Michael Swan: I Understand

(Written after reading right through
two prestigious poetry magazines)

I wrote a poem
and I showed it to some people
and they said
'We understand it.'

And I said
'Good'.

And they said
'No,
you don't understand.
We understand it.'

So I said
'Oh, right'
and I put in a lot more words
of various kinds,
and a bit about Pheidippides
and an octopus.

But they said
'We can still understand it.'

So I said
'OK'
and I added some stuff
about how my father
wanted to be a jazz saxophonist
in the Matto Grosso
but the birds wouldn't let him,
and I made line breaks
like you've never seen,
and put in a space
after every third line,
and indented
like there was no tomorrow,
and ended up
with something my Aunty Eileen said
about a ferret.

And they said
'This is really promising,
we can't understand very much,
but the bit about the Hubble telescope
is a shade over-explicit,
you might want to work on that.'

So I added
four French adjectives beginning with a
and a reference to Timon of Athens
and they said
'Great,
we don't understand anything at all.
May we publish it?'

And I said
'I understand.'