“The yoke of Communism

has been lifted.” Congratulations!

You're free to speak and write

your mind, and no one will call you

a parasite. You could be a celebrity.

And that will be what they like,

not your writing. Who has the time

to read these days? And the one thing

all parties, Left and Right,

agree on, is poetry...who needs it?

In today's unfettered economy

your poems will have to compete

with “the popular arts,” i.e.,

reruns of I Love Lucy.

Not much of a public for you...

When they have a hundred channels

they'll want to be entertained,

not made to thinkm about “life”

and be sad and melancholy.

For, let's face it, that's what poems do.

You must forgo the meeting where you recited and the next day

everyone in Leningrad would be talking...

“I know, ‘Unruly Horses’...

but what did it really say?”

You'll be pouring your infinite riches

out in a little room,

to a homeless person who snores

and a woman who misread the schedule.

She thought this week was someone else.

It's your turn now to discover

the answer to the riddle:

what's the sound of one hand clapping?


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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 14 Number 1, on page 37
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