Pick-a-Poem: “By the Way”

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Welcome, blog readers, to another edition of our Pick-a-Poem feature. As I’m sure you know by now, every week we feature a poem by a different poet, courtesy of Poetry Daily. If you’re looking for a daily fix of poems, something more than what you get here at the blog, I’d definitely recommend Poetry Daily. For now, though, we are featuring a poem entitled By the Way, written by C. Dale Young.

According to his bio page on Poetry Daily, C. Dale Young writes poetry, but also practices medicine! He has written three collections of poetry, including The Day Underneath the Day (TriQuarterlyBooks, 2001), The Second Person (Four Way Books, 2007), and Torn (Four Way Books, 2011). He has won several awards, such as the Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Poetry and a fellowship from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference. He serves as the Poetry Editor at the New England Review.

By the Way, by C. Dale Young

You are right to point out that the agapanthus
is not a lily, especially to one who so loves
precision, but the agapanthus is also called
“Lily of the Nile,” which surely could be seen
as justification for calling it a lily.

I am sure Cleopatra herself never called
this plant agapanthus. And, well, wouldn’t one
want to be more like Cleopatra than like
Theophrastus? The Queen of the Nile
would have likely called it a lily, no?

Yes, yes, words have meaning and have power
and all of that stuff. Yes, yes, I of all people
understand the importance of naming.
But if Cleopatra would have called it a lily . . .
Okay, I will stop. You look great, by the way.

But I just want to point out that the agapanthus
is such an odd plant that even botanists
cannot agree on the number of species in the genus,
some saying six, others as many as ten.
Okay, I swear I’ll stop. Seriously. Promise.

The windy night air is cold, and the wings
bound along my spine sweaty and bruised,
the long bandages chafing my armpits. Words
have power, my love. You call this winged thing
an angel, but that is not the word I would use for it.

I hope you enjoyed this week’s featured poem. For more of these, click here!

— Jet Fuel Blog Editor, Mary Egan

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