I know I’ve read a really fine poem when both my head and heart respond. The first line of Al Starkey’s remarkable poem “What in the World” grabs me because the clouds are killing time. And when he then compares those clouds to yoked oxen, I’m all in. But it’s the last three lines, with their layers of resolve and hope and possibility, that make me cry. They are both moving and thoughtful. And they remind me that poetry is, as Robert Frost put it, “when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found its words.” A matter of both the head and the heart. In balance. As one.
What in the World
by Al Starkey
Creeping clouds once killed time on the horizon
Like yoked oxen, poised to plow into earth.
Now they’re here, stealing our bright-eyed skies
Darkening things, even the murders of crows
The black water ponds and the pall of despair.
They’ve taken to spitting hail the size of bullets
Hammering and hunching once broad shoulders
That don’t have an inkling for when it might end.
I cannot escape the sense, sewn with desire
That this head-scratching labyrinth of a life
Is but a dream with a strange story-line
A dream from which we will one day wake
Wondering what it all could have meant
As we ditch the creeping clouds of night
And step into the day of an untried world
Unplugged, clear-eyed, infant souls again.