Why is it saidthat “poetry is the conscience of the world?” A big statement but the poet is the social critic , the stand-up comedian, the news anchor who describes the world; and is our culture bearer. Since poetry has no commercial value, no stall in the marketplace, the poet can speak without losing a customer. J (Joanna) Howard shows the entanglement and chaos from which we seek peace. Words are a way of making a space so we can see clearly through the tumult. Grace Cavalieri.
Madness Upgrade: 2017
No longer the paperback woman with electrified hair
chained to an iron bedpost, her fingers tracing
imagined patterns on the attic wallpaper;
Or a scientist, in a banished lab,
creating monsters whose homemade looks strike
Nightmares and diary pages shared in therapy.
These days, we don’t have time to reflect--
circling the widening gyre takes too long
and goes nowhere.
Give us a meme instead.
Something we can follow on Facebook,
Short prose vapid and snappy:
For If you can write it, you can be it,
Says the grumpy cat.
We chuckle, we scroll.
We share what it means to be mad.
Sometimes, IRL, we are shocked
When someone, moving out of metaphor,
Snatches a baby, straps a bomb to its belly
Hurls it into a bus full of schoolchildren,
And watches the festival
of reds and yellows and screams,
Flashing lights and floating legs.
We pause. We feel the feels. We scroll.
Is a momentary disruption of common sense,
A passing meme, strong enough to trip
The wires of critical thought?
Here, have some water--
It’ll give you cancer.
And the cat grimaces
At these words on his fur.
We smile, wryly. We scroll.
Madness releases metaphor
If only to shake us awake.
It’s beating your head with a wooden chair,
And the chair breaks. Again.
The Emperor demands your new clothes,
Though you’re wearing a shroud.
It’s the urge to kill a Black man and claim
you thought his saxophone was a gun.
J. Howard is a teacher, poet and coordinator of “A Splendid Wake.” “A Splendid Wake” is an organization of poets who work to preserve the history of poetry and poetry movements in the Washington DC Metro area, spanning the years 1900 to now. Her work has been published in Abundant Grace and MiPOesias, among other publications, and she was one of the finalists in the 2016 Moving Words Competition sponsored by Arlington Arts. Howard teaches creative writing and composition at Montgomery College in Rockville, Maryland