Michael A. Griffith is working on his first chapbook and lives and teaches near Princeton, NJ.
Thy will be done
as our kingdom comes.
Who would dare trespass against us
with all our power and glory?
Led to temptation, forgive us
for we are bound for Heaven.
I hallow your name as you deliver me
from evil and give me a day’s bread.
Thy will be done,
as our kingdom comes.
as we forgive those who trespass against us
on this day,
in our kingdom,
with our power,
in our glory,
forever and ever,
Red heavy used textbook,
Contemporary American Poetry, Fourth Edition,
a reference and collection all-in-one.
I have owned it for some time now,
bought at some second-hand shop
or charity sale unremembered.
It is from 1985, from a year I may have owned it new.
I was a sophomore then; fresh, alert, attentive,
but this was never my textbook.
Now, this morning, I read through brief biographies:
Bishop, Brooks, O’Hara, Oliver,
then skim across pages of poems.
I stop at the picture of Galway Kinnell with a sloppy slim mustache dawn in,
then two pages stuck together by ketchup, gum, snot, or worse.
Across the poems of giants like Lowell, Plath, Roethke, and Sexton
are the tiny notes of a sophomore girl I could have known.
But she was never my friend.
I don’t know her now, of course, though we’d be the same age.
I read “Her Kind” knowing that while other things feel more important,
for one semester at least, the emotions of others were almost as interesting as her own.
Have I changed for you,
a better fit, a better fate?
Have you changed for me,
a bitter taste now an acquired one?
Do we absorb and expand
or retract and regroup?
Melting pot never quite hot enough,
never stirred in the right ways
for all spices to become flavors.
Dance and swirl, centrifuge of life
a song we only sense, never really hear,
never quite get those words out right.
Mix, stir, many-to-one
yet alone at day’s end
in skins our own unique shade.
Stripes, spots, splotches, clean as ivory and teeth
beautiful as any trophy and kept as pure
as the dance will allow.
Do I move to your rhythm
or do you come for my words?
Do I misshape you to my desire
or do you mold me to your will?