The Poet’s Job

The poet can’t change anything, but the poet can
demonstrate the power of the solitary conscience.

Stanley Kunitz

Even herded into plurals—
        Poets Against the War
        Poets for Human Rights—
poets don’t make headlines or laws,
don’t discover the next wonder drug or
renewable energy source.

But they are equipped
to do practical work.
After science, art and religion
have their messy say,
poets pick through the clutter—
questions, suppositions, certainties— 

then abscond with their stash to
that vast recycling bin
where, parsed into singulars,
they ply their slow trade
in words, images, mystery—
tinkers of the imagination. 

Their poems may end on the ash heap
though the divine combustion
has been known to light up a city
or, like a disposable penlight,
guide one or two souls down
        the dark path
        to their own door.

Veneta Masson
Clinician’s Guide to the Soul