Please Hold Your Answers
“…the answer to the future will be in knowing how
to ask the right questions.” –Quentin Hardy
Answers are finished, washed up.
Once the noble deep-sea creatures
who fought until you reeled them in,
now they flop like beached alewives
expiring in the sand and seaweed.
You—did you spend your capital chasing
schools of teasing, thrashing answers,
filling your nets and holds, steaming forth,
unaware that the spoils go to those
with questions, not answers; to those
who ask, Are we asking the right questions?
and other such admired interrogatives?
We stay afloat on whys, a gratuitous
“excellent question!” like a safety vest;
and as for you, weighing us down
with answers, answer, answers,
overboard you go in your cement-shoes!
A corporate suit hooks jacket over shoulder,
marches to a window, turns theatrically
and asks, What message are we sending?
in such a way that boardroom fannies shift
on swivel chairs to stir up yet another question
like morays rooting in the turbid shallows.
Meaning of a Dish Sponge
Your dish sponge—floral-scented,
spanking new, but oh how quickly
it will age from the moment you free it
of its cello-wrap and turn it over,
one side soft and baby blue
the other tough as calloused fists.
How it swigs the suds! Slides like
a lover over porcelain. See it slaughter
the cowering grease!
But soon—so soon—the breakdown;
baby blue goes brown and gnarly;
pots and pans that couldn’t last
one round with Tough Side
easily shred its spavined body; and
finally the stink—Old-Sponge smell
from this simulacrum of its youthful self,
to remind us of our own mortality.
Oh—sorry; but had you never sussed this
meaning? In all the nights you bent your
bones over the sink, hands already shaking
as you squeezed and felt the tears flow?
Outgoing Voicemail from My Ex-Muse
If this is you calling I have to tell you
I’ll be out of town a few weeks
to visit an old friend of mine who
well I won’t lie to you it’s a new friend
who’s been invoking me at a time
when I need the kind of invocation
you once composed to summon me.
Hopeless were your verses, but not
your supplications, all those O‘s
to me so sweet so yearning,
we had a beautiful thing until you
cheapened it with half-heartedness—
no more O Divinely Gifted One
barely an O practically a Hey You.
Perhaps one day that tin ear
of yours will sense the difference
between lute and second fiddle—
which this muse does not play.
Yet I admit
I can’t help wondering where
those pretty Os are going now
now that anyone can see you’ve
been invoking someone else
and probably that imposturing tramp
judging by the even more godawful
crap you call inspired.
Better known for his prose works, including two Book-ofthe-Month Club selections, Arthur Plotnik is a late-emerging poet who has appeared in Brilliant Corners, Rosebud, Harpur Palate, THEMA, Comstock Review, The Cape Rock, Glass, Edify, Off the Coast, Kindred, and several more literary publications. Formerly editorial director at the American Library Association, he was a runner up for the William Stafford Award and a finalist in other national competitions. He lives with his wife in Chicago.