Adapted from the Latin & Greek by Brooke Clark
Bruno steals other people’s poems and presents them as his own.
I guess he figures what you steal, you own.
Missing the Point
Whenever you sit down to write, you aim not to offend;
you think that it is art’s role to defend
the voiceless, and create what you call a “discursive space”
where absolutely everyone feels safe,
and judged against your goal not to offend, your work succeeds.
No one’s offended by what no one reads.
Advice to an Aspiring Poet
You want to be called a poet, Marcus, and yet you write nothing.
You’re welcome to the title—just don’t start writing.
Mentem mortalia tangunt
I’d resolved to write a masterpiece that would win me instant fame
and make the ages echo with my name,
but, passing a graveyard, I recalled that all lives share one end.
I might as well go drinking with my friends.
You write bad verse all day, but won’t let anyone look at it.
You’re an idiot—and not an idiot.
A stranger eyed me up and then approached
as I was sitting in a small café
and said, “Aren’t you—aren’t you the guy who writes
those funny little poems?” I didn’t say
a word, just gave a nod and tried to act
as if this happened to me every day,
but then he followed with, “Man, you look shabby.”
I stiffened slightly; “Funny poems don’t pay.”
“Guess not,” he said, and with a little grin
that turned into a smirk, he walked away.
My soul is dressed in glory, like Cyrano’s,
but still, it might be time for some new clothes.
A Lucky Break at Open Mic Night
Marcus, you say a cough has left your broken voice no use.
Don’t read your poems then—we accept your excuse.
An Atheist Turns to Prayer
Brevity comes easily, I’ve found, to anyone
who wins a poetry prize; they say, “I won,”
and nothing more. But ask the losers: they will have discovered
the winner’s best friend—or maybe her lover—
was on the judging panel, or claim they’re being punished for
a negative review from years before—
but then, posterity ignores what’s popular today,
and who cares about prizes anyway?
I understand that, when you lose, complaining brings relief,
but, god of prizes, let my words be brief.
Math for Poets
“I read your poems,” says Bruno. “I thought half of them were bad.”
If the other half were good, that’s not half-bad.
BROOKE CLARK is a contributing editor for Partisan and edits an epigrams website and writes about references to Canada in books by non-Canadians. His poetry has appeared in journals in Canada and the U.S., including Arion, Literary Imagination, The Rotary Dial, Able Muse, and Light. Read more of his Partisan work here.