Two Poems

If I Ran the Government: My Plan
To Rescue the Economy and Create Jobs             

I’d mandate that every child at birth
would be issued a triangle and drum,
a xylophone, maraca, and accordion;
a violin and Suzuki lessons at three,
and a piano in every living room for mom
and a sousaphone or sax for dad;
and for first grade, a recorder or flute

—which would require whole new college
departments and professors of Suzuki method
and band conducting and teachers of dance,
new factories for the making of musical
instruments and soundproofing rooms
and sound cancelling headphones,
new construction workers and architects
and engineers to build new band shells
and concert halls and dance floors
and folding chairs and barbecues,
a whole fashion industry focused on
band uniforms and tutus, flamenco dresses
and tap shoes, and orchestral commissions
for thousands of new works

—it would be a buildup second only
to our history of weaponry, fallout
a whole industry of export dulcimers
and luthiers, piano tuners and repairmen,
and dance music would ring out
on every street corner where walkers
could join in jigs and reels, clogging
and mazurkas, Cajun waltzes, solving
incidentally the obesity and loneliness
epidemics while a whole folkloric
research enterprise would spring up
recording the history and spread
of variant versions, and music camps
and festivals year round would pump
money into depressed pubs and Kansas
storefronts and New England hamlets

—and that’s just the start: add art,
and we’ll be talking global.


The Chaos Theorists Discuss Poetry   

I’m pinch-hitting with my new poetry book for the Chaos
speaker who fell sick and canceled last-minute, reading
the poems on canyonland canoeing, piling up eons stacked
in lines like layers of desert rock, and we’ve taken a break
for cookies and popcorn and regrouped for rainforest’s
vanishing species when hands wave and they ask,
aren’t you going to define poetry? Why don’t you rhyme,
don’t poems have to have a pattern? Like limericks,      
says one, want to hear the one about Budweiser?
No, I say to the limerick, yes to pattern, but rhymes
are passé, they’ve all been used—poems need surprise,
ear, eye, sense too. Hands shoot up all over the place.
Reading! the expert shouts, we read in big chunks,
no words or lines there; meter, how do you ever get it
if you don’t hear it out loud? Out loud it’s a dynamical
system, says Clint, evolving in time—surely we could
compute the Lyapunov exponent, to know if it were
surprising enough to be chaotic, and the fractal dimension
would tell us how unpredictably it evolved, and probably
people prefer a particular degree of uncertainty? I answer
it would be a good way to quantify the poetry wars
between those who favor clarity or obscurity. You
should do a study of that, they advise. I return to reading
a poem about a dog and a chimp. Surely, they say, dogs
are smarter than chimps because they can go where you
point them to—you should do a study of that! In desperation
I read the one about the evolution of sight in the hydra’s eye,
thank them for listening. As the crowd disperses the man
who came in late stops to ask So you weren’t the speaker
on social interactions in economic markets?

—Robin Chapman, Madison, WI