Bristlecone Longevity The beauty of the tree is not how old, Indeed how ancient in its gnarling now, Not in its silent history yet untold, Nor in the pre-historic roots and bough— Their age—but in its newness ever new, Its torqued refusal to be caught by death, Rejection of defeat enclasped in screw- Shaped trunk, five-thousand-year eon’s breath There in its arid air, determined bark, Those needles prickly and the feisty cones Which stand against, aghast, against the stark Realities which beat against its bones, __These needles and these cones forever young, ____Which sing forever like a new-made tongue. From the Enlightenment to Gazing at a Dark-haired Navel How John Locke could result in Pollock is Opaque to me, but still I think the thread Is there. When humans think, they start to fizz, And there’s a clue. If once an unfuzzed head Is told it doesn’t have to follow God Or other fundamental creeds, then it Can run amok with alcohol and odd Drug pleasures . . . or in a personal fit Like “Me First, First, First, First!” A painter can Fling paint across a canvas or can blob It here and there. A poet fills a span Of paper with some dribbled words. All throb __With meaning, or at least that is the claim, ____But really it’s just feelings lacking shame. Ars Poetica “The word ‘classic’ itself . . . derives from the Latin word classicus which referred to recruits of the ‘first class’, the heavy infantry in the Roman army. The ‘classical’, then, is ‘first class’, though it is no longer heavily armoured.” ~ Robin Lane Fox, The Classical World: an Epic History from Homer to Hadrian, p. 1 The finest do not win the war with weight Of numbers. Heavy popularity Is not enough to stop them. You can freight The arts with freedoms of vulgarity, Simplicity, and banging rhymes in verse, Or wildest sloshes meant to shock the eye In paintings. You can conjure even worse In license in a film with all awry With tastelessness and dirt. There is a way Which always has been there to make the best Of creativity. It is the sway Of formal rules to help the artist wrest __The power of lawlessness by might of mind ____And make of grossest chaos things refined. Phillip Whidden is a poet published in America, England, Scotland (and elsewhere) in book form, online, and in journals. He has also had an article on Wilfred Owen’s “Dulce et Decorum est” published in The New Edinburgh Review.