To a nightingale.
TO A NIGHTINGALE Anonymous as elephant dung trampled in the straw of the menagerie beside the Ringling Brothers Barnum & Bailey Circus tent, then smeared on my new shoe when I was four-- anonymous, this unsigned envelope in my department mailbox I rip open to reveal: YOU ARE A BAD POET And a fat apple in an array of fonts, like a cut-out ransom note aimed at retaliation. Assertive assonance aside, I know damned well this sprang full-formed from the bristled brain of Mister Oglesby! whose refusal to revise, on principle, refusal to amend in any way, the unpremeditated pourings forth of his seeming bird-song soul in such an ecstasy, fanned the forked and frothy flames of friction in recent class discussions. Oh Mister Oglesby! This brief epistle here-- so unlike your odd, obscurant and, no doubt, hallucinogenic scrawled ejaculations dumped forth upon some darkling plain during the tender midnight of two days ago, then trundled up and hauled to class on yestereve-- concerning this raw missive, Senor Oglesby!--destroyer of worlds--allow me to quick-cut here to repartee-- Bird thou never wert! nor will ever be-- and what artistic excretions of le monde you might have dreamt exuding from your so-called mind are fled forever through that rusty back screen door, retreating fast down a twilit, bent, and scraggly path to dwell, submerged out there somewhere, buried now, deep within the dried-up innards of some storm-swept and gray, splintered, unremembered shithouse.
Leon Stokesbury teaches in the writing programs at Georgia State University in Atlanta. His first book, Often in Different Landscapes, was a co-winner of the first AWP Poetry Competition. His last book, Autumn Rhythm, was awarded The Poets' Prize. His You Are Here: Poems New & Old will be published next year by the University of Arkansas Press.