Ars Poetica by Maria Nazos

Is it not enough to write about the empty bottles, anymore than the
space between them? Not enough to write

about the gritty underside of the barroom table, how easily I slid (like
the mind slides in the early morning), in and out

of strangers’ beds. But when did poetry dictate it’s not enough to
write about the man I love nestling beside me into bed,

sticky as rock candy, after his work? Since when did I tell myself that
I couldn’t write about the scattered lights

in New York, or about when I stood at the lip of a cliff overlooking
Delphi, while the ground beneath me hummed?

So why not write about how the empty bottles in my old place
chimed into the recycling bin like a vagrant’s morning anthem?

Why not write for the lover who hid in my bushes, because he took
my words “go away,” so lightly, they brushed his mouth

like a kiss. Why leave other lovers out? What about the one who lived
in a rotted cabin in Vermont, with nothing

but dried kippers to eat and a half-dead dog? Why not write about
how I jumped into my Jeep

and drove to see him only for him to tell me that he’s a mountain
man, baby, and can’t commit. For my tears that burst

forth in a spring of naïve weeping when I found out that he was a
mountain man, baby, and couldn’t commit. What about Costa Rica?

Why don’t I write about the jungle, and the derelict that lived next
door who hurled machetes into palm trunks like steely leaves.

I told myself I’d never go back to the U.S., as I lay on a hammock
dizzy and dumb with a man

who sluiced spiked pineapple juice across my body. Why not write
about the pull I feel to go back, as much as to stay in this steady

life. Each night the green fleece of willows darkens as my husband
and I eat dinner. I’ll read these words aloud

until the windows steam. I’ll write for the suffering also, because it’s
easy to love suffering—

easy to fall into darkness until every stained glass blackens in every
church and home I’ve ever loved. Until all I see is grief.

Now I’m wiping the windows clear.


Maria Nazos is the author of the full-length collection of poems A Hymn That Meanders (Wising Up Press 2011). Her work has received awards from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts and the Vermont Studio Center. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in The New Ohio ReviewThe Southern Humanities Review, The New York Quarterly, Poet LoreThe Sycamore Review, and elsewhere. She is a Chancellor’s fellow at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s English PhD program.