Theory & Oblivion
In The Writing Of Contemporary Poetry


Someone is down by the river
on his knees blessing the rocks
one by one. I was told
years ago that you needed to focus
to justify the flight of birds,
to translate the human spirit
as it flaps about, beautiful or lame.

I believe it might be old black
and white Charlie Chan-like Sunday
afternoon television when I was
thirteen, fourteen, fifteen-
yes, there he is squinting
patiently into this generic geology,
in search of the most important
clue of all, the clue that breaks the case.

Farther away, downstream and up
the bluff, old bums spit and roll
cigarettes behind the Quik Shop store
in the drizzle. They are good at it;
the ego soars skyward. All rivers
have been forgotten, though, as
the ancient highway out front
pulls faceless cars into town-
sending them cleanly out
the other end-all of it, the speed,
the motion, all accompanied
by the invisible swoop
of frantic wings.

Paul Benton