On Reading the Masters

Sometimes when I read the great poets—
the ones I think are great, that is, my own
anthology of heroes—
the lines and spaces around me become brighter, sharper.
I see the dragonfly beating its wings against
my window and I speak to it with soft affection,
cup it in my palm and admire its shimmering weightlessness,
feel weightless myself–
this because I have been reading the poets
and I feel tentatively that I am one of them,
me and my brief encounter with delicate wildness.
But other days I read the great ones
and I sink through admiration, down to envy,
to resentment, to the swamp floor of despair.
Because who can ever hope to add to all that genius?
How can my attempt at naming the truths of this planet
add anything to the world already written?
Yet each morning, I reach again for the stark stanzas,
wonder if I will float or sink,
willing to risk either for the slippery feel of
a poet’s brilliance, for a chance to swim in this wide water.

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