Alice Walker |
I said to Poetry: "I'm finished
Having to almost die
before some wierd light
comes creeping through
is no fun.
"No thank you, Creation,
no muse need apply.
Im out for good times--
at the very least,
some painless convention.
Poetry laid back
and played dead
until this morning.
I wasn't sad or anything,
Poetry said: "You remember
the desert, and how glad you were
that you have an eye
to see it with? You remember
that, if ever so slightly?"
I said: "I didn't hear that.
Besides, it's five o'clock in the a.
I'm not getting up
in the dark
to talk to you.
Poetry said: "But think about the time
you saw the moon
over that small canyon
that you liked so much better
than the grand one--and how suprised you were
that the moonlight was green
and you still had
one good eye
to see it with
Think of that!"
"I'll join the church!" I said,
huffily, turning my face to the wall.
"I'll learn how to pray again!"
"Let me ask you," said Poetry.
"When you pray, what do you think
Poetry had me.
"There's no paper
in this room," I said.
"And that new pen I bought
makes a funny noise.
"Bullshit," said Poetry.
"Bullshit," said I.
Richard Brautigan |
Sometimes life is merely a matter of coffee and whatever intimacy a cup of coffee
I once read something about coffee.
The thing said that coffee is good for you;
it stimulates all the organs.
I thought at first this was a strange way to put it, and not altogether pleasant, but
as time goes by I have found out that it makes sense in its own limited way.
I'll tell you
what I mean.
Yesterday morning I went over to see a girl.
I like her.
Whatever we had going for us
is gone now.
She does not care for me.
I blew it and wish I hadn't.
I rang the door bell and waited on the stairs.
I could hear her moving around upstairs.
The way she moved I could tell that she was getting up.
I had awakened her.
Then she came down the stairs.
I could feel her approach in my stomach.
Every step she
took stirred my feelings and lead indirectly to her opening the door.
She saw me and it
did not please her.
Once upon a time it pleased her very much, last week.
I wonder where it went,
pretending to be naive.
"I feel strange now," she said.
"I don't want to talk.
"I want a cup of coffee," I said, because it was the last thing in the world
that I wanted.
I said it in such a way that it sounded as if I were reading her a telegram
from somebody else, a person who really wanted a cup of coffee, who cared about nothing
"All right," she said.
I followed her up the stairs.
It was ridiculous.
She had just put some clothes on.
had not quite adjusted themselves to her body.
I could tell you about her ass.
into the kitchen.
She took a jar of instant coffee off the shelf and put it on the table.
She placed a
cup next to it, and a spoon.
I looked at them.
She put a pan full of water on the stove
and turned the gas on under it.
All this time she did not say a word.
Her clothes adjusted themselves to her body.
She left the kitchen.
Then she went down the stairs and outside to see if she had any mail.
I didn't remember
She came back up the stairs and went into another room.
She closed the door
I looked at the pan full of water on the stove.
I knew that it would take a year before the water started to boil.
It was now October
and there was too much water in the pan.
That was the problem.
I threw half of the water
into the sink.
The water would boil faster now.
It would take only six months.
The house was quiet.
I looked out the back porch.
There were sacks of garbage there.
I stared at the garbage
and tried to figure out what she had been eating lately by studying the containers and
peelings and stuff.
I couldn't tell a thing.
It was now March.
The water started to boil.
I was pleased by this.
I looked at the table.
There was the jar of instant coffee, the empty cup and the spoon
all laid out like a funeral service.
These are the things that you need to make a cup of
When I left the house ten minutes later, the cup of coffee safely inside me like a
grave, I said, "Thank you for the cup of coffee.
"You're welcome," she said.
Her voice came from behind a closed door.
voice sounded like another telegram.
It was really time for me to leave.
I spent the rest of the day not making coffee.
It was a comfort.
And evening came, I
had dinner in a restaurant and went to a bar.
I had some drinks and talked to some people.
We were bar people and said bar things.
None of them remembered, and the bar closed.
was two o'clock in the morning.
I had to go outside.
It was foggy and cold in San
I wondered about the fog and felt very human and exposed.
I decided to go visit another girl.
We had not been friends for over a year.
were very close.
I wondered what she was thinking about now.
I went to her house.
She didn't have a door bell.
That was a small victory.
keep track of all the small victories.
I do, anyway.
She answered the door.
She was holding a robe in front of her.
She didn't believe that
she was seeing me.
"What do you want?" she said, believing now that she was
I walked right into the house.
She turned and closed the door in such a way that I could see her profile.
She had not
bothered to wrap the robe completely around herself.
She was just holding the robe in
front of herself.
I could see an unbroken line of body running from her head to her feet.
It looked kind
Perhaps because it was so late at night.
"What do you want?" she said.
"I want a cup of coffee," I said.
What a funny thing to say, to say again for
a cup of coffee was not what I really wanted.
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the profile.
She was not pleased to see me.
Let the AMA tell us that time heals.
I looked at the unbroken line of her body.
"Why don't you have a cup of coffee with me?" I said.
"I feel like
talking to you.
We haven't talked for a long time.
She looked at me and wheeled slightly on the profile.
I stared at the unbroken line of
This was not good.
"It's too late," she said.
"I have to get up in the morning.
If you want
a cup of coffee, there's instant in the kitchen.
I have to go to bed.
The kitchen light was on.
I looked down the hall into the kitchen.
I didn't feel like
going into the kitchen and having another cup of coffee by myself.
I didn't feel like
going to anybody else's house and asking them for a cup of coffee.
I realized that the day had been committed to a very strange pilgrimage, and I had not
planned it that way.
At least the jar of instant coffee was not on the table, beside an
empty white cup and a spoon.
They say in the spring a young man's fancy turns to thoughts of love.
Perhaps if he has
enough time left over, his fancy can even make room for a cup of coffee.
-from Revenge of the Lawn
Maggie Estep |
I'm all screwed up so
and take out the garbage
feed the cat and FUCK ME
you can do it, I know you can.
and theorize about
Sado Masochism's relationship
to classical philosophy
tell me how this stimulates
the fabric of most human relationships,
I love that kind of pointless intellectualism
so do it again and
Stop being logical
the origins of evil
and the beauty of death
this is not a TV movie about Plato sex life,
this is FUCK ME
so FUCK ME
It's the pause that refreshes
just add water and
I wrote this
so I'd have a good excuse to say "FUCK ME"
over and over
so I could get a lot of attention
and look, it worked!
So thank you
and fuck ME.
Charles Bukowski |
call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
and there was HAIL
big ROCKS OF ICE
exploding smashing into things
and the rain
and all the roofs leaked-
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in
the jobless men went mad
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
the legs, the knees, the
"I'll kill you," I screamed
"You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
all the households were under
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against
the scarred window
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would
and it always seemed to
around 5 or 6 a.
but not an exact silence
because things continued to
and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them
and gobbled them
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
the men stood on their porches
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't
there, to start that car
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
trying to put their world back
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
wondering what they could
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds
are too wet.
"AW!" most of the boys
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was
in the California
the the recess bells rang
and we all waited for the
Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!.
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds
will be dry
and we will put them
most of the boys
and the little girls
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that
the world might never see
John Betjeman |
Cocooned in Time, at this inhuman height,
The packaged food tastes neutrally of clay,
We never seem to catch the running day
But travel on in everlasting night
With all the chic accoutrements of flight:
Lotions and essences in neat array
And yet another plastic cup and tray.
"Thank you so much.
Oh no, I'm quite all right".
At home in Cornwall hurrying autumn skies
Leave Bray Hill barren, Stepper jutting bare,
And hold the moon above the sea-wet sand.
The very last of late September dies
In frosty silence and the hills declare
How vast the sky is, looked at from the land.
Christina Rossetti |
I never said I loved you, John:
Why will you tease me day by day,
And wax a weariness to think upon
With always "do" and "pray"?
You Know I never loved you, John;
No fault of mine made me your toast:
Why will you haunt me with a face as wan
As shows an hour-old ghost?
I dare say Meg or Moll would take
Pity upon you, if you'd ask:
And pray don't remain single for my sake
Who can't perform the task.
I have no heart?-Perhaps I have not;
But then you're mad to take offence
That don't give you what I have not got:
Use your common sense.
Let bygones be bygones:
Don't call me false, who owed not to be true:
I'd rather answer "No" to fifty Johns
Than answer "Yes" to you.
Let's mar our plesant days no more,
Song-birds of passage, days of youth:
Catch at today, forget the days before:
I'll wink at your untruth.
Let us strike hands as hearty friends;
No more, no less; and friendship's good:
Only don't keep in veiw ulterior ends, And points not understood
In open treaty.
Quibbles and shuffling off and on:
Here's friendship for you if you like; but love,-
No, thank you, John.
Victor Hugo |
You can see it already: chalks and ochers;
Country crossed with a thousand furrow-lines;
Ground-level rooftops hidden by the shrubbery;
Sporadic haystacks standing on the grass;
Smoky old rooftops tarnishing the landscape;
A river (not Cayster or Ganges, though:
A feeble Norman salt-infested watercourse);
On the right, to the north, bizarre terrain
All angular--you'd think a shovel did it.
So that's the foreground.
An old chapel adds
Its antique spire, and gathers alongside it
A few gnarled elms with grumpy silhouettes;
Seemingly tired of all the frisky breezes,
They carp at every gust that stirs them up.
At one side of my house a big wheelbarrow
Is rusting; and before me lies the vast
Horizon, all its notches filled with ocean blue;
Cocks and hens spread their gildings, and converse
Beneath my window; and the rooftop attics,
Now and then, toss me songs in dialect.
In my lane dwells a patriarchal rope-maker;
The old man makes his wheel run loud, and goes
Retrograde, hemp wreathed tightly round the midriff.
I like these waters where the wild gale scuds;
All day the country tempts me to go strolling;
The little village urchins, book in hand,
Envy me, at the schoolmaster's (my lodging),
As a big schoolboy sneaking a day off.
The air is pure, the sky smiles; there's a constant
Soft noise of children spelling things aloud.
The waters flow; a linnet flies; and I say: "Thank you!
Thank you, Almighty God!"--So, then, I live:
Peacefully, hour by hour, with little fuss, I shed
My days, and think of you, my lady fair!
I hear the children chattering; and I see, at times,
Sailing across the high seas in its pride,
Over the gables of the tranquil village,
Some winged ship which is traveling far away,
Flying across the ocean, hounded by all the winds.
Lately it slept in port beside the quay.
Nothing has kept it from the jealous sea-surge:
No tears of relatives, nor fears of wives,
Nor reefs dimly reflected in the waters,
Nor importunity of sinister birds.
Robert Frost |
Lancaster bore him--such a little town,
Such a great man.
It doesn't see him often
Of late years, though he keeps the old homestead
And sends the children down there with their mother
To run wild in the summer--a little wild.
Sometimes he joins them for a day or two
And sees old friends he somehow can't get near.
They meet him in the general store at night,
Pre-occupied with formidable mail,
Rifling a printed letter as he talks.
They seem afraid.
He wouldn't have it so:
Though a great scholar, he's a democrat,
If not at heart, at least on principle.
Lately when coming up to Lancaster
His train being late he missed another train
And had four hours to wait at Woodsville Junction
After eleven o'clock at night.
To think of sitting such an ordeal out,
He turned to the hotel to find a bed.
"No room," the night clerk said.
Woodsville's a place of shrieks and wandering lamps
And cars that shook and rattle--and one hotel.
"You say 'unless.
"Unless you wouldn't mind
Sharing a room with someone else.
"Who is it?"
"So I should hope.
What kind of man?"
"I know him: he's all right.
A man's a man.
Separate beds of course you understand.
The night clerk blinked his eyes and dared him on.
"Who's that man sleeping in the office chair?
Has he had the refusal of my chance?"
"He was afraid of being robbed or murdered.
What do you say?"
"I'll have to have a bed.
The night clerk led him up three flights of stairs
And down a narrow passage full of doors,
At the last one of which he knocked and entered.
"Lafe, here's a fellow wants to share your room.
"Show him this way.
I'm not afraid of him.
I'm not so drunk I can't take care of myself.
The night clerk clapped a bedstead on the foot.
"This will be yours.
Good-night," he said, and went.
"Lafe was the name, I think?"
You got it the first time.
"Well, a teacher.
Hold on, there's something I don't think of now
That I had on my mind to ask the first
Man that knew anything I happened in with.
I'll ask you later--don't let me forget it.
The Doctor looked at Lafe and looked away.
A man? A brute.
Naked above the waist,
He sat there creased and shining in the light,
Fumbling the buttons in a well-starched shirt.
"I'm moving into a size-larger shirt.
I've felt mean lately; mean's no name for it.
I just found what the matter was to-night:
I've been a-choking like a nursery tree
When it outgrows the wire band of its name tag.
I blamed it on the hot spell we've been having.
'Twas nothing but my foolish hanging back,
Not liking to own up I'd grown a size.
Number eighteen this is.
What size do you wear?"
The Doctor caught his throat convulsively.
"Fourteen! You say so!
I can remember when I wore fourteen.
And come to think I must have back at home
More than a hundred collars, size fourteen.
Too bad to waste them all.
You ought to have them.
They're yours and welcome; let me send them to you.
What makes you stand there on one leg like that?
You're not much furtherer than where Kike left you.
You act as if you wished you hadn't come.
Sit down or lie down, friend; you make me nervous.
The Doctor made a subdued dash for it,
And propped himself at bay against a pillow.
"Not that way, with your shoes on Kike's white bed.
You can't rest that way.
Let me pull your shoes off.
"Don't touch me, please--I say, don't touch me, please.
I'll not be put to bed by you, my man.
"Just as you say.
Have it your own way then.
'My man' is it? You talk like a professor.
Speaking of who's afraid of who, however,
I'm thinking I have more to lose than you
If anything should happen to be wrong.
Who wants to cut your number fourteen throat!
Let's have a show down as an evidence
Of good faith.
There is ninety dollars.
Come, if you're not afraid.
"I'm not afraid.
There's five: that's all I carry.
"I can search you?
Where are you moving over to? Stay still.
You'd better tuck your money under you
And sleep on it the way I always do
When I'm with people I don't trust at night.
"Will you believe me if I put it there
Right on the counterpane--that I do trust you?"
"You'd say so, Mister Man.
--I'm a collector.
My ninety isn't mine--you won't think that.
I pick it up a dollar at a time
All round the country for the Weekly News,
Published in Bow.
You know the Weekly News?"
"Known it since I was young.
"Then you know me.
Now we are getting on together--talking.
I'm sort of Something for it at the front.
My business is to find what people want:
They pay for it, and so they ought to have it.
Fairbanks, he says to me--he's editor--
Feel out the public sentiment--he says.
A good deal comes on me when all is said.
The only trouble is we disagree
In politics: I'm Vermont Democrat--
You know what that is, sort of double-dyed;
The News has always been Republican.
Fairbanks, he says to me, 'Help us this year,'
Meaning by us their ticket.
'No,' I says,
'I can't and won't.
You've been in long enough:
It's time you turned around and boosted us.
You'll have to pay me more than ten a week
If I'm expected to elect Bill Taft.
I doubt if I could do it anyway.
"You seem to shape the paper's policy.
"You see I'm in with everybody, know 'em all.
I almost know their farms as well as they do.
"You drive around? It must be pleasant work.
"It's business, but I can't say it's not fun.
What I like best's the lay of different farms,
Coming out on them from a stretch of woods,
Or over a hill or round a sudden corner.
I like to find folks getting out in spring,
Raking the dooryard, working near the house.
Later they get out further in the fields.
Everything's shut sometimes except the barn;
The family's all away in some back meadow.
There's a hay load a-coming--when it comes.
And later still they all get driven in:
The fields are stripped to lawn, the garden patches
Stripped to bare ground, the apple trees
To whips and poles.
There's nobody about.
The chimney, though, keeps up a good brisk smoking.
And I lie back and ride.
I take the reins
Only when someone's coming, and the mare
Stops when she likes: I tell her when to go.
I've spoiled Jemima in more ways than one.
She's got so she turns in at every house
As if she had some sort of curvature,
No matter if I have no errand there.
She thinks I'm sociable.
I maybe am.
It's seldom I get down except for meals, though.
Folks entertain me from the kitchen doorstep,
All in a family row down to the youngest.
"One would suppose they might not be as glad
To see you as you are to see them.
Because I want their dollar.
I don't want
Anything they've not got.
I never dun.
I'm there, and they can pay me if they like.
I go nowhere on purpose: I happen by.
Sorry there is no cup to give you a drink.
I drink out of the bottle--not your style.
Mayn't I offer you----?"
"No, no, no, thank you.
"Just as you say.
Here's looking at you then.
And now I'm leaving you a little while.
You'll rest easier when I'm gone, perhaps--
Lie down--let yourself go and get some sleep.
But first--let's see--what was I going to ask you?
Those collars--who shall I address them to,
Suppose you aren't awake when I come back?"
"Really, friend, I can't let you.
You--may need them.
"Not till I shrink, when they'll be out of style.
"But really I--I have so many collars.
"I don't know who I rather would have have them.
They're only turning yellow where they are.
But you're the doctor as the saying is.
I'll put the light out.
Don't you wait for me:
I've just begun the night.
You get some sleep.
I'll knock so-fashion and peep round the door
When I come back so you'll know who it is.
There's nothing I'm afraid of like scared people.
I don't want you should shoot me in the head.
What am I doing carrying off this bottle?
There now, you get some sleep.
He shut the door.
The Doctor slid a little down the pillow.
Anthony Hecht |
I'm mighty glad to see you, Mrs.
And thank you very kindly for this visit--
Especially now when all the others here
Are having holiday visitors, and I feel
A little conspicuous and in the way.
It's mainly because of Thanksgiving.
All these mothers
And wives and husbands gaze at me soulfully
And feel they should break up their box of chocolates
For a donation, or hand me a chunk of fruitcake.
What they don't understand and never guess
Is that it's better for me without a family;
It's a great blessing.
Though I mean no harm.
And as for visitors, why, I have you,
All cheerful, brisk and punctual every Sunday,
Like church, even if the aisles smell of phenol.
And you always bring even better gifts than any
On your book-trolley.
Though they mean only good,
Families can become a sort of burden.
I've only got my father, and he won't come,
Poor man, because it would be too much for him.
And for me, too, so it's best the way it is.
He knows, you see, that I will predecease him,
Which is hard enough.
It would take a callous man
To come and stand around and watch me failing.
(Now don't you fuss; we both know the plain facts.
But for him it's even harder.
He loved my mother.
They say she looked like me; I suppose she may have.
Or rather, as I grew older I came to look
More and more like she must one time have looked,
And so the prospect for my father now
Of losing me is like having to lose her twice.
I know he frets about me.
Tells me he phones in every single day,
Hoping that things will take a turn for the better.
But with leukemia things don't improve.
It's like a sort of blizzard in the bloodstream,
A deep, severe, unseasonable winter,
The white blood cells
Multiply crazily and storm around,
Out of control.
Hasn't helped much, and it makes my hair fall out.
I know I look a sight, but I don't care.
I care about fewer things; I'm more selective.
It's got so I can't even bring myself
To read through any of your books these days.
It's partly weariness, and partly the fact
That I seem not to care much about the endings,
How things work out, or whether they even do.
What I do instead is sit here by this window
And look out at the trees across the way.
You wouldn't think that was much, but let me tell you,
It keeps me quite intent and occupied.
Now all the leaves are down, you can see the spare,
Delicate structures of the sycamores,
The fine articulation of the beeches.
I have sat here for days studying them,
And I have only just begun to see
What it is that they resemble.
One by one,
They stand there like magnificent enlargements
Of the vascular system of the human brain.
I see them there like huge discarnate minds,
Lost in their meditative silences.
The trunks, branches and twigs compose the vessels
That feed and nourish vast immortal thoughts.
So I've assigned them names.
There, near the path,
Is the great brain of Beethoven, and Kepler
Haunts the wide spaces of that mountain ash.
This view, you see, has become my Hall of Fame,
It came to me one day when I remembered
Mary Beth Finley who used to play with me
When we were girls.
One year her parents gave her
A birthday toy called "The Transparent Man.
It was made of plastic, with different colored organs,
And the circulatory system all mapped out
In rivers of red and blue.
She'd ask me over
And the two of us would sit and study him
Together, and do a powerful lot of giggling.
I figure he's most likely the only man
Either of us would ever get to know
Intimately, because Mary Beth became
A Sister of Mercy when she was old enough.
She must be thirty-one; she was a year
Older than I, and about four inches taller.
I used to envy both those advantages
Back in those days.
Anyway, I was struck
Right from the start by the sea-weed intricacy,
The fine-haired, silken-threaded filiations
That wove, like Belgian lace, throughout the head.
But this last week it seems I have found myself
Looking beyond, or through, individual trees
At the dense, clustered woodland just behind them,
Where those great, nameless crowds patiently stand.
It's become a sort of complex, ultimate puzzle
And keeps me fascinated.
My eyes are twenty-twenty,
Or used to be, but of course I can't unravel
The tousled snarl of intersecting limbs,
That mackled, cinder grayness.
It's a riddle
Beyond the eye's solution.
If there is order in all that anarchy
Of granite mezzotint, that wilderness,
It takes a better eye than mine to see it.
It set me on to wondering how to deal
With such a thickness of particulars,
Deal with it faithfully, you understand,
Without blurring the issue.
Of course I know
That within a month the sleeving snows will come
With cold, selective emphases, with massings
And arbitrary contrasts, rendering things
Deceptively simple, thickening the twigs
To frosty veins, bestowing epaulets
And decorations on every birch and aspen.
And the eye, self-satisfied, will be misled,
Thinking the puzzle solved, supposing at last
It can look forth and comprehend the world.
That's when you have to really watch yourself.
So I hope that you won't think me plain ungrateful
For not selecting one of your fine books,
And I take it very kindly that you came
And sat here and let me rattle on this way.
Raymond Carver |
Here in this dank, unfamiliar kitchen
I study my father's embarrassed young man's face.
Sheepish grin, he holds in one hand a string
of spiny yellow perch, in the other
a bottle of Carlsbad Beer.
In jeans and denim shirt, he leans
against the front fender of a 1934 Ford.
He would like to pose bluff and hearty for his posterity,
Wear his old hat cocked over his ear.
All his life my father wanted to be bold.
But the eyes give him away, and the hands
that limply offer the string of dead perch
and the bottle of beer.
Father, I love you,
yet how can I say thank you, I who can't hold my liquor either,
and don't even know the places to fish?
Charles Bukowski |
ah, christ, what a CREW:
poetry, always more
P O E T R Y .
if it doesn't come, coax it out with a
get your name in LIGHTS,
get it up there in
8 1/2 x 11 mimeo.
keep it coming like a miracle.
ah christ, writers are the most sickening
of all the louts!
gutless, flea-bitten and
in tinker-toy rooms
with their flabby hearts
they tell us
what's wrong with the world-
as if we didn't know that a cop's club
can crack the head
and that war is a dirtier game than
or down in a basement bar
hiding from a wife who doesn't appreciate him
and children he doesn't
he tells us that his heart is drowning in
hell, all our hearts are drowning in vomit,
in pork salt, in bad verse, in soggy
but he thinks he's alone and
he thinks he's special and he thinks he's Rimbaud
and he thinks he's
and death! how about death? did you know
that we all have to die? even Keats died, even
Thomas-THEY KILLED HIM, of course.
Thomas didn't want all those free drinks
all that free pussy-
FORCED IT ON HIM
when they should have left him alone so he could
write write WRITE!
and there's another
I've met them at their country
places (don't ask me what I was doing there because
I don't know).
they were born with money and
they don't have to dirty their hands in
slaughterhouses or washing
dishes in grease joints or
driving cabs or pimping or selling pot.
this gives them time to understand
they walk in with their cocktail glass
held about heart high
and when they drink they just
you are drinking green beer which you
brought with you
because you have found out through the years
that rich bastards are tight-
they use 5 cent stamps instead of airmail
they promise to have all sorts of goodies ready
upon your arrival
from gallons of whisky to
50 cent cigars.
but it's never
and they HIDE their women from you-
their wives, x-wives, daughters, maids, so forth,
because they've read your poems and
figure all you want to do is fuck everybody and
which once might have been
true but is no longer quite
he WRITES TOO.
he has plenty of time and a
postoffice box in town
and he drives there 3 or 4 times a day
looking and hoping for accepted
he thinks that poverty is a weakness of the
he thinks your mind is ill because you are
drunk all the time and have to work in a
factory 10 or 12 hours a
he brings his wife in, a beauty, stolen from a
he lets you gaze for 30 seconds
then hustles her
she has been crying for some
you've got 3 or 4 days to linger in the
guesthouse he says,
"come on over to dinner
but he doesn't say when or
and then you find out that you are not even
IN HIS HOUSE.
you are in
ONE of his houses but
his house is somewhere
you don't know
he even has x-wives in some of his
his main concern is to keep his x-wives away from
he doesn't want to give up a
and you can't blame him:
his x-wives are all young, stolen, kept,
talented, well-dressed, schooled, with
varying French-German accents.
WRITE POETRY TOO.
but his big problem is to get down to that mail
box in town to get back his
and to keep his eye on all the other mail boxes
in all his other
meanwhile, the starving Indians
sell beads and baskets in the streets of the small desert
the Indians are not allowed in his houses
not so much because they are a fuck-threat
but because they are
dirty? I look down at my shirt
with the beerstain on the front.
ignorant? I light a 6 cent cigar and
he or they or somebody was supposed to meet me at
of course, they weren't
"We'll be there to meet the great
well, I looked around and didn't see any
besides it was 7 a.
the trouble was there were no
not even a
he's a poet.
he's also a doctor, a head-shrinker.
no blood involved that
he won't tell me whether I am crazy or
not-I don't have the
he walks out with his cocktail glass
disappears for 2 hours, 3 hours,
then suddenly comes walking back in
with the same cocktail glass
to make sure I haven't gotten hold of
something more precious than
my cheap green beer is killing
he shows heart (hurrah) and
gives me a little pill that stops my
but nothing decent to
he'd bought a small 6 pack
for my arrival but that was gone in an
hour and 15
"I'll buy you barrels of beer," he had
I used his phone (one of his phones)
to get deliveries of beer and
the town was ten miles away,
I peeled my poor dollars from my poor
and the boy needed a tip, of
the way it was shaping up I could see that I was
hardly Dylan Thomas yet, not even
certainly Creeley wouldn't have
had beerstains on his
anyhow, when I finally got hold of one of his
x-wives I was too drunk to
sure, I imagined him peering
through the window-
he didn't want to give up a damn thing-
leveling the luger while I was
while "The March to the Gallows" was playing over
and shooting me in the ass first and
my poor brain
"an intruder," I could hear him telling them,
"ravishing one of my helpless x-wives.
I see him published in some of the magazines
not very good stuff.
a poem about me
too: the Polack.
the Polack whines too much.
the Polack whines about his
country, other countries, all countries, the Polack
works overtime in a factory like a fool, among other
fools with "pre-drained spirits.
the Polack drinks seas of green beer
full of acid.
the Polack has an ulcerated
the Polack picks on fags
" the Polack hates his
wife, hates his daughter.
his daughter will become
an alcoholic, a prostitute.
the Polack has an
"obese burned out wife.
" the Polack has a
the Polack has a
thank you, Doctor (and poet).
any charge for
this? I know I still owe you for the
Your poem is not too good
but at least I got your starch up.
most of your stuff is about as lively as a
wet and deflated
but it is your round, you've won a round.
going to invite me out this
Summer? I might scrape up
got an Indian friend who'd like to meet
you and yours.
he swears he's got the biggest
pecker in the state of California.
and guess what?
Judith Viorst |
I'm learning to say thank you.
And I'm learning to say please.
And I'm learning to use Kleenex,
Not my sweater, when I sneeze.
And I'm learning not to dribble.
And I'm learning not to slurp.
And I'm learning (though it sometimes really hurts me)
Not to burp.
And I'm learning to chew softer
When I eat corn on the cob.
And I'm learning that it's much
Much easier to be a slob.
Marriott Edgar |
There's a famous seaside place called Blackpool,
That's noted for fresh air and fun,
And Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom
Went there with young Albert, their son.
A grand little lad was young Albert,
All dressed in his best; quite a swell
With a stick with an 'orse's 'ead 'andle,
The finest that Woolworth's could sell.
They didn't think much of the Ocean:
The waves, they were fiddlin' and small,
There was no wrecks and nobody drownded,
Fact, nothing to laugh at at all.
So, seeking for further amusement,
They paid and went into the Zoo,
Where they'd Lions and Tigers and Camels,
And old ale and sandwiches too.
There were one great big Lion called Wallace;
His nose were all covered with scars -
He lay in a somnolent posture,
With the side of his face on the bars.
Now Albert had heard about Lions,
How they was ferocious and wild -
To see Wallace lying so peaceful,
Well, it didn't seem right to the child.
So straightway the brave little feller,
Not showing a morsel of fear,
Took his stick with its 'orse's 'ead 'andle
And pushed it in Wallace's ear.
You could see that the Lion didn't like it,
For giving a kind of a roll,
He pulled Albert inside the cage with 'im,
And swallowed the little lad 'ole.
Then Pa, who had seen the occurrence,
And didn't know what to do next,
Said 'Mother! Yon Lion's 'et Albert',
And Mother said 'Well, I am vexed!'
Then Mr and Mrs Ramsbottom -
Quite rightly, when all's said and done -
Complained to the Animal Keeper,
That the Lion had eaten their son.
The keeper was quite nice about it;
He said 'What a nasty mishap.
Are you sure that it's your boy he's eaten?'
Pa said "Am I sure? There's his cap!'
The manager had to be sent for.
He came and he said 'What's to do?'
Pa said 'Yon Lion's 'et Albert,
'And 'im in his Sunday clothes, too.
Then Mother said, 'Right's right, young feller;
I think it's a shame and a sin,
For a lion to go and eat Albert,
And after we've paid to come in.
The manager wanted no trouble,
He took out his purse right away,
Saying 'How much to settle the matter?'
And Pa said "What do you usually pay?'
But Mother had turned a bit awkward
When she thought where her Albert had gone.
She said 'No! someone's got to be summonsed' -
So that was decided upon.
Then off they went to the P'lice Station,
In front of the Magistrate chap;
They told 'im what happened to Albert,
And proved it by showing his cap.
The Magistrate gave his opinion
That no one was really to blame
And he said that he hoped the Ramsbottoms
Would have further sons to their name.
At that Mother got proper blazing,
'And thank you, sir, kindly,' said she.
'What waste all our lives raising children
To feed ruddy Lions? Not me!'
Andrew Hudgins |
Our Father who art in heaven, I am drunk.
For which I offer thanks.
I ought to start with praise, but praise
comes hard to me.
Did I tell you
about the woman, whom I taught, in bed,
this prayer? It starts with praise; the simple form
keeps things in order.
I hear from her sometimes.
Do you? And after love, when I was hungry,
I said, Make me something to eat.
Poof! You're a casserole! - and laughed so hard
she fell out of bed.
Take care of her.
Next, confession - the dreary part.
deer drift from the dark woods and eat my garden.
They're like enormous rats on stilts except,
of course, they're beautiful.
But why? What makes
them beautiful? I haven't shot one yet.
When I was twelve I'd ride my bike
out to the dump and shoot the rats.
to kill your rats, our Father.
You have to use
a hollow point and hit them solidly.
A leg is not enough.
The rat won't pause.
Yeep! Yeep! it screams, and scrabbles, three-legged, back
into the trash, and I would feel a little bad
to kill something that wants to live
more savagely than I do, even if
it's just a rat.
My garden's vanishing.
Perhaps I'll plant more beans, though that
might mean more beautiful and hungry deer.
I'm sorry for the times I've driven
home past a black, enormous, twilight ridge.
Crested with mist it looked like a giant wave
about to break and sweep across the valley,
and in my loneliness and fear I've thought,
O let it come and wash the whole world clean.
This is my favorite sin: despair-
whose love I celebrate with wine and prayer.
Our Father, thank you for all the birds and trees,
that nature stuff.
I'm grateful for good health,
food, air, some laughs, and all the other things I've never had to do
I have confused myself.
there's not a rattrap large enough for deer.
While at the zoo last week, I sat and wept
when I saw one elephant insert his trunk
into another's ass, pull out a lump,
and whip it back and forth impatiently
to free the goodies hidden in the lump.
I could have let it mean most anything,
but I was stunned again at just how little
we ask for in our lives.
Don't look! Don't look!
Two young nuns tried to herd their giggling
Line up, they called, Let's go
and watch the monkeys in the monkey house.
I laughed and got a dirty look.
we lurch from metaphor to metaphor,
which is -let it be so- a form of praying.
I'm usually asleep by now -the time
As if I'd stayed
up late and called the radio and asked
they play a sentimental song.
I want a lot of money and a woman.
And, also, I want vanishing cream.
a character like Popeye rubs it on
Although you see right through him,
He chuckles, stumbles into things,
and smoke that's clearly visible escapes
from his invisible pipe.
It make me think,
sometimes, of you.
What makes me think of me
is the poor jerk who wanders out on air
and then looks down.
Below his feet, he sees
eternity, and suddenly his shoes
no longer work on nothingness, and down
As I fall past, remember me.
Philip Levine |
A good man is seized by the police
and spirited away.
someone brags that he shot him once
through the back of the head
with a Walther 7.
65, and his life
ended just there.
Those who loved
him go on searching the cafés
in the Barrio Chino or the bars
near the harbor.
A comrade swears
he saw him at a distance buying
two kilos of oranges in the market
of San José and called out, "Andrés,
Andrés," but instead of turning
to a man he'd known since child-
hood and opening his great arms
wide, he scurried off, the oranges
tumbling out of the damp sack, one
after another, a short bright trail
left on the sidewalk to say,
Farewell! Farewell to what? I ask.
I asked then and I ask now.
heard the story fifty years ago;
it became part of the mythology I
hauled with me from one graveyard
to another, this belief in the power
of my yearning.
The dead are every-
where, crowding the narrow streets
that jut out from the wide boulevard
on which we take our morning walk.
They stand in the cold shadows
of men and women come to sell
themselves to anyone, they stride
along beside me and stop when I
stop to admire the bright garlands
or the little pyramids of fruit,
they reach a hand out to give
money or to take change, they say
"Good morning" or "Thank you," they
turn with me and retrace my steps
back to the bare little room I've
come to call home.
they stand beside me staring out
over the soiled roofs of the world
until the light fades and we are
all one or no one.
They ask for
so little, a prayer now and then,
a toast to their health which is
our health, a few lies no one reads
incised on a dull plaque between
a pharmacy and a sports store,
the least little daily miracle.