W. D. Ehrhart  

The Poet as Athlete

for Lou
    One look at him induces adjectives:
gargantuan, Brobdingnagian, humongous;
what manatees might look like
if they put on clothes. Somewhere under
all that vast expanse like open ocean
must be something solid, but no imagination
could be vast enough to conjure even
flaccid muscles, bones like coral atolls
in that briny, rolling sea.

Against the tide of gravity, he struggles
to the podium like someone swimming,
takes a drink of water, and begins:
a poem about the powerful intoxication
of his first car, a poem about
the expectation of a first teenaged love,
a poem about a son he doesn't have.

Surely he must know what we are thinking.
Surely he must swim through every day
against a tide of gravity and ridicule,
but in a sure voice steady as the tides,
he draws us to the heart
of what we share.

Not one word about his own affliction.
Consider poetry, how good poems
offer us the world with eyes renewed.
Now see the swimmer I am watching:
all discipline, all muscle, lean and hard.
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    Copyright © 1990 by W. D. Ehrhart
Just for Laughs, Vietnam Generation & Burning Cities Press, 1990
This poem currently appears in Thank You For Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, 2019
Copyright © 2011 - W. D. Ehrhart - homepage
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