Ethics

by Helmuth Filipowitsch
Wild Poetry Forum
Third Place, September 2010
Judged by Ruth Ellen Kocher


Our long goodbye begins
in the middle of hello’s,
coffee slow mornings, roses
opening to sunshine and to rain
where an ill-conceived pathway
tracks the lawn’s undulations
and ends abruptly at
the overgrown hedge.
There, an alien world exists.

You’re familiar with other worlds,
I’m not. The clay, which constricts
our garden, the clay which chokes
the roses and the radishes;
that clay defines me all too well.

I’m not malleable, not a flimsy
umbrella in a thunderstorm,
not Superman entering
a graffiti-stained telephone booth
to be captured between
conflicted identities.

I’m the man who secretly
cries at all the right moments
while watching a ‘chic flick’,
hums along in the silence
of elevators, believes every lie
as though it’s the birth
of an alternate universe.

I’m the man at the end of
a garden pathway, looking
with longing into his neighbour’s
back yard, wondering where
you’re going and memorizing
the six tender love scenes
which will entice you
to finally turn back.


The poem "Ethics" works on various levels for me, not the least of which is the imagery which is not only rich, but varied and unexpected. That "Superman entering/a graffiti-stained telephone booth," can co-exist in a poem where we also find "clay which chokes/the roses and radishes" is no small feat. This sort of contiguous use of image and sound create a tension in the poem between the ordinary and the sublime, between pop culture and the natural world, between the voice of the speaker and the voice of the life in which the speaker lives, if we can say that a life, itself, with the menagerie of articles in that life, can have a voice. The poem also exudes a confidence that contrasts the confessed vulnerability of the speaker, creating a curious tension as assertion meets the vulnerable utterance. I have to say that I especially love the final lines of the poem, that they acknowledge the sometimes saccharin underpinning of all we call 'romantic,' utilizing the ubiquity therein to achieve a alternately authentic, fresh, and successful, romantic turn as the poem closes. --Ruth Ellen Kocher

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