A few days ago, my family and I watched 1971’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the candy man. During the movie, Wonka quotes poet Arthur O’Shaughnessy. I believe the line, We are the music makers and the dreamers of dreams, has become more famous than the poem it is borrowed from. Anyway, those lines inspired the poem I share below.
We, the Poets
We are the music makers and the dreamers of dreams.
— Arthur O’Shaughnessy
I’m sure O’Shaughnessy meant well,
painting poets as wizards wielding wands
able to entice dragons from jagged peaks,
conjure fairies sleeping in shadows
that cool the soil beneath mushrooms
and dandelions, but, perhaps, the old bloke
spoke a bit out of turn, draped poets
in expectations too lavish and lush.
None who brandish a quill, who understand
the vitality of ink, can habitually pry
bark from a tree, scrape moss from a stone,
refashion each into magic and mirth.
Sometimes a strong rain is nothing but wet.
Why must we consider each drop
the heartbreak of deities, gods who harvest
thunder and lightning, who fashion themselves
in radiant robes and golden laurels
wreathing waterfalls of hair. Autumn leaves
are just leaves, not fluttering hearts
painted the hues of blood and wine.
And the champagne flutes on the table beneath
the chandelier don’t remind me of tulips,
nor does the chandelier resemble a strange
sea creature, a jellyfish floating in its space,
brilliant, delicate – the only light I’ll ever need to know.