In Issue 10 of The Navigator we invited readers to submit their poems for a chance to see Shane Koyczan perform at The Port Theatre on March 25. This is one of two winning submissions. Click here to read the other.
By philip gordon
for breakfast this morning i had abstract cheesecake.
don’t just skim over that line; stop for a second.
think about it.
what would abstract cheesecake look like?
does it mean abstract like jackson pollock?
or abstract like the way someone on their cell phone isn’t really paying attention to the person making their sandwich at subway?
a good trick for poetry is you can tell people to think about something and they’ll have to think about it.
even if they try really hard not to.
butterflies, you could say. autumn sunsets. maybe one of their parents died, or something.
(if they did, sorry).
you can even make them think about how words fit together kind of like colours in a big spinning wheel. the way the last syllable in “butterflies” kind of rhymes with “died” (and with “rhymes,” sort of).
that is to say that poetry is the act of making people think about things.
why do we have bigger words for it than that?
why do we stop on a street-corner where someone has written the words “be love” and imagine that what we’re reading is anything other than poetry?
the cool thing about poetry is that it comes out of you sometimes like dr pepper out of a recently shaken two-litre bottle.
at this point in the poem there’s a possibility you’re getting bored.
you might be wondering when the poem will end.
if the poem is in a book, you might be looking at the bottom of the page to see if it ends there.
you might have given up and be preparing to throw the book away.
if you’re listening to someone read the poem, you might be falling asleep, or thinking about other things, like your dog, or having sex with one of your teachers from high school.
i would say that those things are poetry too but it’s harder to explain why.
maybe you picked this poem up in a book at your local bookstore, or in a pile of used books that are covered in dust and bright orange price stickers, or on the side of the road where it was left by someone who was experiencing life too quickly to stop and think about butterflies. maybe you will read this poem and it will intrigue you enough to read the poems next to it.
if that’s true, i’ll feel like i’ve wasted my chance to say something meaningful.
by this point i’m ramping up the anticipation for the last line of the poem so much that i have no idea what could possibly be enough of a revelation to write down.
if i say something deliberately vague, people might mistake what i write for genius, and i will win fans and influence academic literary circles and maybe win an award.
if i say something simple or banal, i will be obviously trying to circumvent the demand to be insightful, and people who have a string of counter-culture in them and listened to the punk music when they were young will possibly like my poem.
i may be asked to read this poem at a big ceremony where the validity of my creative work is recognized.
this could be the poem that catapults me to stratospheric levels of acclaim.
i’m running out of steam.
i’d better think of something to end the poem with.
two days ago i went to victoria with my mom and we went to the museum and learned about vikings and then we went to the bug zoo and bought a t-shirt that said “save the bugs” and a lollipop with a scorpion in it and then we went book shopping and had dinner at a place called “fatburger” and drove back to nanaimo in the dark and talked about how the rain hitting the pavement in pure darkness was more gentle than at dusk or any other time and eventually we got home and i got out of the big truck my mom drives (which is a dodge ram which she has always wanted) and hugged her for a really long time and she said bye i love you and i said i love you too drive safe and then she drove away and i think that’s poetry too.