Poetry Friday: Blundering

“Street Moths,” by X.J. Kennedy, from The Lords of Misrule (Johns Hopkins University Press). If you haven’t read any X.J. Kennedy, you’re missing a treat. He writes for adults and children, check out the links!

The Poetry Princesses are a group of poets – and me – who are writing sonnets of young adulthood. Though this isn’t a sonnet, it reminded me of a long play version We Real Cool and adds to the slowly growing pile of poetry I’ve found that records the adolescent masculine experience. I really like the imagery of blundering moths… so appropriate.

Street Moths

Mature enough to smoke but not to drink,
    Grown boys at night before the games arcade
Wearing tattoos that wash off in the sink
    Accelerate vain efforts to get laid.
Parading in formation past them, short
    Skirts and tight jeans pretending not to see
This pack of starving wolves who pay them court
    Turn noses up at cries of agony—
Baby, let’s do it! Each suggestion falls
    Dead to the gutter to be swept aside
Like some presumptuous bug that hits brick walls,
    Rating a mere Get lost and death-ray eyes.
Still, they keep launching blundering campaigns,
    Trying their wings once more in hopeless flight:
Blind moths against the wires of window screens.
    Anything. Anything for a fix of light.

Poetry Friday is hosted at Farm School.

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  1. Wow, you’re right. That’s some impressive imagery. Sigh. How can people write this well? My very left brain, incapable of coming up with such stirring metaphors (but which can at least appreciate them) is throbbing from it all.

    Jules, 7-Imp

  2. I like the moth imagery too.

    This reminds me of the poem someone (Karen Edmiston?) posted last week about a young writer “trying her wings.” Different kinds of blundering, and different levels of hope. But maybe similar risks, and similar motivations.

    Thanks for this. X.J. Kennedy is a new poet to me.

  3. Tadmack,

    That’s quite a poem! Kennedy’s “Nude Descending a Staircase” is one of my all time favorite poems. He exhibits quite a range in the poetry he’s published. He’s written a lot of humorous verse for kids. I love two of the books he collaborated on with his wife Dorothy: “Talking Like the Rain” and “Knock at a Star.”

  4. Thanks for posting this poem! I remember X.J. Kennedy from shelving him, but I don’t think I actually read his poetry. This poem brings to mind all sorts of interesting behaviors done with the hopes of wooing teenage girls. (One thing, not mentioned in this poem, is the practice of talking like Donald Duck in order to impress girls. I don’t get it and never have.)

  5. Dude, your description nailed it – an EP version of We Real Cool, for sure. So great.

    For some really gritty poems that deal with teen masculinity, check out Tough Boy Sonatas by Curtis Crisler. They are a bit hard to read sometimes (hard as in emotionally difficult, not as in difficult to understand), but it’s because they speak so clearly to the experience of inner city youth in a hard-times city.

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