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Reply to Poets

by Clinton Van Inman

REPLY TO BLAKE

Poor William you were not the first.
That invisible worm that flies by night
Had found her bed before you had thirst
For crimson joy with all your might.
She preferred to dance the tango all night
With the Puerto Rican the most
Than listen to all your poems that cursed.

REPLY TO KEATS

Forever desiring, panting in mad pursuit,
Forever young and green like painted fruit.
She cannot fade, you are right to see
And she eternally flees in her ecstasy.
Yet how dare you call this real bliss
As my outstretched arms forever miss
Those lips that I will never kiss.
An eternity of mad pursuit proves mundane
As stretched hands reach out in vain.
Unreal her flowers and her beauty such
That I reach for but can never touch.

REPLY TO HOUSMAN

Yes there was a time I won a race
As they chaired me shoulder high
Up and down through a market place
And past the place where I now lie.

For I knew then and so did she
How frail the strings of mortality
As a widowed mother wished me stay
At home and nurse the time away.

But you do not know why I ran,
Not to defend some challenge cup
Not for laurels nor to prove a man
And not for the record still pinned up.

The rows of pictures on the piano
Top have hardly moved to show
One last smile from one smart lad
Who had won one for dear old dad.

A REPLY TO WHITMAN

When I heard the learned astronomers proclaim
From proofs and charts and periodic tables
With H&R diagrams, and overheads and visuals,
With projectors and all to show the history of stars
From flowers to quarks and on to quasars
Then the latest theory that everything is string
Not like strings sticking out of their backs,
Like children talking of tinker toys,
Erector sets, and building blocks,
The blue print for everything in a box
As their greatest mysteries unfolded,
From hydrogen to hardware, from hogs to Hector,
From hairy apes to hippies, from hedgerows to helicopters,
From double helix to haloes, everything up the chain.
But among all the applause, I felt sick
And arose and went outside for some fresh air
Where looking up I beheld the stars
Until I discovered I was in the planetarium.

REPLY TO WORDSWORTH

To fret behind those narrow walls
In idle hours in the land of blest,
To loom a life behind an endless wheel
Is not for me especially when I feel
The westward wind that calls
Me again with its joyful unrest.

Speak no more of happiness or bliss
Or contented hermits, maids, or nuns
For I am like the wind born free
To pass my song from tree to tree.
Your happy life more a prison is
As I still dream of distant suns.

I will lay down my loom and go
Wherever the blue sea leads
For I was born to create and discover
As Truth is both a liar and lover
As strain and struggle is all I know
In a life filled with endless needs.

The story ends when the last page turns
And what lies beyond we cannot know
But to drink some aged Aegean wine
Lost in some sacred, Sapphic shrine
With only this flame that burns
Is to triumph and celebrate Apollo.

Clinton Van Inman is a high school teacher in Hillsborough County, Florida. He graduated from San Diego State University and was born in Walton on Thames, England. His recent publications include Warwick Unbound, Tower Journal, The Poetry Magazine, Down in the Dirt, May, June, July, The Inquisition, The Journal, the New Writer, The Hudson Review, Essence and Houston Literary Review. He hopes to one day publish these poems in a book called, “One Last Beat,” as he considers himself one of the last few Beats standing.

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