“Once Again” by “Conway”


“Conway”, my pseudonymous correspondent at a maximum-security prison in central California, has gone another round in our poetry war with “Once Again”, a response to my poem “A Difference of Opinion”, which was itself inspired by Stephen Dobyns’ “Artistic Matters” from his 1996 book Common Carnage. And the beat goes on…

A Difference of Opinion
by Jendi Reiter (1996)

Once there was only the mud
and one-celled things with just enough 
internal to themselves to be alive,

but too soft to fossilize, leaving no trace
of themselves in history except the evolved 
for whose sake billions of them were flung away 
    by nature

like soldiers or confetti.
Finally the moment came
when they began to prey upon one another,

cell against cell, and only then
did nature sit back in satisfaction
to watch the sharp beauty of spikes grow,

the monumental callousness of armor,
the cunning of hooks, all the hard immortal 
that make scientists exclaim, “Wonderful life

in which there are so many things to study!”,
as Cain’s children cried,
those founders of music and brass and 
    iron artifice.

To be a predator is to know many things.
The prey knows one big thing: how to run.
From this single-mindedness the idea of 
    purity grew.

That took care of us for centuries.
Now we know only many little things again,
but purity makes us fear to let them collide.

For nature, who fears no decisions,
the purpose of difference is war.
The best head may arise,

a brighter feather, a harder hand.
Of all the newborn spiders casting their threads 
    on the wind
a few survive, the rest are birds’ food and 

The purpose of speech is hesitation.
Even utopias can’t be discussed
in case the lion and the lamb

have a difference of opinion,
the lamb feeling entitled to a paradise of 
    its own
where it needn’t pretend to forgive

the lion, who simply wants to go on
being haughty and idle and unshaven.
That black fly keeps buzzing and banging against 
    the window

of your study, disturbing the reasoning
of the opinions you’re writing. What keeps you
from crushing it with your thumb?


Once Again
by Conway (2007)

An Amoeba brought forth a cure
the lure of life, end of boredom
from the dull lull of granite.

Then, incontent to be alone
it detached, dated itself (literally)
connections were made, to be broken

leaving a token to share, or
care for, when splitsville came.
For shame! could this be incest?

We detest the word, action
but that bird, those bees, flowers
trees all carry the same obnoxious disease.

Life, O’so simple the sound
that separates us from dirt
the ground that becomes granite.

Is this all we can expect of our planet
or will we be separated again
like an amoeba to begin

a separation nullified
the preparation multiplied, infin.;
to be tossed in a soup

as the stomach turns, churns
“these are the days of our lives”
brought to you by, our sponsor.

That all mighty amoeba, he who
she do — always leave you
alone to split, then spit again

on the hand that feeds
or lonely heart that pleads
bleeds the land then leaves

a mess, of amoeba bodies strewn
behind the trail instead, wed
as earth swallows up her dead.

So now you see, the dirt
is not so boring as once thought
for here the granite’s caught

feeding while it sleeps
seeding though life weeps
through the soil of earth.

We find nature in this story
the glory of our planet
from the dull lull of granite…

3 comments on ““Once Again” by “Conway”

  1. Patricia Herny says:

    I noticed a phrase in my brothers poem that says”these are the days of our lives”,that was of the soaps our mother used to watch when were growing up.My brother has quite strange sense of humor sometimes.

  2. Deena says:

    Now thatÂ’s sbutle! Great to hear from you.

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