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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.

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Author:Stokesbury, Leon
Publication:River Styx
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2015
Words:297
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