Beauty School

Dad said if I didn’t graduate from high school
he’d buy me my own beauty shop. And that’s pretty
much how it went. I worked on heads.
      My students gave me wise advice.
One said the best critique came from a friend
who just wrote Wonderful! Keep going! on every poem.
Another said his favorite mentor
      simply put a giant X on any page he didn’t like.
Some had studied with lyric pooh-bahs
who taught them to be coffee wallahs.

Do birds theorize flying? I believe the best poetry
      instruction leans toward the oblique.

“This seems to be a ransacked candle.
This tastes like lowa. This reads
like the shortest building in the world
      trying to be tall. This syntax feels kissed.
This is like a bandage
that takes the skin off with it.
These lines look laser-cut;
      these need to be debrided, flayed.
Forget Esperanto. This is written
in Blackwatch Plaid. Did you use a protractor
or a pen to compose it? That school
      of poetics is called ellipsograph tech.

Lyric poets give their words to the wind.
It’s how the wind stays alive. To riff
on Miles Davis, you don’t have to write
      your poem every day.
You just have to touch your poem
every day. Even if it sounds like mucus
made for the glory of God
      or twinkles like a pissed-off
harpsichord. Even if it groans like a medieval
cathedral, eroded at the groins. You’ve heard

how flaws authenticate a gem? Usher in a stir
      and weird the real. Forget the celestial

and remember the celeste–
an organ stop that’s tuned to dissonance
to torque the note. Tone
      is the soul of poetry.
If you need a title ‘Lonely Consort
Of Wandering Phenomenon’ works
for almost anything. When revising think
      how a robin throwing himself against the glass
won’t change it into air.”
Poetry is never finished.
Only poets are. Some must be
      wrapped in burlap to survive.

Some must flash their stitches ==
though the deepest scars
are hidden, the damaged infra-
      trauma they intend to tell.
One bent her lines backwards
like the ankles of a sandhill crane.
One unzipped his surface to reveal
      his furtive fretwork. They all held their breaths
until their tongues turned blue.
Wonderful! Keep going!

Alice Fulton