David Berman |
I know it's a bad title
but I'm giving it to myself as a gift
on a day nearly canceled by sunlight
when the entire hill is approaching
the ideal of Virginia
brochured with goldenrod and loblolly
and I think "at least I have not woken up
with a bloody knife in my hand"
by then having absently wandered
one hundred yards from the house
while still seated in this chair
with my eyes closed.
It is a certain hill
the one I imagine when I hear the word "hill"
and if the apocalypse turns out
to be a world-wide nervous breakdown
if our five billion minds collapse at once
well I'd call that a surprise ending
and this hill would still be beautiful
a place I wouldn't mind dying
alone or with you.
I am trying to get at something
and I want to talk very plainly to you
so that we are both comforted by the honesty.
You see there is a window by my desk
I stare out when I am stuck
though the outdoors has rarely inspired me to write
and I don't know why I keep staring at it.
My childhood hasn't made good material either
mostly being a mulch of white minutes
with a few stand out moments,
popping tar bubbles on the driveway in the summer
a certain amount of pride at school
everytime they called it "our sun"
and playing football when the only play
was "go out long" are what stand out now.
If squeezed for more information
I can remember old clock radios
with flipping metal numbers
and an entree called Surf and Turf.
As a way of getting in touch with my origins
every night I set the alarm clock
for the time I was born so that waking up
becomes a historical reenactment and the first thing I do
is take a reading of the day and try to flow with it like
when you're riding a mechanical bull and you strain to learn
the pattern quickly so you don't inadverantly resist it.
I can't remember being born
and no one else can remember it either
even the doctor who I met years later
at a cocktail party.
It's one of the little disappointments
that makes you think about getting away
going to Holly Springs or Coral Gables
and taking a room on the square
with a landlady whose hands are scored
by disinfectant, telling the people you meet
that you are from Alaska, and listen
to what they have to say about Alaska
until you have learned much more about Alaska
than you ever will about Holly Springs or Coral Gables.
Sometimes I am buying a newspaper
in a strange city and think
"I am about to learn what it's like to live here.
Oftentimes there is a news item
about the complaints of homeowners
who live beside the airport
and I realize that I read an article
on this subject nearly once a year
and always receive the same image.
I am in bed late at night
in my house near the airport
listening to the jets fly overhead
a strange wife sleeping beside me.
In my mind, the bedroom is an amalgamation
of various cold medicine commercial sets
(there is always a box of tissue on the nightstand).
I know these recurring news articles are clues,
flaws in the design though I haven't figured out
how to string them together yet,
but I've begun to notice that the same people
are dying over and over again,
for instance Minnie Pearl
who died this year
for the fourth time in four years.
Today is the first day of Lent
and once again I'm not really sure what it is.
How many more years will I let pass
before I take the trouble to ask someone?
It reminds of this morning
when you were getting ready for work.
I was sitting by the space heater
numbly watching you dress
and when you asked why I never wear a robe
I had so many good reasons
I didn't know where to begin.
If you were cool in high school
you didn't ask too many questions.
You could tell who'd been to last night's
big metal concert by the new t-shirts in the hallway.
You didn't have to ask
and that's what cool was:
the ability to deduct
to know without asking.
And the pressure to simulate coolness
means not asking when you don't know,
which is why kids grow ever more stupid.
A yearbook's endpages, filled with promises
to stay in touch, stand as proof of the uselessness
of a teenager's promise.
Not like I'm dying
for a letter from the class stoner
ten years on but.
Do you remember the way the girls
would call out "love you!"
conveniently leaving out the "I"
as if they didn't want to commit
to their own declarations.
I agree that the "I" is a pretty heavy concept
and hope you won't get uncomfortable
if I should go into some deeper stuff here.
There are things I've given up on
like recording funny answering machine messages.
It's part of growing older
and the human race as a group
has matured along the same lines.
It seems our comedy dates the quickest.
If you laugh out loud at Shakespeare's jokes
I hope you won't be insulted
if I say you're trying too hard.
Even sketches from the original Saturday Night Live
seem slow-witted and obvious now.
It's just that our advances are irrepressible.
Nowadays little kids can't even set up lemonade stands.
It makes people too self-conscious about the past,
though try explaining that to a kid.
I'm not saying it should be this way.
All this new technology
will eventually give us new feelings
that will never completely displace the old ones
leaving everyone feeling quite nervous
and split in two.
We will travel to Mars
even as folks on Earth
are still ripping open potato chip
bags with their teeth.
Why? I don't have the time or intelligence
to make all the connections
like my friend Gordon
(this is a true story)
who grew up in Braintree Massachusetts
and had never pictured a brain snagged in a tree
until I brought it up.
He'd never broken the name down to its parts.
By then it was too late.
He had moved to Coral Gables.
The hill out my window is still looking beautiful
suffused in a kind of gold national park light
and it seems to say,
I'm sorry the world could not possibly
use another poem about Orpheus
but I'm available if you're not working
on a self-portrait or anything.
I'm watching my dog have nightmares,
twitching and whining on the office floor
and I try to imagine what beast
has cornered him in the meadow
where his dreams are set.
I'm just letting the day be what it is:
a place for a large number of things
to gather and interact --
not even a place but an occasion
a reality for real things.
Friends warned me not to get too psychedelic
or religious with this piece:
"They won't accept it if it's too psychedelic
or religious," but these are valid topics
and I'm the one with the dog twitching on the floor
possibly dreaming of me
that part of me that would beat a dog
for no good reason
no reason that a dog could see.
I am trying to get at something so simple
that I have to talk plainly
so the words don't disfigure it
and if it turns out that what I say is untrue
then at least let it be harmless
like a leaky boat in the reeds
that is bothering no one.
I can't trust the accuracy of my own memories,
many of them having blended with sentimental
telephone and margarine commercials
plainly ruined by Madison Avenue
though no one seems to call the advertising world
"Madison Avenue" anymore.
Have they moved?
Let's get an update on this.
But first I have some business to take care of.
I walked out to the hill behind our house
which looks positively Alaskan today
and it would be easier to explain this
if I had a picture to show you
but I was with our young dog
and he was running through the tall grass
like running through the tall grass
is all of life together
until a bird calls or he finds a beer can
and that thing fills all the space in his head.
his mind can only hold one thought at a time
and when he finally hears me call his name
he looks up and cocks his head
and for a single moment
my voice is everything:
Self-portrait at 28.
David Lehman |
Some people find out they are Jews.
They can't believe it.
Thy had always hated Jews.
As children they had roamed in gangs on winter nights in the old
neighborhood, looking for Jews.
They were not Jewish, they were Irish.
They brandished broken bottles, tough guys with blood on their
lips, looking for Jews.
They intercepted Jewish boys walking alone and beat them up.
Sometimes they were content to chase a Jew and he could elude
them by running away.
They were happy just to see him run
The coward! All Jews were yellow.
They spelled Jew with a small j jew.
And now they find out they are Jews themselves.
It happened at the time of the Spanish Inquisition.
To escape persecution, they pretended to convert to Christianity.
They came to this country and settled in the Southwest.
At some point oral tradition failed the family, and their
secret faith died.
No one would ever have known if not for the bones that turned up
on the dig.
How could it have happened to them?
They are in a state of panic--at first.
Then they realize that it is the answer to their prayers.
They hasten to the synagogue or build new ones.
They are Jews at last!
They are free to marry other Jews, and divorce them, and intermarry
with Gentiles, God forbid.
They are model citizens, clever and thrifty.
They debate the issues.
They fire off earnest letters to the editor.
They are resented for being clever and thrifty.
They buy houses in the suburbs and agree not to talk so loud.
They look like everyone else, drive the same cars as everyone else,
yet in their hearts they know they're different.
In every minyan there are always two or three, hated by
the others, who give life to one ugly stereotype or another:
The grasping Jew with the hooked nose or the Ivy League Bolshevik
who thinks he is the agent of world history.
But most of them are neither ostentatiously pious nor
How I envy them! They believe.
How I envy them their annual family reunion on Passover,
anniversary of the Exodus, when all the uncles and aunts and
cousins get together.
They wonder about the heritage of Judaism they are passing along
to their children.
Have they done as much as they could to keep the old embers
Others lead more dramatic lives.
A few go to Israel.
One of them calls Israel "the ultimate concentration camp.
He tells Jewish jokes.
On the plane he gets tipsy, tries to seduce the stewardess.
People in the Midwest keep telling him reminds them of Woody
He wonders what that means.
I'm funny? A sort of nervous
intellectual type from New York? A Jew?
Around this time somebody accuses him of not being Jewish enough.
It is said by resentful colleagues that his parents changed their
name from something that sounded more Jewish.
Everything he publishes is scrutinized with reference to "the
It is no longer clear what is meant by that phrase.
He has already forgotten all the Yiddish he used to know, and
the people of that era are dying out one after another.
The number of witnesses keeps diminishing.
Soon there will be no one left to remind the others and their
That is why he came to this dry place where the bones have come
To live in a state of perpetual war puts a tremendous burden on the
As a visitor he felt he had to share that burden.
With his gift for codes and ciphers, he joined the counter-
terrorism unit of army intelligence.
Contrary to what the spook novels say, he found it possible to
avoid betraying either his country or his lover.
This was the life: strange bedrooms, the perfume of other men's
As a spy he has a unique mission: to get his name on the front
page of the nation's newspaper of record.
Only by doing that
would he get the message through to his immediate superior.
If he goes to jail, he will do so proudly; if they're going to
hang him anyway, he'll do something worth hanging for.
In time he may get used to being the center of attention, but
this was incredible:
To talk his way into being the chief suspect in the most
flamboyant murder case in years!
And he was innocent!
He could prove it!
And what a book he would write when they free him from this prison:
A novel, obliquely autobiographical, set in Vienna in the twilight
of the Hapsburg Empire, in the year that his mother was born.
Allen Ginsberg |
When I die
I don't care what happens to my body
throw ashes in the air, scatter 'em in East River
bury an urn in Elizabeth New Jersey, B'nai Israel Cemetery
But l want a big funeral
Patrick's Cathedral, St.
Mark's Church, the largest synagogue in
First, there's family, brother, nephews, spry aged Edith stepmother
96, Aunt Honey from old Newark,
Doctor Joel, cousin Mindy, brother Gene one eyed one ear'd, sister-
in-law blonde Connie, five nephews, stepbrothers & sisters
companion Peter Orlovsky, caretakers Rosenthal & Hale, Bill Morgan--
Next, teacher Trungpa Vajracharya's ghost mind, Gelek Rinpoche,
there Sakyong Mipham, Dalai Lama alert, chance visiting
America, Satchitananda Swami
Shivananda, Dehorahava Baba, Karmapa XVI, Dudjom Rinpoche,
Katagiri & Suzuki Roshi's phantoms
Baker, Whalen, Daido Loorie, Qwong, Frail White-haired Kapleau
Roshis, Lama Tarchen --
Then, most important, lovers over half-century
Dozens, a hundred, more, older fellows bald & rich
young boys met naked recently in bed, crowds surprised to see each
other, innumerable, intimate, exchanging memories
"He taught me to meditate, now I'm an old veteran of the thousand
day retreat --"
"I played music on subway platforms, I'm straight but loved him he
"I felt more love from him at 19 than ever from anyone"
"We'd lie under covers gossip, read my poetry, hug & kiss belly to belly
arms round each other"
"I'd always get into his bed with underwear on & by morning my
skivvies would be on the floor"
"Japanese, always wanted take it up my bum with a master"
"We'd talk all night about Kerouac & Cassady sit Buddhalike then
sleep in his captain's bed.
"He seemed to need so much affection, a shame not to make him happy"
"I was lonely never in bed nude with anyone before, he was so gentle my
shuddered when he traced his finger along my abdomen nipple to hips-- "
"All I did was lay back eyes closed, he'd bring me to come with mouth
& fingers along my waist"
"He gave great head"
So there be gossip from loves of 1948, ghost of Neal Cassady commin-
gling with flesh and youthful blood of 1997
and surprise -- "You too? But I thought you were straight!"
"I am but Ginsberg an exception, for some reason he pleased me.
"I forgot whether I was straight gay ***** or funny, was myself, tender
and affectionate to be kissed on the top of my head,
my forehead throat heart & solar plexus, mid-belly.
on my prick,
tickled with his tongue my behind"
"I loved the way he'd recite 'But at my back allways hear/ time's winged
chariot hurrying near,' heads together, eye to eye, on a
Among lovers one handsome youth straggling the rear
"I studied his poetry class, 17 year-old kid, ran some errands to his
seduced me didn't want to, made me come, went home, never saw him
again never wanted to.
"He couldn't get it up but loved me," "A clean old man.
" "He made
sure I came first"
This the crowd most surprised proud at ceremonial place of honor--
Then poets & musicians -- college boys' grunge bands -- age-old rock
star Beatles, faithful guitar accompanists, gay classical con-
ductors, unknown high Jazz music composers, funky trum-
peters, bowed bass & french horn black geniuses, folksinger
fiddlers with dobro tamborine harmonica mandolin auto-
harp pennywhistles & kazoos
Next, artist Italian romantic realists schooled in mystic 60's India,
Late fauve Tuscan painter-poets, Classic draftsman Massa-
chusets surreal jackanapes with continental wives, poverty
sketchbook gesso oil watercolor masters from American
Then highschool teachers, lonely Irish librarians, delicate biblio-
philes, sex liberation troops nay armies, ladies of either sex
"I met him dozens of times he never remembered my name I loved
him anyway, true artist"
"Nervous breakdown after menopause, his poetry humor saved me
from suicide hospitals"
"Charmant, genius with modest manners, washed sink, dishes my
studio guest a week in Budapest"
Thousands of readers, "Howl changed my life in Libertyville Illinois"
"I saw him read Montclair State Teachers College decided be a poet-- "
"He turned me on, I started with garage rock sang my songs in Kansas
"Kaddish made me weep for myself & father alive in Nevada City"
"Father Death comforted me when my sister died Boston l982"
"I read what he said in a newsmagazine, blew my mind, realized
others like me out there"
Deaf & Dumb bards with hand signing quick brilliant gestures
Then Journalists, editors's secretaries, agents, portraitists & photo-
graphy aficionados, rock critics, cultured laborors, cultural
historians come to witness the historic funeral
Super-fans, poetasters, aging Beatnicks & Deadheads, autograph-
hunters, distinguished paparazzi, intelligent gawkers
Everyone knew they were part of 'History" except the deceased
who never knew exactly what was happening even when I was alive
February 22, 1997
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
Siegfried Sassoon |
I’ve never ceased to curse the day I signed
A seven years’ bargain for the Golden Fleece.
’Twas a bad deal all round; and dear enough
It cost me, what with my daft management,
And the mean folk as owed and never paid me,
And backing losers; and the local bucks
Egging me on with whiskys while I bragged
The man I was when huntsman to the Squire.
I’d have been prosperous if I’d took a farm
Of fifty acres, drove my gig and haggled
At Monday markets; now I’ve squandered all
My savings; nigh three hundred pound I got
As testimonial when I’d grown too stiff
And slow to press a beaten fox.
’Twas the damned Fleece that wore my Emily out,
The wife of thirty years who served me well;
(Not like this beldam clattering in the kitchen,
That never trims a lamp nor sweeps the floor,
And brings me greasy soup in a foul crock.
Blast the old harridan! What’s fetched her now,
Leaving me in the dark, and short of fire?
And where’s my pipe? ’Tis lucky I’ve a turn
For thinking, and remembering all that’s past.
And now’s my hour, before I hobble to bed,
To set the works a-wheezing, wind the clock
That keeps the time of life with feeble tick
Behind my bleared old face that stares and wonders.
It’s ***** how, in the dark, comes back to mind
Some morning of September.
We’ve been digging
In a steep sandy warren, riddled with holes,
And I’ve just pulled the terrier out and left
A sharp-nosed cub-face blinking there and snapping,
Then in a moment seen him mobbed and torn
To strips in the baying hurly of the pack.
I picture it so clear: the dusty sunshine
On bracken, and the men with spades, that wipe
Red faces: one tilts up a mug of ale.
And, having stopped to clean my gory hands,
I whistle the jostling beauties out of the wood.
I’m but a daft old fool! I often wish
The Squire were back again—ah! he was a man!
They don’t breed men like him these days; he’d come
For sure, and sit and talk and suck his briar
Till the old wife brings up a dish of tea.
Ay, those were days, when I was serving Squire!
I never knowed such sport as ’85,
The winter afore the one that snowed us silly.
Once in a way the parson will drop in
And read a bit o’ the Bible, if I’m bad,
And pray the Lord to make my spirit whole
In faith: he leaves some ’baccy on the shelf,
And wonders I don’t keep a dog to cheer me
Because he knows I’m mortal fond of dogs!
I ask you, what’s a gent like that to me
As wouldn’t know Elijah if I saw him,
Nor have the wit to keep him on the talk?
’Tis kind of parson to be troubling still
With such as me; but he’s a town-bred chap,
Full of his college notions and Christmas hymns.
Religion beats me.
I’m amazed at folk
Drinking the gospels in and never scratching
Their heads for questions.
When I was a lad
I learned a bit from mother, and never thought
To educate myself for prayers and psalms.
But now I’m old and bald and serious-minded,
With days to sit and ponder.
I’d no chance
When young and gay to get the hang of all
This Hell and Heaven: and when the clergy hoick
And holloa from their pulpits, I’m asleep,
However hard I listen; and when they pray
It seems we’re all like children sucking sweets
In school, and wondering whether master sees.
I used to dream of Hell when I was first
Promoted to a huntsman’s job, and scent
Was rotten, and all the foxes disappeared,
And hounds were short of blood; and officers
From barracks over-rode ’em all day long
On weedy, whistling nags that knocked a hole
In every fence; good sportsmen to a man
And brigadiers by now, but dreadful hard
On a young huntsman keen to show some sport.
Ay, Hell was thick with captains, and I rode
The lumbering brute that’s beat in half a mile,
And blunders into every blind old ditch.
Hell was the coldest scenting land I’ve known,
And both my whips were always lost, and hounds
Would never get their heads down; and a man
On a great yawing chestnut trying to cast ’em
While I was in a corner pounded by
The ugliest hog-backed stile you’ve clapped your eyes on.
There was an iron-spiked fence round all the coverts,
And civil-spoken keepers I couldn’t trust,
And the main earth unstopp’d.
The fox I found
Was always a three-legged ’un from a bag,
Who reeked of aniseed and wouldn’t run.
The farmers were all ploughing their old pasture
And bellowing at me when I rode their beans
To cast for beaten fox, or galloped on
With hounds to a lucky view.
I’d lost my voice
Although I shouted fit to burst my guts,
And couldn’t blow my horn.
And when I woke,
Emily snored, and barn-cocks started crowing,
And morn was at the window; and I was glad
To be alive because I heard the cry
Of hounds like church-bells chiming on a Sunday.
Ay, that’s the song I’d wish to hear in Heaven!
The cry of hounds was Heaven for me: I know
Parson would call me crazed and wrong to say it,
But where’s the use of life and being glad
If God’s not in your gladness?
I’ve no brains
For book-learned studies; but I’ve heard men say
There’s much in print that clergy have to wink at:
Though many I’ve met were jolly chaps, and rode
To hounds, and walked me puppies; and could pick
Good legs and loins and necks and shoulders, ay,
And feet—’twas necks and feet I looked at first.
Some hounds I’ve known were wise as half your saints,
And better hunters.
That old dog of the Duke’s,
Harlequin; what a dog he was to draw!
And what a note he had, and what a nose
When foxes ran down wind and scent was catchy!
And that light lemon ***** of the Squire’s, old Dorcas—
She were a marvellous hunter, were old Dorcas!
Ay, oft I’ve thought, ‘If there were hounds in Heaven,
With God as master, taking no subscription;
And all His bless?d country farmed by tenants,
And a straight-necked old fox in every gorse!’
But when I came to work it out, I found
There’d be too many huntsmen wanting places,
Though some I’ve known might get a job with Nick!
I’ve come to think of God as something like
The figure of a man the old Duke was
When I was turning hounds to Nimrod King,
Before his Grace was took so bad with gout
And had to quit the saddle.
Tall and spare,
Clean-shaved and grey, with shrewd, kind eyes, that twinkled,
And easy walk; who, when he gave good words,
Gave them whole-hearted; and would never blame
Without just cause.
Lord God might be like that,
Sitting alone in a great room of books
Some evening after hunting.
Now I’m tired
With hearkening to the tick-tack on the shelf;
And pondering makes me doubtful.
On a moonless night of cloud that feels like frost
Though stars are hidden (hold your feet up, horse!)
And thinking what a task I had to draw
A pack with all those lame ’uns, and the lot
Wanting a rest from all this open weather;
That’s what I’m doing now.
And likely, too,
The frost’ll be a long ’un, and the night
The parsons say we’ll wake to find
A country blinding-white with dazzle of snow.
The naked stars make men feel lonely, wheeling
And glinting on the puddles in the road.
And then you listen to the wind, and wonder
If folk are quite such bucks as they appear
When dressed by London tailors, looking down
Their boots at covert side, and thinking big.
This world’s a funny place to live in.
I’ll need to change my country; but I know
’Tis little enough I’ve understood my life,
And a power of sights I’ve missed, and foreign marvels.
I used to feel it, riding on spring days
In meadows pied with sun and chasing clouds,
And half forget how I was there to catch
The foxes; lose the angry, eager feeling
A huntsman ought to have, that’s out for blood,
And means his hounds to get it!
Now I know
It’s God that speaks to us when we’re bewitched,
Smelling the hay in June and smiling quiet;
Or when there’s been a spell of summer drought,
Lying awake and listening to the rain.
I’d like to be the simpleton I was
In the old days when I was whipping-in
To a little harrier-pack in Worcestershire,
And loved a dairymaid, but never knew it
Until she’d wed another.
So I’ve loved
My life; and when the good years are gone down,
Discover what I’ve lost.
I never broke
Out of my blundering self into the world,
But let it all go past me, like a man
Half asleep in a land that’s full of wars.
What a grand thing ’twould be if I could go
Back to the kennels now and take my hounds
For summer exercise; be riding out
With forty couple when the quiet skies
Are streaked with sunrise, and the silly birds
Grown hoarse with singing; cobwebs on the furze
Up on the hill, and all the country strange,
With no one stirring; and the horses fresh,
Sniffing the air I’ll never breathe again.
You’ve brought the lamp, then, Martha? I’ve no mind
For newspaper to-night, nor bread and cheese.
Give me the candle, and I’ll get to bed.
Anne Sexton |
Who's she, that one in your arms?
She's the one I carried my bones to
and built a house that was just a cot
and built a life that was over an hour
and built a castle where no one lives
and built, in the end, a song
to go with the ceremony.
Why have you brought her here?
Why do you knock on my door
with your little stores and songs?
I had joined her the way a man joins
a woman and yet there was no place
for festivities or formalities
and these things matter to a woman
and, you see, we live in a cold climate
and are not permitted to kiss on the street
so I made up a song that wasn't true.
I made up a song called Marriage.
You come to me out of wedlock
and kick your foot on my stoop
and ask me to measure such things?
Not my real wife.
She's my real witch, my fork, my mare,
my mother of tears, my skirtful of hell,
the stamp of my sorrows, the stamp of my bruises
and also the children she might bear
and also a private place, a body of bones
that I would honestly buy, if I could buy,
that I would marry, if I could marry.
And should I torment you for that?
Each man has a small fate allotted to him
and yours is a passionate one.
But I am in torment.
We have no place.
The cot we share is almost a prison
where I can't say buttercup, bobolink,
sugarduck, pumpkin, love ribbon, locket,
valentine, summergirl, funnygirl and all
those nonsense things one says in bed.
To say I have bedded with her is not enough.
I have not only bedded her down.
I have tied her down with a knot.
Then why do you stick your fists
into your pockets? Why do you shuffle
your feet like a schoolboy?
For years I have tied this knot in my dreams.
I have walked through a door in my dreams
and she was standing there in my mother's apron.
Once she crawled through a window that was shaped
like a keyhole and she was wearing my daughter's
pink corduroys and each time I tied these women
in a knot.
Once a queen came.
I tied her too.
But this is something I have actually tied
and now I have made her fast.
I sang her out.
I caught her down.
I stamped her out with a song.
There was no other apartment for it.
There was no other chamber for it.
Only the knot.
The bedded-down knot.
Thus I have laid my hands upon her
and have called her eyes and her mouth
as mine, as also her tongue.
Why do you ask me to make choices?
I am not a judge or a psychologist.
You own your bedded-down knot.
And yet I have real daytimes and nighttimes
with children and balconies and a good wife.
Thus I have tied these other knots,
yet I would rather not think of them
when I speak to you of her.
If she were a room to rent I would pay.
If she were a life to save I would save.
Maybe I am a man of many hearts.
A man of many hearts?
Why then do you tremble at my doorway?
A man of many hearts does not need me.
I'm caught deep in the dye of her.
I have allowed you to catch me red-handed,
catch me with my wild oats in a wild clock
for my mare, my dove and my own clean body.
People might say I have snakes in my boots
but I tell you that just once am I in the stirrups,
just once, this once, in the cup.
The love of the woman is in the song.
I called her the woman in red.
I called her the woman in pink
but she was ten colors
and ten women
I could hardly name her.
I know who she is.
You have named her enough.
Maybe I shouldn't have put it in words.
Frankly, I think I'm worse for this kissing,
drunk as a piper, kicking the traces
and determined to tie her up forever.
You see the song is the life,
the life I can't live.
God, even as he passes,
hand down monogamy like slang.
I wanted to write her into the law.
But, you know, there is no law for this.
Man of many hearts, you are a fool!
The clover has grown thorns this year
and robbed the cattle of their fruit
and the stones of the river
have sucked men's eyes dry,
season after season,
and every bed has been condemned,
not by morality or law,
but by time.
Jane Taylor |
"Ah! don't you remember, 'tis almost December,
And soon will the holidays come;
Oh, 'twill be so funny, I've plenty of money,
I'll buy me a sword and a drum.
Thus said little Harry, unwilling to tarry,
Impatient from school to depart;
But we shall discover, this holiday lover
Knew little what was in his heart.
For when on returning, he gave up his learning,
Away from his sums and his books,
Though playthings surrounded, and sweetmeats abounded,
Chagrin still appear'd in his looks.
Though first they delighted, his toys were now slighted,
And thrown away out of his sight;
He spent every morning in stretching and yawning,
Yet went to bed weary at night.
He had not that treasure which really makes pleasure,
(A secret discover'd by few).
You'll take it for granted, more playthings he wanted;
Oh naught was something to do.
We must have employment to give us enjoyment
And pass the time cheerfully away;
And study and reading give pleasure, exceeding
The pleasures of toys and of play.
To school now returningto study and learning
With eagerness Harry applied;
He felt no aversion to books or exertion,
Nor yet for the holidays sigh'd.
Robert William Service |
Some inherit manly beauty,
Some come into worldly wealth;
Some have lofty sense of duty,
Others boast exultant health.
Though the pick may be confusing,
Health, wealth, charm or character,
If you had the chance of choosing
Which would you prefer?
I'm not sold on body beauty,
Though health I appreciate;
Character and sense of duty
I resign to Men of State.
I don't need a heap of money;
Oh I know I'm hard to please.
Though to you it may seem funny,
I want none of these.
No, give me Imagination,
And the gift of weaving words
Into patterns of creation,
With the lilt of singing birds;
Passion and the power to show it,
Sense of life with love expressed:
Let my be a bloody poet,--
You can keep the rest.
Robert William Service |
I'm waiting for the man I hope to wed.
I've never seen him - that's the funny part.
I promised I would wear a rose of red,
Pinned on my coat above my fluttered heart,
So that he'd know me - a precaution wise,
Because I wrote him I was twenty-three,
And Oh such heaps and heaps of silly lies.
So when we meet what will he think of me?
It's funny, but it has its sorry side;
I put an advert.
in the evening Press:
"A lonely maiden fain would be a bride.
Oh it was shameless of me, I confess.
But I am thirty-nine and in despair,
Wanting a home and children ere too late,
And I forget I'm no more young and fair -
I'll hide my rose and run.
No, no, I'll wait.
An hour has passed and I am waiting still.
I ought to feel relieved, but I'm so sad.
I would have liked to see him, just to thrill,
And sigh and say: "There goes my lovely lad!
My one romance!" Ah, Life's malign mishap!
"Garcon, a cafè creme.
" I'll stay till nine.
The cafè's empty, just an oldish chap
Who's sitting at the table next to mine.
I'm waiting for the girl I mean to wed.
She was to come at eight and now it's nine.
She'd pin upon her coat a rose of red,
And I would wear a marguerite in mine.
No sign of her I see.
It's true my eyes
Need stronger glasses than the ones I wear,
But Oh I feel my heart would recognize
Her face without the rose - she is so fair.
Ah! what deceivers are we aging men!
What vanity keeps youthful hope aglow!
Poor girl! I sent a photo taken when
I was a student, twenty years ago.
(Hers is so Springlike, Oh so blossom sweet!)
How she will shudder when she sees me now!
I think I'd better hide that marguerite -
How can I age and ugliness avow?
She does not come.
It's after nine o'clock.
What fools we fogeys are! I'll try to laugh;
(Garcon, you might bring me another bock)
Falling in love, just from a photograph.
Well, that's the end.
I'll go home and forget,
Then realizing I am over ripe
I'll throw away this silly cigarette
And philosophically light my pipe.
* * * * *
The waiter brought the coffee and the beer,
And there they sat, so woe-begone a pair,
And seemed to think: "Why do we linger here?"
When suddenly they turned, to start and stare.
She spied a marguerite, he glimpsed a rose;
Their eyes were joined and in a flash they knew.
The sleepy waiter saw, when time to close,
The sweet romance of those deceiving two,
Whose lips were joined, their hearts, their future too.
Charles Bukowski |
drunk again at 3 a.
at the end of my 2nd bottle
of wine, I have typed from a dozen to 15 pages of
an old man
maddened for the flesh of young girls in this
top-floor blood pressure
while all the fear of the wasted years
laughs between my toes
no woman will live with me
no Florence Nightingale to watch the
Johnny Carson show with
if I have a stroke I will lay here for six
days, my three cats hungrily ripping the flesh
from my elbows, wrists, head
the radio playing classical music .
I promised myself never to write old man poems
but this one's funny, you see, excusable, be-
cause I've long gone past using myself and there's
still more left
here at 3 a.
I am going to take this sheet from
pour another glass and
make love to the fresh new whiteness
maybe get lucky
from "All's Normal Here" - 1985