POETRY

‘Pluto and Luca Walk Into a Bar’

Acclaimed poet Ishmael Reed is based in Oakland.
NOAM GALAI/GETTY IMAGES
Acclaimed poet Ishmael Reed is based in Oakland.
A new poem by Ishmael Reed. His latest honors include the Alberto Dubito Award for International Poetry and the AUDELCO award for theatre.

Pluto overhears Luca say
Why aren’t I given credit for
All life that exists?
Is it because
I’m a single-cell, bacterium-like organism?
I, who am the ancestor of trees, birds, fish
And just about everything that you
Can think of
Instead of looking to the sky for
God, they should look to the bottom
Of the ocean where I live

O, you think that you don’t get
Respect, Pluto said
First, they gave me that
Dreadful name after the
Greek Hades and then
They dismiss me as
Just a big snowball in space

And now that they find I’m more
Complicated
That underneath my surface
Lie oceans and possibly life
I’m booted from the news cycle
by the discovery of a 9th planet

Turning to the bartender
A pigeon, Pluto said
At least we’re not a pigeon

The pigeon
Was unruffled, he said
Calmly, wiping some glasses
“Well, Pluto, it must be
Scary to be on a
Collision course with Neptune
Whom do you think will prevail
From such an encounter?

And Luca, you have to have
One of Jacques Cousteau Jr.’s
Submersibles to even
Notice you
Down there cold, dark and
Lonely

You will never see a rainbow
While my neck is one