If Ezra Pound couldn’t make it cohere
who am I, small-voiced, half-blind, to interfere
with what people like to do to each other?
Why try to make sense of lunatic aggressions,
knives in the sweetest backs, corkscrew passions
in Götterdämmerung’s cork, and poetry that no matter
How many knots in feeling it loosens, teaches nothing
but part-time transcendence, or godlike phrases any worldling
can mouth? Ezra famously fell for Mussolini
despite discipleship to Dante and Sextus Propertius
and others who are sacred to love.
Was Plato right, saying poetry leads us
into unguardianlike, dime-a-dozen passions that can
grind Achilles in the dust? But Plato, some say, was a bit
of a fascist himself, eager to make mankind fit
procrustean forms. That woman on the street
in her high heeled slippers, a tattooed dragon
curled round her ankle, a lotus pattern blossoming on
her shimmering dress, the top like a rhyme against her breasts,
her large eyes fixed far off on some complex concern—
all the men she passes feel their leaping minds caught,
pulled out of time, stopped like clocks: She could set
them to any hour she chooses with a single word.
That’s what poetry can do: give its passing impetus to the herd.
Michael Collins is the author of The Traveling Queen: Selected Poems of Michael Collins (Sheep Meadow Press 2013) and Understanding Etheridge Knight (University of South Carolina Press 2012). He has published poems, critical articles, reviews, and interviews in Angles of Ascent: A Norton Anthology of Contemporary African American Literature, The Best American Poetry 2003, Michigan Quarterly Review, Parnassus: Poetry in Review, The Norton Anthology of African American Literature, The Oxford Companion to African American Literature, Salamander, PMLA, Callaloo, and in other periodicals and books. He is an Associate Professor of English at Texas A&M University in College Station.