Robert Donohue

Eddie Van Halen

For me, these arguments could hold no sway:
The best musician uses many notes,
Perfection is the goal, on which he dotes,
Beethoven was the Metal of his day.
And yet, for what it’s worth, you made it pay
To be the star this enterprise promotes,
Who doesn’t merely hold the stage, but floats
And turns his job into a form of play.

Despite your talent, and despite your fame,
Beneath it all, we really are the same,
So when a novice drummer finds the beat
For something that you’ve given him the name
He does the work of his suburban street,
Anonymous, and never quite complete.

The Sage

He said it was a bristle from a street
Sweeper; it didn’t really look like much,
It was a flat and skinny piece of metal,
And I believed it was what he had said,
But there was more to it, he would explain.
Once you saw one, you couldn’t help see more,
If you would look where they were sure to be,
And from an unseen object they would change
Into a common feature of your town.
Intrigued by him, I searched along the gutters
Until I found a bristle of my own, 
Which in itself was unremarkable, 
But then I found another, then found more,
And after searching only a few blocks
I held within my fist a steel bouquet
As if I had been picking wild flowers.
I was surprised by how invisible
These bristles were, and yet ubiquitous.

I got it; we must learn to use our eyes
And thought there was real wisdom in his game:
How much of what’s around us goes unseen
Because we lack the skills to really look?
But when I went to tell him my good news
I found him paired with wisdom’s odd companion:
Obsession, and presenting them to him,
He got a little strange about my bristles.
He asked me where I found them. “Be precise”
Was his demand and marked down on a map
Where I had searched. He had elaborate plans
Regarding expeditions in the county
To gather bristles found in other towns.
He was collecting data that would trace
His samples back to manufactures.
What for? I couldn’t say; it seemed to me
His own philosophy was lost on him.

I knew how it would end, but stuck it out
Despite the fact that things were getting weird
(We even wound up dating the same woman,
Before he shaved his head) yet all the same
I learned a lesson greater than those bristles:
In everything we should be moderate,
Including wisdom gained for its own sake.
Instead, we go too far; we stay too long,
And only win when we are telling stories.
  

Robert Donohue’s poetry has appeared in Better Than Starbucks, Amethyst Review, and most recently, Freeze Ray.