W. D. Ehrhart  

The Trouble with Poets

    So after I had read my poems,
the man who'd promised two hundred dollars
"payable the night of the Poetry Reading"
gave me this soft-shoe song-and-dance shuffle
about hard times in Poetryville and a guy
named Dwight who'd split for DC
on short notice— and the short of it was
I only got eighty-five bucks.

If you owe the bank two hundred dollars
and you only pay them eighty-five,
two guys in trench coats and dark glasses
come and take your car away.

But I'm not the bank,
and this was only a bar in South Philadelphia.

I was just about to go away angry
when a man at the bar called me over.
"Hey, listen, Mac," he said, "People get
messed with and short-changed and fucked over,
glad-handed, back-handed, brass-knuckled,
bludgeoned, bullied, beat up and knocked down
day in and day out all over the world.
That's life, Mac. That's the trouble
with poets: you guys refuse
to accept it."
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    Copyright © 1993 by W. D. Ehrhart
The Distance We Travel, Adastra Press, 1993
This poem currently appears in Thank You For Your Service: Collected Poems, McFarland & Company, 2019

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