When you market your poems, you’re often as surprised by the ones editors don’t select as the ones they do.
“Really?” you say, when they select “A” from the bundle of five you submitted instead of, say, “C” or “D,” which you liked better.
Then, when a publisher accepts your collection, the clock starts ticking and time works against you. A point is reached where you can no longer market the remaining poems that did not win a spot in poetry journals and thus, the Acknowledgments page.
Orphans, you can call them. But sometimes poets hold a special place in their hearts for some of these orphans — the guys that were rejected more than once by editors who just didn’t see the poem as a “fit.” (Editors love that word, though it gives writers fits.)
One longish (for me) poem I was always partial to is “The Physics of Aging,” found in my rookie effort, The Indifferent World. I like how it’s divided into three parts that seem different yet share a thread. I like how it gets high on alliteration, especially the first part’s “…mortality stumbles on / starlight, slows like satellite / parabolas raking the soft black / silt of a summer night.”
Of course, as any experienced poet will tell you, coming up with a great phrase like “raking the soft black silk of a summer night” does not a poem make. It’s like doing a great hundred yard dash in a 5-mile race. You’ve still got work to do, kiddo.
Anyway, it was fun. And I still have fond memories of writing it. And I still enjoy rereading it. What else can a poet ask of his own stuff?
The Physics of Aging
I. Einstein Says
In space, aging trips against air
so thin it’s unseen; the march
to mortality stumbles on
starlight, slows like satellite
parabolas raking the soft black
silt of a summer night; in this
empty silence, Einstein says,
age gets silently sucked
into vacuums of immensity,
of immortality. Time
slows. God yields.
II. Story of the Star Sailor
Time jammed on noon Eastern
Standard, the astronaut peered
through his bubble helmet, swiped
a fat, clumsy glove at some
celestial smudge that turned out
to be inside the polycarbonate.
Squinting scientifically, he verified
that Ponce de León,
Conquistador of Death, got
as far as the Pleiades in his age-
old quest. Said star
sailor felt for the reassurance
of his vent pad—carafes of cupped
oxygen from Cape Canaveral—
then sipped of time, borrowed
and decanted. No moments later,
he transmitted coordinates
to Houston: “Spanish flag
floating beside Taurus, over.”
The astronaut waved
his immense hand at the blue planet
below. With youthful indiscretion,
he coined his upcoming
reentry “the second coming.”
III. Dust to Dust
Here I humbly shave
before a thinner space,
the thrift of a mirror.
Its silver truths shift
in hydrogen clouds. Swirling
a bath towel, I observe
the distant whorls of me, white
stubble hidden in nebula
of steam and Barbasol. Within
to mankind, the second coming
will shred Einstein’s
sky, bleeding the blue
days upon us.
“The Physics of Aging” © Ken Craft, The Indifferent World, FutureCycle Press, 2016