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by David Messineo

So many poems pull down,
almost as if art's purpose
is depression. In 1985,
I paid twenty-five bucks,
saw Kathy Bates
kill herself onstage
in 'Night, Mother.
Now, as Dolores Claiborne,
she kills everyone else
for seven-fifty,
art reach out to the masses.

When we write for catharsis,
almost always achieve emotion,
sometimes achieve art.
When we read poetry onstage,
we share, teach, enlighten,
open ourselves to public scrutiny,
move or manipulate to emotion,
spur conversation, sometimes wary
about what kind.

A kiss. Her husband
does the doorway greeting routine:
"How was your night out?"
"So many young people,
so much depressing poetry!
Date rape! Loneliness!
Gay bashing! Abortion!
Whatever happened to
the flowers, the trees, the sky?"
She hangs her coat up,
shakes her head:
"I can't honestly say
I had a great time..."

Art builds, art connects,
art succeeds, art fails,
art doesn't always entertain,
art does not apologize
for its actions. At best,
art challenges, provokes,
stings like a hornet,
sweetens like orchids,

tastes like fine wine,
offers a verbal back massage,
supporting arm around shoulder,
extended hand for uplift.
Art is not Pollyanna;
art is not polyester,
art does not apologize
for its actions,
art does repeat itself
on occasion, but shouldn't
repel its audience.
That would defeat
its own purpose.

Art is many things
to many people,
but for every downturn,
art owes some uplift.
Some poems do pull up
as we roll down life's river.
Remember art
is always a party.

From behind white painted planks
raucous ragtime
rises between rafters
his slender fingers
on the piano
provide uplift
and I am set to party

I watch you wave from the dock.
I lean against the oak railing,
yell down to you,
"Jump! You can make it!"
You hesitate; after all,
these paddlewheelers are of wood,
and you don't like to be burned.
I see the big wheel keep on turning
as we begin to pull away.
It's half the party without you.
We just wave goodbye.

Savages shoot sharpened arrows.
As we gallop at top speed,
I see them closing in,
see your horse slow down, shout
"Give up!
I'll bring my horse aside yours.
Grab my hand. I'll pull you up."
You hold back, fear the jump.
I reach out as your horse is downed.

Brief blasts of black smoke
emanate from the engine.
From the Pullman dining car,
I view the crystal stemware,
red velvet, fine china,
shout to you, "Come on board!
They're uncorking a new wine!
It's not too late!"
All is wild abandon, the collision
of conversation, laughter, music,
the collusion of individuals
into a cohesive whole.
"Hurry! We're picking up speed!"
I see the wheels begins to turn
as you think of obligations,
commitments to others,
settle for known comforts
over unknown excitement.
"Give up!" I shout,
as you begin the run.
Fingertips reach, almost connect,
but I'll be back.
I see there'll be a next time.

I have travelled through centuries.
I am art. I am music.
I am friendship. I am romance.
I am connection. I am humanity.
We are family.
We are our own religion.
We welcome others to us.

For the thousands of missed chances,
lost opportunities that
litter our highways,
line our boulevards of broken dreams,
for all the calls never made,
letters never sent,
one thing stands clear:
it is not a license
to stop trying!
Write the letter! Make the call!
Take the gamble! Extend the invitation!
Why reduce the odds of
allowing yourself a great time?

In the 21st century
Quick bursts of fire
lift the hot air balloon.
"You can still make it!"
I shout, my waist
bent into the basket,
both arms extended.
Our eyes catch,
we smile.
In five seconds,
I have both your hands.

And we're lifting to the heavens,
pouring the wine,
riding to sunset,
and we're rolling, rolling,
rolling on the river ...

from the book Restoration
(c) 2002 David Messineo
All rights reserved by the author.

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