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Best Famous Frank Bidart Poems

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by Frank Bidart |

Homo Faber

 Whatever lies still uncarried from the abyss within
me as I die dies with me.


by Frank Bidart |

Guilty Of Dust

 up or down from the infinite C E N T E R
B R I M M I N G at the winking rim of time

the voice in my head said

LOVE IS THE DISTANCE
BETWEEN YOU AND WHAT YOU LOVE

WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE

 *

then I saw the parade of my loves

those PERFORMERS comics actors singers

forgetful of my very self so often I
desired to die to myself to live in them

then my PARENTS my FRIENDS the drained
SPECTRES once filled with my baffled infatuations

love and guilt and fury and
sweetness for whom

nail spirit yearning to the earth

 *

then the voice in my head said

WHETHER YOU LOVE WHAT YOU LOVE

OR LIVE IN DIVIDED CEASELESS
REVOLT AGAINST IT

WHAT YOU LOVE IS YOUR FATE

 1984


by Frank Bidart |

For The Twentieth Century

 Bound, hungry to pluck again from the thousand
technologies of ecstasy

boundlessness, the world that at a drop of water
rises without boundaries,

I push the PLAY button:—

...Callas, Laurel & Hardy, Szigeti

you are alive again,—

the slow movement of K.218
once again no longer

bland, merely pretty, nearly
banal, as it is

in all but Szigeti's hands

 *
Therefore you and I and Mozart
must thank the Twentieth Century, for

it made you pattern, form
whose infinite

repeatability within matter
defies matter—

Malibran. Henry Irving. The young
Joachim. They are lost, a mountain of

newspaper clippings, become words
not their own words. The art of the performer.


by Frank Bidart |

Herbert White

 "When I hit her on the head, it was good,

and then I did it to her a couple of times,--
but it was funny,--afterwards,
it was as if somebody else did it ...

Everything flat, without sharpness, richness or line.

Still, I liked to drive past the woods where she lay,
tell the old lady and the kids I had to take a piss,
hop out and do it to her ...

The whole buggy of them waiting for me
 made me feel good;
but still, just like I knew all along,
 she didn't move.

When the body got too discomposed,
I'd just jack off, letting it fall on her ...

--It sounds crazy, but I tell you
sometimes it was beautiful--; I don't know how
to say it, but for a miute, everything was possible--;
and then,
then,--
 well, like I said, she didn't move: and I saw,
under me, a little girl was just lying there in the mud:

and I knew I couldn't have done that,--
somebody else had to have done that,--
standing above her there,
 in those ordinary, shitty leaves ...

--One time, I went to see Dad in a motel where he was
staying with a woman; but she was gone;
you could smell the wine in the air; and he started,
real embarrassing, to cry ...
 He was still a little drunk,
and asked me to forgive him for
all he hasn't done--; but, What the shit?
Who would have wanted to stay with Mom? with bastards
not even his own kids?

 I got in the truck, and started to drive
and saw a little girl--
who I picked up, hit on the head, and
screwed, and screwed, and screwed, and screwed, then

buried,
 in the garden of the motel ...

--You see, ever since I was a kid I wanted
to feel things make sense: I remember

looking out the window of my room back home,--
and being almost suffocated by the asphalt;
and grass; and trees; and glass;
just there, just there, doing nothing!
not saying anything! filling me up--
but also being a wall; dead, and stopping me;
--how I wanted to see beneath it, cut

beneath it, and make it
somehow, come alive ...

 The salt of the earth;
Mom once said, 'Man's spunk is the salt of the earth ...'

--That night, at that Twenty-nine Palms Motel
I had passed a million times on the road, everything

fit together; was alright;
it seemed like
 everything had to be there, like I had spent years
trying, and at last finally finished drawing this
 huge circle ...

--But then, suddenly I knew
somebody else did it, some bastard
had hurt a little girl--; the motel
 I could see again, it had been
itself all the time, a lousy
pile of bricks, plaster, that didn't seem to
have to be there,--but was, just by chance ...

--Once, on the farm, when I was a kid,
I was screwing a goat; and the rope around his neck
when he tried to get away
pulled tight;--and just when I came,
he died ...
 I came back the next day; jacked off over his body;
but it didn't do any good ...

Mom once said:
'Man's spunk is the salt of the earth, and grows kids.'

I tried so hard to come; more pain than anything else;
but didn't do any good ...

--About six months ago, I heard Dad remarried,
so I drove over to Connecticut to see him and see
if he was happy.
 She was twenty-five years younger than him:
she had lots of little kids, and I don't know why,
I felt shaky ...

 I stopped in front of the address; and
snuck up to the window to look in ...
 --There he was, a kid
six months old on his lap, laughing
and bouncing the kid, happy in his old age
to play the papa after years of sleeping around,--
it twisted me up ...
 To think that what he wouldn't give me,
 he wanted to give them ...

 I could have killed the bastard ...

--Naturally, I just got right back in the car,
and believe me, was determined, determined,
to head straight for home ...

 but the more I drove,
I kept thinking about getting a girl,
and the more I thought I shouldn't do it,
the more I had to--

 I saw her coming out of the movies,
saw she was alone, and
kept circling the blocks as she walked along them,
saying, 'You're going to leave her alone.'
'You're going to leave her alone.'

 --The woods were scary!
As the seasons changed, and you saw more and more
of the skull show through, the nights became clearer,
and the buds,--erect, like nipples ...

--But then, one night,
nothing worked ...
 Nothing in the sky
would blur like I wanted it to;
and I couldn't, couldn't,
get it to seem to me
that somebody else did it ...

I tried, and tried, but there was just me there,
and her, and the sharp trees
saying, "That's you standing there.
 You're ...
 just you.'

 I hope I fry.

--Hell came when I saw
 MYSELF ...
 and couldn't stand
what I see ..."


by Frank Bidart |

Dark Night

 (John of the Cross) 


 In a dark night, when the light
 burning was the burning of love (fortuitous
 night, fated, free,--)
 as I stole from my dark house, dark
 house that was silent, grave, sleeping,--

 by the staircase that was secret, hidden,
 safe: disguised by darkness (fortuitous
 night, fated, free,--)
 by darkness and by cunning, dark
 house that was silent, grave, sleeping--;

 in that sweet night, secret, seen by
 no one and seeing
 nothing, my only light or
 guide
 the burning in my burning heart,

 night was the guide
 to the place where he for whom I
 waited, whom I had long ago chosen,
 waits: night
 brighter than noon, in which none can see--;

night was the guide
 sweeter than the sun raw at
 dawn, for there the burning bridegroom is
 bride
 and he who chose at last is chosen.


 *

As he lay sleeping on my sleepless
 breast, kept from the beginning for him
 alone, lying on the gift I gave
 as the restless
 fragrant cedars moved the restless winds,--

winds from the circling parapet circling
 us as I lay there touching and lifting his hair,--
 with his sovereign hand, he
 wounded my neck-
 and my senses, when they touched that, touched nothing...

In a dark night (there where I
 lost myself,--) as I leaned to rest
 in his smooth white breast, everything
 ceased
 and left me, forgotten in the grave of forgotten lilies.


by Frank Bidart |

California Plush

 The only thing I miss about Los Angeles

is the Hollywood Freeway at midnight, windows down and
radio blaring
bearing right into the center of the city, the Capitol Tower
on the right, and beyond it, Hollywood Boulevard
blazing

--pimps, surplus stores, footprints of the stars

--descending through the city
 fast as the law would allow

through the lights, then rising to the stack
out of the city
to the stack where lanes are stacked six deep

 and you on top; the air
 now clean, for a moment weightless

 without memories, or
 need for a past.



The need for the past

is so much at the center of my life
I write this poem to record my discovery of it,
my reconciliation.

 It was in Bishop, the room was done
in California plush: we had gone into the coffee shop, were told
you could only get a steak in the bar:
 I hesitated,
not wanting to be an occasion of temptation for my father

but he wanted to, so we entered

a dark room, with amber water glasses, walnut
tables, captain's chairs,
plastic doilies, papier-mâché bas-relief wall ballerinas,
German memorial plates "bought on a trip to Europe,"
Puritan crosshatch green-yellow wallpaper,
frilly shades, cowhide 
booths--

I thought of Cambridge:

 the lovely congruent elegance
 of Revolutionary architecture, even of

ersatz thirties Georgian

seemed alien, a threat, sign
of all I was not--

to bode order and lucidity

as an ideal, if not reality--

not this California plush, which

 also

I was not.

And so I made myself an Easterner,
finding it, after all, more like me
than I had let myself hope.

 And now, staring into the embittered face of 
 my father,

again, for two weeks, as twice a year,
 I was back.

 The waitress asked us if we wanted a drink.
Grimly, I waited until he said no...



Before the tribunal of the world I submit the following
document:

 Nancy showed it to us,
in her apartment at the model,
as she waited month by month
for the property settlement, her children grown
and working for their father,
at fifty-three now alone, 
a drink in her hand:

 as my father said,
"They keep a drink in her hand":

 Name Wallace du Bois
 Box No 128 Chino, Calif.
 Date July 25 ,19 54

Mr Howard Arturian
 I am writing a letter to you this afternoon while I'm in the
mood of writing. How is everything getting along with you these
fine days, as for me everything is just fine and I feel great except for 
the heat I think its lot warmer then it is up there but I don't mind
it so much. I work at the dairy half day and I go to trade school the
other half day Body & Fender, now I am learning how to spray
paint cars I've already painted one and now I got another car to
paint. So now I think I've learned all I want after I have learned all
this. I know how to straighten metals and all that. I forgot to say
"Hello" to you. The reason why I am writing to you is about a job,
my Parole Officer told me that he got letter from and that you want
me to go to work for you. So I wanted to know if its truth. When
I go to the Board in Feb. I'll tell them what I want to do and where
I would like to go, so if you want me to work for you I'd rather have
you sent me to your brother John in Tonapah and place to stay for
my family. The Old Lady says the same thing in her last letter that 
she would be some place else then in Bishop, thats the way I feel
too.and another thing is my drinking problem. I made up my mind
to quit my drinking, after all what it did to me and what happen.
 This is one thing I'll never forget as longs as I live I never want
to go through all this mess again. This sure did teach me lot of things
that I never knew before. So Howard you can let me know soon
as possible. I sure would appreciate it.

P.S From Your Friend
I hope you can read my Wally Du Bois
writing. I am a little nervous yet

--He and his wife had given a party, and
one of the guests was walking away
just as Wallace started backing up his car.
He hit him, so put the body in the back seat
and drove to a deserted road.
There he put it before the tires, and
ran back and forth over it several times.

When he got out of Chino, he did,
indeed, never do that again:
but one child was dead, his only son,
found with the rest of the family
immobile in their beds with typhoid,
next to the mother, the child having been
dead two days:

he continued to drink, and as if it were the Old West
shot up the town a couple of Saturday nights.

"So now I think I've learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet."

It seems to me
an emblem of Bishop--



For watching the room, as the waitresses in their
back-combed, Parisian, peroxided, bouffant hairdos,
and plastic belts,
moved back and forth

I thought of Wallace, and
the room suddenly seemed to me
 not uninteresting at all:

 they were the same. Every plate and chair

 had its congruence with

 all the choices creating

 these people, created

 by them--by me,

for this is my father's chosen country, my origin.

Before, I had merely been anxious, bored; now,
I began to ask a thousand questions...




He was, of course, mistrustful, knowing I was bored,
knowing he had dragged me up here from Bakersfield

after five years

of almost managing to forget Bishop existed.

But he soon became loquacious, ordered a drink,
and settled down for 
an afternoon of talk...

He liked Bishop: somehow, it was to his taste, this
hard-drinking, loud, visited-by-movie-stars town.
"Better to be a big fish in a little pond."

And he was: when they came to shoot a film,
he entertained them; Miss A--, who wore
nothing at all under her mink coat; Mr. M--,
good horseman, good shot.

"But when your mother 
let me down" (for alcoholism and
infidelity, she divorced him)
"and Los Angeles wouldn't give us water any more,
I had to leave.

We were the first people to grow potatoes in this valley."

When he began to tell me
that he lost control of the business
because of the settlement he gave my mother,

because I had heard it 
many times,

in revenge, I asked why people up here drank so much.

He hesitated. "Bored, I guess.
--Not much to do."

And why had Nancy's husband left her?

In bitterness, all he said was:
"People up here drink too damn much."

And that was how experience
had informed his life.

"So now I think I've learned all I want
after I have learned all this: this sure did teach me a lot of things
that I never knew before.
I am a little nervous yet."



Yet, as my mother said,
returning, as always, to the past,

"I wouldn't change any of it.
It taught me so much. Gladys
is such an innocent creature: you look into her face
and somehow it's empty, all she worries about
are sales and the baby.
her husband's too good!"

It's quite pointless to call this rationalization:
my mother, for uncertain reasons, has had her
bout with insanity, but she's right:

the past in maiming us,
makes us,
fruition
 is also
destruction:

 I think of Proust, dying
in a cork-linked room, because he refuses to eat
because he thinks that he cannot write if he eats
because he wills to write, to finish his novel

--his novel which recaptures the past, and
with a kind of joy, because
in the debris
of the past, he has found the sources of the necessities

which have led him to this room, writing

--in this strange harmony, does he will
for it to have been different?

 And I can't not think of the remorse of Oedipus,

who tries to escape, to expiate the past
by blinding himself, and
then, when he is dying, sees that he has become a Daimon

--does he, discovering, at last, this cruel
coherence created by 
 "the order of the universe"

--does he will 
anything reversed?



 I look at my father:
as he drinks his way into garrulous, shaky
defensiveness, the debris of the past
is just debris--; whatever I reason, it is a desolation
to watch...

must I watch?
He will not change; he does not want to change;

every defeated gesture implies
the past is useless, irretrievable...
--I want to change: I want to stop fear's subtle

guidance of my life--; but, how can I do that
if I am still
afraid of its source?


by Frank Bidart |

Overheard Through The Walls Of The Invisible City

 . . . telling those who swarm around him his desire
is that an appendage from each of them
fill, invade each of his orifices,—

repeating, chanting,
Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah Oh yeah

until, as if in darkness he craved the sun, at last he reached
consummation.

—Until telling those who swarm around him begins again

(we are the wheel to which we are bound).


by Frank Bidart |

Love Incarnate

 (Dante, Vita Nuova)


To all those driven berserk or humanized by love
this is offered, for I need help 
deciphering my dream.
When we love our lord is LOVE.

When I recall that at the fourth hour
of the night, watched by shining stars,
LOVE at last became incarnate,
the memory is horror.

In his hands smiling LOVE held my burning
heart, and in his arms, the body whose greeting
pierces my soul, now wrapped in bloodred, sleeping.

He made him wake. He ordered him to eat
my heart. He ate my burning heart. He ate it
submissively, as if afraid as LOVE wept.


by Frank Bidart |

Adolescence

 He stared up into my eyes with a look
I can almost see now.

He had that look in his eyes
that bore right into mine.

I could sense that he knew I was
envious of what he was doing—; and knew that I'd

always wish I had known at the time
what he was doing was something I'd always

crave in later life, just as he did.

He was enjoying what he was doing.
The look was one of pure rapture.

He was gloating. He knew.

I still remember his look.


by Frank Bidart |

Self-Portrait 1969

 He's still young--; thirty, but looks younger--
or does he?... In the eyes and cheeks, tonight,
turning in the mirror, he saw his mother,--
puffy; angry; bewildered... Many nights,
now, when he stares there, he gets angry:--
something unfulfilled there, something dead
to what he once thought he surely could be--
Now, just the glamour of habits...
 Once, instead,
he thought insight would remake him, he'd reach
--what? The thrill, the exhilaration
unravelling disaster, that seemed to teach
necessary knowledge... became just jargon.

Sick of being decent, he craves another
crash. What reaches him except disaster?