(they've known all along)
What if each of the world's 6 billion people wrote one poem today on a single folded sheet and stapled it each to the others end on end. The paper chain would reach around the world twenty-one thousand times. Earth, the tenement, with six billion poems flapping like bedsheets in the air above our streets, some blood marked, some greyed by the smoke from our frankfurter stands, most white like belly feathers and we all have to look up. Is it time to cut the poetry loose? The news papers cry and the people pull out their scissors. The poems launch themselves upward, it takes only half of them to link humanity to the moon, the rest carry on past, we watch with our telescopes and iphones until they are gone. Well that's that then isn't it, the poets of the world might say. They've known all along, about the numbers -
We hear this kind of calculation used everywhere today: If you lined up all the polystyrene foam cups made in just one day, they would circle the earth. If all the glass bottles and jars collected through recycling in the U.S. in 1994 were laid end to end, they'd reach the moon and half way back to earth. Every day, Americans use enough steel and tin cans to make a steel pipe running from Los Angeles to New York and back again. (Not a bad idea, if you put a bullet train in that pipe.) This poem uses the same conceit, but for poetic purposes, making a paper chain of poems strung like a clothesline above the tenement of the earth. It's a poem about poetry, but also about humanity and art, struck through with humour, and ending with a nod to reality.
Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux
IBPC New Poetry Voices
First Place, February 2010
Judges Joseph Millar and Dorianne Laux