Erica Jong

(26 March 1942 / New York City)

The Poet As A Feeler Of Pain - Poem by Erica Jong

What makes a poet?

Many have tried to guess.
Is it a voice
like a conduit,
a plainspokenness to grief,
the hairs of the head
dancing on end,
the blood swarming
with the voices
of all those who have died,
will die,
& will also be born?

Is it a catch
in the throat
that awakens the eyes,
is it in the eyes themselves
or is it something
in the heart?

I think it is pain-
an openness to pain,
so that the least leaf
cuts the hand
& the smallest tear
cuts the cheek
like jagged crystal,

so that the world
is a sick infant
& the poet its mother,
praying, crooning, promising
to be good
if only the cure

There is, of course,
no cure.

Poetry does not cure
the poet
& the poet
does not cure the world.

Usually he catches
the world's diseases
& dies
even before his time.

But against all odds
& all indifference,
another one is born.
The world must have
someone to feel its pain
& speak of it.

The poet is that mouth.

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Poem Submitted: Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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