Joseph Brodsky on a Thursday morning

By Dwayne Betts

I wanted to say something about the importance of poetry, and then I thought a good poem speaks for itself. I've come to regret a lot of what I feel I missed out on in public school. I missed out on Brodsky, and what it means to memorize a poem, and walk around with those lines in my head. I think about hearing a student yesterday laughing at the skill level of Vanilla Ice, and then proceeding to chant the hook from memory. What if he knew this Brodsky piece, even just a few lines of it? Or if he could hear Brutus in his head, or Etheridge Knight. Whatever. I figured I wouldn't rightfully be a poet if I didn't put a poem up for you guys during my short time here. So enjoy Brodsky and his subtle rhymes.


May 24, 1980

by Joseph Brodsky

 

I have braved, for want of wild beasts, steel cages,

carved my term and nickname on bunks and rafters,

lived by the sea, flashed aces in an oasis,

dined with the-devil-knows-whom, in tails, on truffles.

From the height of a glacier I beheld half a world, the earthly

width. Twice have drowned, thrice let knives rake my nitty-gritty.

Quit the country that bore and nursed me.

Those who forgot me would make a city.

I have waded the steppes that saw yelling Huns in saddles,

worn the clothes nowadays back in fashion in every quarter,

planted rye, tarred the roofs of pigsties and stables,

guzzled everything save dry water.

I've admitted the sentries' third eye into my wet and foul

dreams. Munched the bread of exile; it's stale and warty.

Granted my lungs all sounds except the howl;

switched to a whisper. Now I am forty.

What should I say about my life? That it's long and abhors transparence.

Broken eggs make me grieve; the omelet, though, makes me vomit.

Yet until brown clay has been rammed down my larynx,

only gratitude will be gushing from it. 

This article available online at:

http://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2010/02/joseph-brodsky-on-a-thursday-morning/36155/