Issue 5 – Davis2


John Davis

Prodigal Poem

The poem went out on its own,
developed a following far
from the scratch drafts,
crossed–out lines, couplets
in the corner of the third draft
that helped give posture and pride
to the poem beyond its
simple beginnings on the back
of a tan envelope
advertising toothpaste.
In anthologies the prize-winning poem
forgot its author and his kind humor.
It developed its own website
and smirked every time high schoolers
memorized its aphorisms,
recited them for extra credit
as if credit were all that mattered
when everyone adored its image
of the son’s brown hair and the father’s
gray hair pooling on the barber shop floor.
And just as suddenly no one
anthologized, memorized or read
the poem. It wasn’t foreign
and foreign was popular.
No one read it unless it was 4 AM
when a student writing a term paper
needed an example of popular poetry
that lost its punch. And so the poem
dragged itself home to its author
who had developed dementia.
It crawled in among the rough drafts
and half rhymes begun in cafes
on paper napkins and began
to rub syllables with its cousins,
play Pin the Pun on the Sonnet,
Terza Rima Tag and remember
what family is all about.