PoetryDispatch No. 346 | May 2, 2011
Poetry Workshop Held in a
Former Cigar Factory in Key West
After our final class, when we disbanded
as the cigar rollers here had disbanded decades ago,
getting up from their benches for the last time
as the man who read to them during their shift
closed his book without marking the page where he left off,
I complimented myself on my restraint.
For never in that sunny white building
did I draw an analogy between cigar-making and poetry.
Not even after I had studied the display case
containing the bladed chaveta, the ring gauge,
and the hand guillotine with its measuring rule
did I suggest that the cigar might be a model for the poem.
Nor did I ever cite the exemplary industry
of those anonymous rollers and cutters—
the best producing 300 cigars in a day
compared to 3 flawless poems in a lifetime if you’re lucky–
who worked the broad leaves of tobacco
into cylinders ready to be held lightly in the hand.
Not once did I imply that tightly rolling an intuition
into a perfectly shaped, handmade thing.
might encourage a reader to remove the brightly colored
encircling band and slip it over her finger
and take the poet as her spouse in a sudden puff of smoke.
No, I kept all of that to myself, until now.
[from HOROSCOPES FOR THE DEAD, Random House, 2011, $24]