Jacob Sheetz-Willard

Poem for Paul Valéry

I can’t stand to write another poem about clouds
(gray-blue, a little loose at the edges) when there are
wars going on without my acquaintance, so many
newspapers and loves, self-portraits of Chagall
I haven’t looked at up close. I don’t know a thing
about them! Engine, engine: what else have you got
for me? Inside my head is an empty space
where the world should be. And O the winds
are relentless: like lanternflies, like wildfires
in the old growth…

Steady now. Steady now. The gear catches
on a honed, steel tooth…

Paul Valéry: thank god it’s spring! What’s the almanac
have to say about the season wherever you are these days? 

To hell with Keats, New England, the color orange,
and whatever weather-beaten stones mark the way forward!
Issa says you can’t return struck fire to the flint, and I say
to hell with that also: you can’t lose, mon ami, what you haven’t
ever been! Behold my walled and indestructible, secret city
of the future. Here are my little wooden boats bound
for the New World (which is really just the old one
worked over with a skylight and a slight touch of longing).

Because what use is reality?

If there must be a poem, then I will recite it to the floor
of an unnamed forest or the bottom of a misplaced sea.
What do you make of mon petit moteur, Paul Valéry?

Jacob Sheetz-Willard

Jacob Sheetz-Willard is a poet, teacher, and backcountry guide from Leadville, Colorado and an MFA graduate of the Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in American Literary Review, New SouthKestrelPoetry Daily and elsewhere.