Smell and Envy

You nature poets think you’ve got it, hostaged
somewhere in Vermont or Oregon,
so it blooms and withers only for you,
so all you have to do is name it: primrose
– and now you’re writing poetry, and now
you ship it off to us, to smell and envy.

But we are made of newspaper and smoke
and we dunk your roses in vats of blue.
Birds don’t call, our pigeons play it close
to the vest. When the moon is full
we hear it in the sirens. The Pleiades
you could probably buy downtown. Gravity
is the receiver on the hook. Mortality
we smell on certain people as they pass.

– Douglas Goetsch

I came across this poem in a collection called Poetry 180, by Billy Collins, lent to me by Malvika.
It’s interesting in the discussion it sets off on poetry, natural beauty, and what relation it bears to your life. There’s something about city-life that is poetic – the unending hustle, the seething masses of humanity. You don’t need pretty flowers or lakes.
This reminds me of nothing so much as Carl Sandburg’s Chicago, which you can read here. There’s this defiant sense of energy, and a complete lack of apology for the city being what it is.
You can read a short bio of Goetsch here.
You can read a rather interesting article by him about teaching poetry to a group of young people here.

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