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Why God Permits Bad Art

Richard Terrill

You're in a hotel lobby packed with balloons,
in your hobnail boots, hoping to check in
without stomping on some little kid's birthday.
You admit the inflated colors look pretty good arranged this way.

And you admit God hasn't goofed too often,
and if everybody leaned one way in the cosmos
like wet clothes on a line, the flop of shirt and sheet,
then you couldn't tell truth from style

This is the God who gave us love,
but who also brought us infatuation--
marking, perhaps, an off day for the Big Guy
with the drives arcing beyond the green on the cosmos' long par five.

A drummer I know says no independence
without coordination, no sizzle
without the sock--And there you has jazz.
So, say he's right. Still, please

don't work the sun to a standstill
selling something dark to night,
driving a hard bargain every month.
Remember, love

                          was no mulligan
Birthdays don't come every week.
Silence doesn't mean I approve
of anything you've made.


Richard Terrill
is the author of Coming Late to Rachmaninoff, winner of the Minnesota Book Award for poetry, and two books of creative nonfiction, Fakebook: Improvisations on a Journey Back to Jazz and Saturday Night in Baoding: A China Memoir, winner of the Associated Writing Programs Award for nonfiction. He has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wisconsin and Minnesota State Arts Boards, the Jerome Foundation, and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He teaches in the MFA program at Minnesota State University, Mankato, and works as a jazz saxophone player.