Please Hold Your Answers


“…the answer to the future will be in knowing how

 to ask the right questions.”  –Quentin Hardy



Answers are finished, washed up.


Once the noble deep-sea creatures

who fought until you reeled them in,

now they flop like beached alewives

expiring in the sand and seaweed.


You—did you spend your capital chasing

schools of teasing, thrashing answers,

filling your nets and holds, steaming forth,

unaware that the spoils go to those


with questions, not answers; to those

who ask, Are we asking the right questions?

and other such admired interrogatives?


We stay afloat on whys, a gratuitous

“excellent question!” like a safety vest;

and as for you, weighing us down

with answers, answer, answers,

overboard you go in your cement-shoes!


A corporate suit hooks jacket over shoulder,

marches to a window, turns theatrically

and asks, What message are we sending?

in such a way that boardroom fannies shift

on swivel chairs to stir up yet another question

like morays rooting in the turbid shallows.



Meaning of a Dish Sponge


Your dish sponge—floral-scented,

spanking new, but oh how quickly

it will age from the moment you free it

of its cello-wrap and turn it over,

one side soft and baby blue

the other tough as calloused fists.


How it swigs the suds! Slides like

a lover over porcelain. See it slaughter

the cowering grease!


But soon—so soon—the breakdown;

baby blue goes brown and gnarly;

pots and pans that couldn’t last

one round with Tough Side

easily shred its spavined body; and

finally the stink—Old-Sponge smell

from this simulacrum of its youthful self,

to remind us of our own mortality.


Oh—sorry; but had you never sussed this

meaning? In all the nights you bent your

bones over the sink, hands already shaking

as you squeezed and felt the tears flow?



Outgoing Voicemail from My Ex-Muse


If this is you calling I have to tell you

I’ll be out of town a few weeks

to visit an old friend of mine who

well I won’t lie to you it’s a new friend

who’s been invoking me at a time

when I need the kind of invocation

you once composed to summon me.


Hopeless were your verses, but not

your supplications, all those O‘s

to me so sweet so yearning,

we had a beautiful thing until you

cheapened it with half-heartedness—

no more O Divinely Gifted One

barely an O practically a Hey You.


Perhaps one day that tin ear

of yours will sense the difference

between lute and second fiddle—

which   this   muse   does   not   play.


Yet I admit

I can’t help wondering where

those pretty Os are going now


now that anyone can see you’ve

been invoking someone else

and probably that imposturing tramp

judging by the even more godawful

crap you call inspired.


Arthur Plotnik

Better known for his prose works, including two Book-ofthe-Month Club selections, Arthur Plotnik is a late-emerging poet who has appeared in Brilliant Corners, Rosebud, Harpur Palate, THEMA, Comstock Review, The Cape Rock, Glass, Edify, Off the Coast, Kindred, and several more literary publications. Formerly editorial director at the American Library Association, he was a runner up for the William Stafford Award and a finalist in other national competitions. He lives with his wife in Chicago.

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