Are you a poet?

are you a poet?
the famous poet asked
pen poised to sign his book
and I froze
I post some poetry on a blog
I mumbled

but what an odd calling
is poetry and writing

how does one earn rights to this label
just by putting pen to paper
fingers to keyboard
by sharing with others and risking ridicule
by publishing in a journal or winning prizes

plumbers and electricians are certified
police and firemen must pass a test
even city of Chicago clerkdom
requires a patronage exam

but poets simply declare themselves
as if entering a new country
with fruit or cartons of cigarettes
or strange caged birds

what makes it true
when do you begin to believe

when you fill every page in a notebook
and suddenly the words are not
only scribblings of your unconscious
but art and craft and hope

mary oliver said that poems
are “as necessary as bread
in the pockets of the hungry”
and because I believe her
I am a poet

I want to wait in line again
for the famous poet and
when he asks me this time
I will say yes

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