The Greatest Poem in the World


Once, in Crete,
I was asleep near the sea.
The room was cold
and I woke with the greatest poem
ever about to be written in my head.
I heard waters running under stone.
Searched for a light, searched
for a fire, nothing.
Shivering, I wrote the poem
on the sheet, in the dark.
It was a great poem,
and first thing in the morning,
to celebrate,
I ran out and took a swim.
It was marvelous to have written
the greatest poem in the world.
It summed up everything.
On the way back from the sea's
great reward and kiss of me
I saw the women
doing laundry in a huge boiling
pot, three women. They had already
washed away the greatest poem in the world
with their greatest pot in the world.
And I hadn't memorized it,
the sea had taken it.
And I stood weeping in the smoke,
wind hitting the caverns in my head.


David Ray, Music of Time: Selected & New Poems, The Backwaters Press, 2006.