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POET'S CHOICE By Robert Pinsky

Take that, Mom! -- till the paper splits apart

and tobacco bits skitter off like peewee

lifeboats. The boy zips his pants as his mother

shouts, What's taking you so long? Just

washing up, he calls back, before flushing

the tiny survivors of the stricken liner down,

down to the alligator dark beneath the streets.

The myth or urban legend of alligators living in the sewers is like the boy's idle, momentary but beautifully elaborate and realized myth of the cigarette butt as a stricken ocean liner.

And is there aggression in the child's fantasy? Of course. And is such aggression part of love? Absolutely, as centuries of poetry affirm. Art's reassurance is not in being nice, but in accepting what is not so nice in us. Here is another poem involving myth, fantasy and aggression (and a crocodile rather than an alligator), a love-sonnet by Shakespeare's contemporary Michael Drayton:

Three sorts of serpents do resemble thee:

That dangerous eye-killing cockatrice,

The enchanting siren, which doth so entice,


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