(A prophetess in Greek mythology cursed by Apollo 
to speak the truth but to never be believed.)

Words bombard the world 
in rapid fire 
every second. 
Another book about wizards, 
another poem about birds, 
tweets about Trump, 
status updates about dinner 
and cats 
and vacations, 
websites for anything you can think to Google.  

Godzilla porn.  
Why the Kardashians are famous.  
What a chair would look like if knees bent backwards.  

The things to read outnumber the readers. 
Still, writers write. 

In their lonely caves,
by monitor light, 
they fill terabytes of memory 
with the past and the future. 
They churn together experience and understanding 
until hardened into a vision worth writing down.  
And then they hope that someone 
is paying attention. 

But no one is, 
at least not at first. 
Journalists wrote about the Taliban before 9/11. 
Before Y2K, tech writers predicted 
a computer 
in our pockets 
more powerful than Apollo 11. 
A scientist published in 2019 
about a coming worldwide pandemic.  

No one listens until prophecies turn to floods.  
Still, writers write. 

They spew forth reams 
of poetry and prose
and essays 
and journal entries 
and investigative reports 
and sometimes just half-thoughts 
or a particularly interesting turn of phrase 
on a random Post-it note 
barely clinging to a wall for years 
until used or discarded, 
but playing on the mind of the writer 
in ways both certain 
and inscrutable. 

Half-thoughts that may never be read by another, 
but recorded anyway 
for naught but potential. 
Words newly discovered 
or characters formed in journals like pop-up books,
story lines and first-time rhymes scratched on a pad, 
then shaped in a computer, 
then offered to a first reader 
like an initial visit to a new therapist 
and waiting to hear 
whether to expand or contract, 
whether to improve or 
whether to shake the etch-a-sketch
until the lines are faint 
then wisps 
then gone, 
but if improved, 
then posted for the world to see
even if no one listens. 

Because the Post-It note held an idea that was true. 
Because the work holds the prediction of a world 
made by our own hands. 
Because when the flood comes, 
and floods always come,
words from dry land 
will be needed.  

© 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved 

The Emancipation of the Canon

How many poems should
an undergrad read?  It’s not a
riddle or a rhetorical question 
like licks on a lollipop or the 

number of years it would take
one hundred monkeys to type 
Shakespeare. It is the dilemma
I face again for the 25th

or 42nd time devising a reading
list for American Literature,
1865 to the Present. I’ve
built it, shaped it, tweaked it,

trimmed it. I took out Philip
Roth and added Toni Cade
Bambara. I took out Pound
and added Ellison, de-

colonizing my syllabus piece
by piece, semester by semester.
I add up the numbers one more
time: white men 13, Black men 11,

white women 8, Black women 4.
I cling to Frost but release Eliot,
trade Fitzgerald for Nella
Larsen, and Twain for Chesnutt.

I think about the works we’ve read,
The voices we’ve heard, the ones we
have allowed to shape us, tweak us. 
How much more we learn about

our hidden shames, our hidden 
selves, from Zora Neale Hurston 
and James Baldwin than from
the retyping of Hamlet or the

mimicking of Faulkner. So I pile on
Dunbar and Washington and Dubois,
Wells and Johnson and McKay,
Toomer and Cullen and Wright,

I add in Hayden, Brooks, Morrison, 
Baraka, Lorde, Clifton and Walker,
Wilson and Dove and Kincaid.
It’s a lot, I know. So I try to ration,

pare it down so the students won’t
hate me, but how many Langston Hughes’ 
poems should an undergrad read?  

All of them.

© 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved

Maker’s Mark

The finish of my
father’s desk seems
old, perhaps original,
but some brush marks

hint at an ancient 
attempt to make things
new. I search in 
and out, up and down 

for a maker’s mark
or other origin clue,
but only find my father’s
mark. I had to open 

the lap drawer, get on
my back on the floor,
under the desk like
a history mechanic,

to see it.  
          Property of 
          David W. Moore
                    Purchased for $7.00
          Metropolis, Ill.
          Oct. 1962

in permanent
marker.  Already old 
when he got it at 
that flea market or

yard sale before I was
born. And now I have 
it, seven years after 
he left the earth,

and I run my hands
over the finish and 
read his handwriting
again from the iPhone

picture, and I remember
the he who would mark
his things and the
way he marked me,

and I sit here trying 
to shrug him off enough
to begin a story about

© 2020 Deb Moore, All Rights Reserved