Chapter 16
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“Ars Poetica”

Book Excerpt: Gatherer

Ars Poetica

It is hard to craft a metaphor
when the world is burning.

It is difficult to construct an image
when a place you love is on fire.

When flames lick up the side of
your beloved childhood home, how

can you write about hope?

In the ashes, can you write a stanza?

When the ash is blowing all around
you, in your eyes, your lungs, your hair,
could you push through to an other side?

Say, hypothetically, you can’t leave
your house for a year or more, would you
be able to look for glimmers of light

in all that darkness?

The lightbulbs in the kitchen go out
first, and the sun is blotted out — poor air
quality, the news says — after another

month, no light in any room, and you have
a scented candle you’re not sure you can
smell anymore — and what does that mean?

— and you are cobbling together two lines
on a sticky note with a pencil — no eraser — so

whatever you say has to be final.

“Ars Poetica”

Excerpted from Gatherer (Belle Point Press). Copyright © 2024. Reprinted with permission. All rights reserved. Todd Osborne is a poet and teacher originally from Nashville. His poems have been featured in Scrawl Place, CutBank, The Missouri Review, Tar River Poetry, and EcoTheo Review. He lives in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, with his wife and their three cats.