Friday, October 6, 2017
"smoke on the platform" by John Reinhart
smoke on the platform
a pack of cigarettes lying to clouds
spelling it out: today is the battlefield
tell it to the mountains, raining down
everyday to clear the smoke spelling
messages secretly slipped from hand to pocket
downtown trains everyday arrive on time
carrying clouds of people, smoking
on the platform, breathing courage
time today, everyday, missteps, misspellings –
smoke ‘em out, dance for rain, rolling
off mountains, clouding the battle
it is a battle, everyday, to show
the mountains to the battlefield against
the wall, last cigarette smoldering
shadow – at noon, dreaming of trains
escaping to the mountains, above the clouds
& the smoke, people spelling today
Poet's Notes: I recently watched Guardians of the Galaxy. The greatest part about the movie for me is Groot. Of course, we're all meant to fall in love with the simple tree beast that saves everyone in the end--it's the classic fairy tale scenario--except that what makes Groot work is his linguistics. He says only "I am Groot," but the way he says it says everything he needs to say, which, granted isn't much because his pal is a fast talking raccoon.
Language is about context and body language as much as it is about the specific words. With relatively few words, we can communicate great volumes - sign language manages on concepts. As a wordsmith, and, though constrained by practicality, a wordy one at that, what if the ideas and words to work with in a poem were limited to a select few that could only be repeated or rearranged?
Editor's Note: Written language is all about symbols standing for words or ideas or concepts. It is stripped of body language and all but the most subtly crafted written work is practically stripped of tone. Written poetry, as opposed to poetry spoken or sung, is unique among the ways of conveying the written word in that white space may speak volumes, and enjambment of lines and arrangements of lines and stanzas may add many layers of additional meaning. Still, as an insightful life coach once taught me, the most important aspects of true communication are tone and body language. Your words are the last things that will be believed.