Finally, I contacted the author, and I asked about the poem, which I couldn’t exactly remember. The poet emailed me which poem it might be. I read the poem, and there it was, a great poem.


It is possible for a great poem to go unnoticed. However, someone had noticed, because it is the first poem in the book. The Price of Everything, by Gail White, Mellon Poetry Press, 2001. Do poets have a hard time reading the work of others because they are so focused on their own?


This may well pass under the radar because of two reasons; one, the premise is a common one, used many times in stories and movies: that of a Gypsy foretelling the future. But that is what makes a perfect scene—the reader takes on the premise before they know it. The reader reads the title and the first line and the rest is history. Pow! The poem hits and the reader is changed. Isn’t this why we read poetry?


Second; the poem opens the reader’s consciousness and slips in a truth that everyone deals with every day. To argue the word ‘truth’ won’t go far. By a truth I mean a classical truth, what that may be is left to each individual, but there are truths that apply to all.


Without addressing the subject of what is poetry and what is not poetry, it is a fact that most poetry over the last 50 years, regardless of subject—if it has any at all—presents itself like a turnip in a party suit: absurd convolutions, encoded doublespeak, mishmash innuendo, twisty babble, oblique meaning, obscurity on top of murkiness, me-me-me, and, last but not least, utter nonsense. How did this happen to the art of poetry? No one has stood up and said why.


What this poem does is the exact opposite: every single line “pings” and is genuine and honest as a line of English can possible accomplish. There is no fluff in the poem, and it describes an ominous leaning in life we encounter every day—in every line.




You will make a journey over water.


Now this has me off and running. Everyone travels over water somewhere, whether a river, an ocean, or something metaphorical.


Does this make you laugh?


What do we do when confronting something that may be the truth about ourselves? We laugh, of course. These two beginning lines do something great: one person is speaking to another, and the person spoken to, without a written word, reacts. The person speaking reacts. All this as deftly done as magic. Also, the voice tones are clear, even as the speaker continues.


How large a body of water

I cannot say.


You will marry once for love

and once for money,

and whichever comes first,

you will wish it had been the other.


Each sentence pings with meaning. The speaker, the Gypsy, is being very sly, and rather than the Gypsy cliche of deceit of some sort, reality is placed on the table for all to see. All of us have related love and money somehow, somewhere. We do consider love, and we do consider money—all the time, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. Here, it is best to consider the form; free verse with full honest, human voice and tones. There is absolutely no “art” to these lines: each line goes straight from the heart of one to the heart of another. We never know who we are going to love, but we trust those who are clear, lucid and direct.


You will eat too much salt.

Doctors will begin telling you

to slow down.


Is this not the truth? The truth is being bandied about like a giant sword, but it is the truth nevertheless. The poet’s narrative is setting us up and we still can’t see what is going on, so we read on, helplessly interested, headlong, without being tripped by artifice, fluff, abstract nothingness.



Something you never heard of

will kill your parents.

You will not be ready

to take their place.


Ouch! Good grief! The truth does not let up. Our parents do die of strange diseases, but here the poet says “will kill your parents,” with a tinge of malice, or at least a kind of shock. And then “you will not be ready to take their place.” We are never ready. When your parents die, you become an orphan, and you become responsible, no matter how old, for yourself.


Your job will be less satisfactory

than you thought it would be.

So will your children.


Down, down this goes, a terrible tragedy in the making. Down the slippery slopes of plain reality the reader goes. The drama of the writing is as compelling as the truth. No job is satisfactory, yet how many of have cried out at one time, “I love this job!” Delusion and the fending off of possible despair is the real feeling behind such an expression. And then the poem breaks one of life’s cardinal rules! All parents are supposed to raise their children to be the best and their children become the best—but—forgive the truth, it isn’t always so. Or, is it that the children think the parent’s job is not satisfactory for their own goals? Double hits on all sides.


Your car will break down

when you can least afford it.


Look, think all you want about doom, life, death, children, health and love—when your car breaks down everything comes to a halt. This poet is putting the big smudge of truth right on your nose.


When all seems hopeless

you will meet a mysterious stranger.


It will be you.


Ah! Things happen in life and we never know how we are going to react, and we will either rise to the occasion and be a success or we will fall and fail, and either one or in between will be a mysterious stranger—the new person you will become and discover.


There are two parts to any poem. The form and the subject. When these two elements meet as perfectly as this poem does, the reader, by reacting, becomes changed. Form alone can’t change anyone, and subject alone can’t change anyone. Here, the reader’s whole self is stripped away until the true self is left exposed, because how rare it is to really know ourselves. It will be you. It slips in before we know it. It will be you.


This is one of the great poems of a hundred years. Each line is as true as possible. It can be read a hundred times without a tired note. It has the super-rare ring, or better yet, the clash of truth in every line. Turn it anyway you want, it sparkles in design like a diamond. This poem is written as finely as the art can possibly be, and it surpasses wry wit with the mysterious in our lives; ourselves. Does this make you laugh? And how well do you know yourself?

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