Today’s prompt asks us to “write a poem about a very small thing. Whether it’s an atom, a button, a hummingbird’s egg, dollhouse furniture, or the mythical world’s smallest violin, I hope you enjoy your poetic adventures into the microscopic.” (Full NaPoWriMo post available here.)
Like yesterday, I picked an abstract concept and tried to make it concrete. This quote from Jorge Luis Borges served as inspiration: “A book is a set of dead symbols. And then, the right reader comes along and the words—or rather the poetry behind the words—spring into life and we have a resurrection of the word.” A few years back, I wrote another poem during NaPoWriMo 2018 (based on this prompt) that owes its existence to the same quote. The image of the resurrection of the word will keep haunting me as long as I live.
The World’s Smallest Joy
You’ve arrived at an old truth today: read
and you shall be given. Knock
on the door of a book and it will open.
This tends to happen at inopportune times.
On the bus. In a dentist’s office.
In a park somewhere in a foreign city.
You read dormant words
and they awaken inside you, like Lazarus
raised from the dead.
Lo and behold, you’re alive,
kept upright by a book’s spinal column.
Lo and behold, it’s become dangerous
to operate the heavy machinery
of your body.
Forget your next stop. Deal
with your toothache one more day.
Wait in the park until
the familiar moon comes to claim you.
Leave the body alone— it’s only high on words.
Let it sleep off euphoria,
which erupts out of nowhere
and is certain to go the way of all flames.
If you must extinguish it early, try grief.
Any kind or quantity will do.
Simply pour it over the embers and listen
for that amphibian hiss.
It’s the world’s smallest joy,
jumping from one smoldering log
to another, its diligent tail
sweeping away any trace of its passage.
Yours for a moment, then gone. You don’t know
what you did to deserve it,
but its absence surely makes sense.
When—despite your best efforts—joy
means to stay, back off slowly.
Try to appear smaller than joy, larger
Try to blend in with the universe, which is made
of endless blades of grass.
Venomous joy adores the juicy green.
If it mistakes you for grass, I’m afraid it’s too late.
Relinquish your grief, for once. Let joy
sink its teeth in.