that it starts
to rhyme quite right. You cause a stir
with all you write—you’re off the charts.
Why do you walk away from me?
I thought we were a family.

I watched the hungry poetess,
her hands outstretched, creative gain
ignored and trampled. Caring less
than what I ought, I looked again
at clustered groups around her, pressed
into each other’s words, their drain
of spirits puddling at my feet,
thin shoulders sagging in defeat.

I turned to face my priestess friend.
I thought you said that poetry
is welcome here. It’s a dead end.
What is this place? Poems for free,
but no one cares. Is this a trend?
If so, I’d sooner talk to trees,
pin my verses to a cedar
where reception will be sweeter.

She replied, this is the beggars’
market, where no one gets to choose.
You’ll learn the rules from your betters,
pick up a trick or two, and lose
your bearings as they slip fetters
around your authenticity,
in staggering complicity.

We passed a man knee deep in tears,
known for the world’s best love sonnets.
Crowded by lust and stung by fears,
his voice drones like dying hornets.
He writes sometimes of bygone years,
living in a battered Comet.
All he can do now is seduce
new virgin talents of their juice.

If you can figure out who owns
this marketplace of beggars, you
might stand a chance of writing poems
to transcend the spies and thieves who
served you for awhile. Not all loans
are bad; not all friends are untrue.
I hope to see you when the fourth
of the distorters runs his course.

I walked along the poets’ stalls
avoiding eyes and plaintive cries,
read posters plastered on the walls:
Poets never make a buck. Prize
for best free verse—twin kewpie dolls!
Artists starve while big business thrives.
Forget your hopes, come live with us.
There’s lots of room in this big bust!

I snuck away while poets slammed
each other’s work to keep the good
ones down; crawled under bleachers crammed
with talent petrified. I could
not say yet how they had been damned,
but staying would not help. The wood
I reached was of some thorny tree.
Smiling, I pinned my poetry.

to be continued…

© Elaine Stirling, 2014