Glowing River: New and Selected Poems, and The Memory of Water
(which appeared after he died).
I recently reread the poem below and laughed out loud even though I was sitting in a coffee shop and others turned toward me to see what was so funny. Somehow, such a moment seemed perfect for what happens in a Jack Myers poem.
For one thing, I admire how he brings together the awkward, the serious, and the comic while simultaneously finding a way to create a connection between himself and others. Such humanity is what I find refreshing in his poems. He can make me laugh while, underneath, nudging me toward recognizing the “mysterious and useless” and the daily intersections between the plainspoken and the poetic.
Read the poem below and then leap into one of your own—one where you explore your essential nature within the context of interactions with other people. Think of people who cross your path. In the way that Myers portrays the woman who “pipes up she’s four-foot-ten and is going to sue/whoever made these seats,” reveal the world through which you travel.
Within the context of this world, of what are you “reminded”? Speak of the “one small thing” you’ve learned in your own life.
When the man in the window seat
flying next to me
asks me who I am
and I tell him I’m a poet,
he turns embarrassed toward the sun.
The woman on the other side of me
pipes up she’s four-foot-ten and is going to sue
whoever made these seats.
And so it is I’m reminded how I wish I were
one of the aesthetes
floating down double-lit canals
of quiet listening, the ones
who come to know something as
mysterious and useless
as when a tree has decided to sleep.
You would think for them
pain lights up the edges of everything,
burns right through the center of every leaf,
but I’ve seen them strolling around,
their faces glistening with the sort of peace
only sleep can polish babies with.
And so when a waitress in San Antonio
asks me what I do, and I think
how the one small thing I’ve learned
seems more complex the more I think of it,
how the joys of it have overpowered me
long after I don’t understand,
I tell her “Corned beef on rye, a side of salad,
hold the pickle, I’m a poet,” and she stops to talk
about her little son who, she says, can hurt himself
even when he’s sitting still. I tell her
there’s a poem in that, and she repeats
“Hold the pickle, I’m a poet,”
then looks at me and says, “I know.”