It is a difficult thing at seventeen
to read Poe and Stevenson and feel a certain connection
with them, knowing that recognition
was almost solely posthumous,
having spent all their lives pouring—
emptying—their very beings onto paper,
into masterpieces of life-containing language,
and then struggling with the hope
and ever-accompanying despair—
will this alter an existence?
One poet said the best measure
for good literature is whether we
live more intensely for the reading of it;
Poe and Stevenson spent
decades waking early,
wrestling with idea symbols
read left to right,
and then, eyes bloodshot,
crawling into an arctic bed, shivering.
Their whole lives long, they never knew
if the fervor they had squeezed from their own
would transfer to others’ or if it
would wash away
like windshield graffiti in a thunderstorm.
In suburban America I am told that I
still have six decades to look
to. I think that will perhaps be
a terrible trial, an artistic
eternity; to write even when no one
cares enough to love you like Greene
or to even to be as important as Orwell to
know you are hated.
The paper stretches blank
before me, beckoning my pen.
As if drafting a will, I worry that it will matter to none
until I die.