Four poems by American poet and essayist Alfred Corn, the author of 11 books of poems and two novels, under World Poetry/Prose Portfolio, curated by Sudeep Sen
That Mariner, the murderer of an albatross,
Called it a “hellish thing” to shoot an albatross.
We might have felt a weight, a hard-to-fathom loss
hung round our neck; but never killed an albatross.
Well-being? It depends in part on a stern boss,
The public. Which yells, You destroyed an albatross!
All this whining! We have all got some sort of cross
To bear, most of them heavier than an albatross.
Oh, it’s a concept, then, like Eros/Thanatos.
(Allegory can always use an Albatross.)
Polish the paradox till it acquires a gloss.
Disclaimers themselves prove you wear the albatross.
Alfred, enough. Just show them you don’t give a toss.
Your feather necklace is—two cheers—an albatross.
Young love, be done with loutish dramas.
Attention, kindness, skill: those are the cat’s pajamas.
Lucky, that’s what his friends say.
It’s still surprising, though he’s known
for a long time cows like him.
And why not, when he likes them back?
Look at his trefoil, his chalk-lined
green ID. A free pass, it will
get him into every future pasture.
The head’s not a true pink, no,
more like watered wine lees.
He’ll admit it, he was legless
Saturday night, sopping, really.
Threatened? By what?
The earth’s freshest expanse is his.
No wonder people show up with cameras.
Aftermath changes its name to Afternoon,
In permanence on Evering Road, a child
Who doesn’t quite yet think of it as home.
But local sunlight’s standard, twice confirmed
By branching shadows printed on tan brick
Or a sudden swordlike flash igniting
The double window of a terraced house
Where a laureate once lived, back then
Obscure, and with no inkling an upgrade
So strange as that would later on come knocking.
More occurs than you’d predict here, more
Occurrences than anyone could number.
And common facts convey their durable warmth
Just as dailiness stops being official
To meet you with a look of fellow-feeling
That almost, almost, registers as love —
Something like elevation, and all you need to know.
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