Photo taken from the back of a canoe of the bow. A dock is to the left and a tree lined river and blue sky are ahead and to the right.

Poem About A Boat

By Tim W. Shenk

Qué tipo de adjetivos
Se deben usar para hacer
El poema de un barco
Sin que se haga sentimental
Fuera de la vanguardia o
Evidente panfleto

Silvio Rodriguez, “Playa Girón”

How do you write poetry at a time when nothing is a metaphor
When eviction is not a reference to being expelled from Eden?
When closing a hospital and remodeling it as luxury condos
is not some fictional cleverness to satirize the heartlessness of the rich?

I have always loved the tiny fissures seeds find to sprout and grow.
A crack in the asphalt, a toehold on a rock wall.
I must have dozens of photographs of this quiet defiance.
I have wanted to believe in the irrepressibility of nature, the inevitability of revolution.

Revolution is such a big word that it can stick to the inside of your mouth.
I was going to say, like peanut butter, because the other day my young daughter
took too big a bite of peanut butter, and her eyes grew wide as she slowly
worked her tongue around it, swallowing, making faces, swallowing again.

I know I just said that these days, nothing is a metaphor.
And yet revolution, with all of its fists and fire, requires an image.
How can you know the full brilliance of the sun?
You need a shield, a hand in front of your face.

The art of the revolution shouldn’t always scald or sear.
It is perhaps most remarkable when it is most mundane.
Could you paint 7.9 billion people having breakfast?

Comrade poets –  I’m paraphrasing Silvio –
taking into account the latest in poetry, I’d like to ask (it’s urgent), 
what kinds of adjectives should be used to write a poem about a boat, 
without becoming sentimental, without making it into vanguardist propaganda?
It was an honest question. He didn’t want to steer you directly into the sun.

The poem about a boat, in this case, was not about a boat.
It was about armed men and women with short childhoods in the mountains,
meeting old people who had never met a doctor. The campesinos lined up
to be looked over by a bearded Argentine with sharp eyes and tender hands.

Today a doctor lives in every neighborhood.
Today this doctor in this neighborhood cradles a newborn.
She cradled the baby’s mama like this once.
A neighbor comes to the door with tiny cups of coffee.
Find me a better image than that.

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