I know you can really stink up a poem
by making it too long,
or you administer a little jesus,
too many metaphors
or descriptions of your yard party
shoot songbirds in the garden.
You can stink up a poem good
if you talk about how
you wrote it,
where you were, how many drugs you had
in your system,
or how dirty your fingernails
or your sheets were.
A poem has to jell. It has to steep
before you let it out into the world.
If it’s too cold
to go out by itself,
Let it stew
before you take up the mic or send it off
to some rag
run by a clique
of English students
or a trio of retired teachers putting it together
on card tables in the den
or the room over the garage.
The last time I read this poem
I watched it slink off the podium,
skitter round the counter
and slip out the door to the parking lot
and eyes on the ground.
I saw it perched on a low bush
as I walked home. Its eyes burning
with shame, looking away as I hurried by.