We Keep a Poet in the Closet

Where we store folding chairs
and empty baskets, he bangs
on padlocked doors and shouts
about the angle of the light,
emptiness of baskets,
emptiness of chairs.

“That’s great!” we yell, “Keep writing!”
We sneak in while he sleeps
to steal his paper.

Some days he slides haiku beneath the door,
pleading on holiday linens:

aaaaaaaaa podium mic
aaaaaaaaand a pitcher of water
aaaaaaaawith a single glass

“Profound!” we holler,
stuff syllables in our mouths,
chew them up, swallow.

We can’t let him out because
he’ll notice everything first.
He’ll sprint ahead of us around the room
stealing it forever,

our own narrow words
flapping behind, trailing
red ribbons of the runners-up.

It will always be the anthem
of his nation, his bright flag,
his victory lap to our slow panting.

So we make copies of the key
and wear them on blue thread
around our necks, medals of a sort,
simple, fair head start.