Two Poems About Optimism

I came across these two strangely parallel poems in the October and February issues of Poetry Magazine.
I love the animal references, Ostriker’s use of the word legato, and Young for his “Hello, / oceans of air.”

The New Optimism
by Dean Young

The recital of the new optimism
was oft interrupted, rudeness
in the ramparts, an injured raven
that need attendance, pre-op
nudity. The young who knew everything
was new made babies who unforeseeably
would one day present their complaint.
Enough blame to go around but the new
optimism didn’t stop, helped one
pick up a brush, another a spatula
even as the last polar bear sat
on his shrinking berg thinking,
I have been vicious but my soul is pure.
And the new optimism loves the bear’s
soul and makes images of it to sell
at fair-trade craft fairs with laboriously
knotted hunks of rope, photos of cheese,
soaps with odd ingredients, whiskey,
sand, hamburger drippings, lint,
any and everything partaking of the glowing
exfoliating cleanup. And the seal
is sponged of the oil spill. And the broken
man is wheeled in a meal. War finally
seems stupid enough. You look an animal
in the eye before eating it and the gloomy
weather makes the lilacs grow. Hello,
oceans of air. Your dead cat loves you
forever and will welcome you forever home.

###

April
by Alicia Ostriker

The optimists among us
taking heart because it is spring
skip along
attending their meetings
signing their e-mail petitions
marching with their satiric signs
singing their we shall overcome songs
posting their pungent twitters and blogs
believing in a better world
for no good reason
I envy them
said the old woman

The seasons go round they
go round and around
said the tulip
dancing among her friends
in their brown bed in the sun
in the April breeze
under a maple canopy
that was also dancing
only with greater motions
casting greater shadows
and the grass
hardly stirring

What a concerto
of good stinks said the dog
trotting along Riverside Drive
in the early spring afternoon
sniffing this way and that
how gratifying the cellos of the river
the tubas of the traffic
the trombones
of the leafing elms with the legato
of my rivals’ piss at their feet
and the leftover meat and grease
singing along in all the wastebaskets

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