Ode to Summer Morning (after Neruda)

Michael J. Barney, Dearborn Heights • Runner-up, Poetry


Why should I ode you, odious wretch,
wrecker of the still velvet night, blotter-out
of stars, despoiler of dreams and mysteries;
you who heave your honeyed
laser-beam of light deliberate as a drill-bit
into my innocent eyes; you, arouser
of noisome swallows and sparrows and
noxious smells of petals and mown grass
which you craft and pass to me sneakily
on a soft seductive breeze?
All I want to do is take my ease, but you,
spreading dew like diamonds over this
great emerald earth, you who with your
sleight-of-hand command ebony transmute
beautifully to opalescent blue, will you permit me
plumb the treasures of deep slumber? NO!
You want to rescue me, yes, from the
languorous arms of Lethe, glorious goddess
of sleep; make me impervious
to her dark and subtle charms.
What’s the harm if I keep abed
while you rise and spread your creamy
yellow radiance among the fields and freeways,
upon my fellow laggards? You have no
answer save to shove me from the seamless
pleasure of my billet with your bright insistent
braggadocio, shouting (as if it were
your native right): “awake, awake your
sad and lazy flesh while I make
everything new and clean and fresh!”
Of course we know you lie, all of us.
But of necessity. Young and old, our
skeletons moulder, trussed in their coffins
of decaying skin, and even your skilled artifice
can’t begin to mill anew this broken world of violence
and avarice and sin. So with your assistance
we pretend, and in pretense find joy
and love and a defense against the
ploys and stratagems of death, our
mutually designated end.
Your task, friend Morning, is daily to efface
the fearsome grubby truth of life with
grace and clarity; and this, at last, is why
I cannot give you laud: you are nothing
but a humbug, mountebank, trickster, cheat;
a sweet and wonderful and fundamental fraud.
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