Private obsession – a poem by Melaney Poli

Private obsession

for Michael

Nobody ever asks why I write. They seem to know,
or at least assume. But art leaves me full of excuses.
Is truth the best ruse? I wonder if I should disclose

what goes on—or keep the trade secrets stumm? 
Would I be believed if I admit, “I throw it a few
sentences to keep it quiet, save my skin. So 

the neighbours won’t hear. It leaves me alone 
as long as I feed it.” Or spin, “Translation’s 
a hard work, mining everything. There is no 

language for saying what you do not know.”
No, truth’s the best muse. Better just to confess:
“I am a hunter-gatherer. Every line is a lantern.

Take some paragraphs—my daily bread. Carrots. So 
I can see, have something to eat. A poem is a booth,
gives shelter, thorns. Music forms a scaffolding

to coax me across the impossible. This is a story
I am telling you. See how I scale a morning,
draw down the other side. When night comes

I mark it with blazes. It doesn’t have to be nice, only
make light of risk. I will pick up the pieces, stitch, show
you why nothing can destroy me. Not even this.”

Melaney Poli is an artist, writer, and Episcopalian nun. She is the author of the accidental book of poems You Teach Me Light: Slightly Dangerous Poems and an accidental novel, Playing a Part.

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