Listening and Other Poems


Once I heard a poet talk about the friend
to whom John Keats first read “Ode to Autumn.”
That would be the greatest human experience,
he said, to have been the one to hear it.

I couldn’t help but think then—not about poetry,
but of the lives I once listened to,
stories that had never before been spoken:
children choking on flesh forced
into their throats . . . children left veined
with terror . . .

Those words had been capped and sealed in their bodies,
jar after jar lined up in the cellar.
Or, thinking of Keats, maybe I could dare
to say the words were like wine, because
sometimes the telling was exquisite—not
pleasure, of course. Nothing like that.
But maybe you have tasted the lucid
breath of such unburdening,
maybe you can understand the trance
of this much trust.
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