By Rodney Jones
For every true emotion there is an objective
correlative; a rainy day, for instance,
might mean a person feels a little gloomy.
Or the convertible that carries the Peach Queen
from the parking lot of Kroger West
to the front lawn of the junior high school
could suggest a person’s innermost feelings
about how the war goes on right in front of her
every night on CNN and all the other channels
and no one says what a dumb war it is,
the way no one comes right out and says
that the convertible girl became the peach queen
because she slept with one of the judges, Roy,
who maybe happens to be the ex-boyfriend
of the person writing the poem. I mean
many poems do not come right out and say
the feeling. They just give you the things.
A guy sits down in a bed of fire ants.
A girl with fake boobs rides in a convertible.
Another point is use things from real life.
As a child, when I felt moody, I would eat
half a caterpillar, and the other half
smushed up on my lower lip, the objective
correlative, I would show to the adults
who had made me sad, which reminds me
how later, if I hurt a child by accident
and the child began to cry and attack me,
I would throw myself against a tree or wall
and fall down and cry a while myself
until the kid saw it and started to laugh,
though, of course, this did not work
for some people, like my cousin Dick,
who don’t like poetry and never will—
they don’t get it—the kind of people
who expect real smoke from a toy tractor.
Rodney Jones’s eighth book, Salvation Blues (Houghton Mifflin, 2006), won the 2007 Kingsley Tufts Prize and was shortlisted for the Griffin International Poetry Prize. He teaches in the graduate writing program at Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.
Originally appeared in NOR 3