The Anxiety of Influence

by John F. Buckley

Nobody’s parents have loved him enough,
and everyone’s mommy has struggled with cancer,
and anyone’s daddy’s addicted to ponies or beatings or booze.
So what is it that you bring fresh to the table?
And what can you ever bring new to the table?

Each couple’s romance has ended in heartbreak,
and any past lover has frozen and faded,
and everyone’s theme song’s a cocktail of fury and torment and blues
So what is it that you bring fresh to the table?
And what can you ever bring new to the table?

For every occurrence, you can write a bleak sonnet
as you wallow, reflect, and write stanzas upon it.
You can scribble sestinas or pantoums or maybe a pithy haiku.
But the chimes of your poems, the best of your verse
will still ring like echoes, the plagiarized worst
of the lives of the millions of poets existing and writing like you.

Everyone’s work life is pallid and boring,
and nobody’s uncle has left them with millions,
and anyone happy in their job is soulless and venal and cruel.
So what is it that you bring fresh to the table?
And what can you ever bring new to the table?

Nature is lovely and nature is savage,
and anomie thrives within modern society,
and everyone feels like a god and a fraud and too often a fool.
So what is it that you bring fresh to the table?
And what can you ever bring new to the table?