Poetry

by
Alicia Ostriker

 Daffodils

                        Ten thousand saw I at a glance
                        Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.
                                                William Wordsworth

                        Going into hell so many times tears it
                        Which explains poetry.
                                                Jack Spicer

                                 *    *    *

The day the war against Iraq begins
I'm photographing the golden daffodils
With their outstretched arms and ruffled cups
Blowing in the wind of Jesus Green

Edging the lush grassy moving river
Along with the swans and ducks
Under a soft March Cambridge sky
Beautifying the earth like a hand

Starting to illustrate a children's book
Where humans come out to play
To act out the journey of new life
With their lovers, animals, and children 

As they've always done in the peaceful springs,
And this is also hell, myself am hell, because
The daffodils do look as if they dance
And make some of us in the park want to dance 

And breathe deeply and I know that
Being able to eat and incorporate beauty like this
I am privileged and by that token
Taste pain, roll it on my tongue, its good 

The cruel wars are good the stupidity is good
The primates hiding in their caves are very good
They do their best, which explains poetry.
What explains poetry is that life is hard 

But better than the alternatives,
The no and the nothing. Consider light
And color, a splash of brilliant yellow
Punctuating a bright green text, white swans 

And brown ducks floating quietly along
Whole and alive, like an untorn language
That lacks nothing, that excludes
Nothing. Period.  Don't you think 

It is our business to defend it
Even the day our masters start a war?
To defend the day we see the daffodils?

 

Alicia Ostriker has published 11 books of poetry,
most recently The Volcano Sequence (2002). She
likes to quarrel with God, and with the world as it is.
Her most recent prose book is Dancing At the Devil's
Party: On Poetry, Politics and The Erotic (2000). She teaches English and Creative Writing at Rutgers
University.