God Bless Ed Skoog

By John Popielaski


And all the creatures that jug-band in the shade
have to find a new shade to hide in at dawn.
–Ed Skoog, “Canzoniere of Late July”


I’ll address the epigraph directly,

but I should confess I wasn’t blown away

by Ed Skoog’s ten-page poem that contained it,

a deflation of the spirit by the time I reached

the fourth page, set like all the others in Sabon, a font

designed by Jan Tschichold in 1964.

Confession two: I stinkeye anyone

for whom a page or two is not enough to flesh

a poem out in this initialed, acronymic age.

I LOL at you Americans who use Italian forms

(except the sonnet) and, in laughing, need

to know what country made your cars

before I go ballistic at your readings,

screaming, “Where is your allegiance? Whence your capital!”

But I’ve been drinking, and I’ve wandered

from the narrow path, the straight way

by which we may skip still toward salvation.

The world is wide, I know, so let me show you

how two lines from Ed can spin a person

prone to error in a promising direction.

Reading Mister Skylight by a fire dying

to be fed, I wondered why so many books I read

did not deliver what they advertised.

Was something seriously wrong with me?

Was there a dumbing going down?

The hooded monks I’ve pictured hunched, inscribing

in my brain whatever I have read have been

the victims of a genocide since I began

the drinking as a boy. How many could be left?

What powers could they have to render what’s been read

retained? I worried that way, but I brightened

when I read the two lines I’ve included

as an epigraph, brightened despite the fact

that what they mean is we, the people, when we need

an oak tree to become a door, will harden,

bluster, “Stub the inchworms, spray the lady bugs,

and crush the jug bands of the world! We need

a door!” I spent the waning evening, book closed,

with the magnifying glass I use to read

my compact OED and spared the wakened woodlice

from the fire, watched them scurry from my mercy

as I did my version of the downward-facing dog.

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