At the Writers Conference

Henri Coulette, 1927-1988

And now the questions come. Why do you write?

Using the present tense, I speak of love,

Serif and seraphim, feeling and thought.

They buy it as the body buys the grave.

But I am wrong. This perfect asterisk,

This classic hush, is shattered by a yawn,

And what they really want to know they ask.

They want to publish, for they perish soon.

So where? So how? They are like Herrick’s roses,

This caution who has heard the shadows sing,

This blade who carves up any form he chooses:

Petal and thorn, they yearn for gathering.

To be like this, bereft of title page,

Vanity without signature or spine --

Is that so bad? To rage a silent rage,

And never point a finger and say mine?

There is a burden, but it’s no refrain.

The question looks the answer in the eyes,

And looks away, and does not look again.

I nod and exit to their sweet applause.