Once upon a time there was an irrate participant on Slate's now-defunct Poems Said discusser was apparently disgusted with poetry editor Robert Pinsky's weekly selections of featured poet and let the readership know his displeasure with a post titled provocatively “Bring me the head of Robert Pinsky”. This brought a smile to my face, less for the sentiment than the paraphrase of a little known Sam Peckinpah western Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia.I would just assume to allow Robert Pinsky to keep his head, since I have no need for it, nor have the room in my freezer to store the severed dome. I can't help but think of the cartoon show Futurama where 20th Century celebrities and politicians kept alive as talking heads only, perfectly sane and full of their trade marked quirks, although they live in life-sustaining jars. Might we imagine if Pinsky had been one of those preserved, decapitated heads, continuing his celebrity shtick as he promotes poetry to the remaining half dozen readers in the 26th century? Depressing to think about, I guess, even after a guilty laugh after the grisly fantasy. Better to allow the former US Poet Laureate to literally to keep his head and wonder instead why he loses it figuratively over poems that couldn't raise a belch from the most sodden of open reading attendees. Hmmm, still too grisly. Maybe a cliché is more fitting: "why does Pinsky flip his lid over poems that are duller than a pig farmer's shoe shine." Better? Good. My apologies to pig farmers, though; you are not the ones who lay these tinker toy poems at our collective doorstep.
One way or another, we must all leave
I said to a room, a room empty of people,
save for me. There were two doors to the room,
ample avenues of departure. A small town.
A family. A faith. A marriage. A career.
The dailiness of days' work done for years.
We are leaving even as we speak I said to no one
in the room with me. To whom did I speak?
To ones already left, though left can mean
both to remain and to depart? Dearly departed
you remain here with me in this empty room,
room enough for you, empty in my aching thought.
Leavings are that scatter, those remaining remnants,
our language littered with what can't be gotten rid of,
our thoughts, our bodies ghosted, the leavings remaining.
Who the narrator is talking to is the reader, not the person or persons gone from the room he finds himself within, and this is the problem, I think, since I haven't been able to shake the feeling that Chitwood is rehearsing what he considers his best lines, lining them up with just enough of an arc to make these stanzas thematically consistent and leaves it all there, not so much impenetrable as it is unfinished. This is the kind of writing lesser, Language School inspired , usually undergraduate poets do, teasing a readership with the lure of autobiography and serving them a half-baked piece of poststructurualist ambiguity instead. One may, if they wish, dwell on the purpose for the lack of details beyond the taciturn murmurings Chitwood, but that, I think, would be an activity that would be more interesting and illuminating than the poem one was trying to explicate.