Literally Speaking

It is the old lie of the Academy:
the literalists have no imagination.
If they conspire to live on the surface
of things, of words always, if ‘levels of meaning’
signifies for them a grammarian’s bookcase,
or a carpenter’s telltale gadgets,
consider how the world requires of them
the keenest sense of wonder,
how our casual figures of speech
must send them out in a fever
with picks and shovels, axes and winches
to retrieve into the plainer sight
of the eye what we’ve long abandoned:
the holes to China, the falling stars we’ve bumbled,
night-ships that have sadly passed us by.
Theirs is an earth of the blessedly sane
whose power comes from their fierce loyalty to it.
They are the magicians we are unkind to,
the eccentrics who live out our fictions,
consorts to the man in the moon,
keepers of the light at the end of every tunnel.
If for them a rose is always a rose,
are they not richer for it?
Envy them: when they speak of a wolf
in sheep’s clothing, they have nothing
in mind but a four-legged miracle;
when they say the grass is greener,
they’re knee-deep in a field’s rich hue;
when they say something simple,
like love, they mean it.