Denise Duhamel |
I had sex with a famous poet last night
and when I rolled over and found myself beside him I shuddered
because I was married to someone else,
because I wasn't supposed to have been drinking,
because I was in fancy hotel room
I didn't recognize.
I would have told you
right off this was a dream, but recently
a friend told me, write about a dream,
lose a reader and I didn't want to lose you
I wanted you to hear
that I didn't even like the poet in the dream, that he has
four kids, the youngest one my age, and I find him
rather unattractive, that I only met him once,
that is, in real life, and that was in a large group
in which I barely spoke up.
He disgusted me
with his disparaging remarks about women.
He even used the word "Jap"
which I took as a direct insult to my husband who's Asian.
When we were first dating, I told him
"You were talking in your sleep last night
and I listened, just to make sure you didn't
call out anyone else's name.
" My future-husband said
that he couldn't be held responsible for his subconscious,
which worried me, which made me think his dreams
were full of blond vixens in rabbit-fur bikinis.
but he said no, he dreamt mostly about boulders
and the ocean and volcanoes, dangerous weather
he witnessed but could do nothing to stop.
And I said, "I dream only of you,"
which was romantic and silly and untrue.
But I never thought I'd dream of another man--
my husband and I hadn't even had a fight,
my head tucked sweetly in his armpit, my arm
around his belly, which lifted up and down
all night, gently like water in a lake.
If I passed that famous poet on the street,
he would walk by, famous in his sunglasses
and blazer with the suede patches at the elbows,
without so much as a glance in my direction.
I know you're probably curious about who the poet is,
so I should tell you the clues I've left aren't
accurate, that I've disguised his identity,
that you shouldn't guess I bet it's him.
because you'll never guess correctly
and even if you do, I won't tell you that you have.
I wouldn't want to embarrass a stranger
who is, after all, probably a nice person,
who was probably just having a bad day when I met him,
who is probably growing a little tired of his fame--
which my husband and I perceive as enormous,
but how much fame can an American poet
really have, let's say, compared to a rock star
or film director of equal talent? Not that much,
and the famous poet knows it, knows that he's not
truly given his due.
Knows that many
of these young poets tugging on his sleeve
are only pretending to have read all his books.
But he smiles anyway, tries to be helpful.
I mean, this poet has to have some redeeming qualities, right?
For instance, he writes a mean iambic.
Otherwise, what was I doing in his arms.
David Lehman |
When she says Margarita she means Daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window.
He's supposed to know that.
When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in Virginia
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.
When a woman loves a man it is one-ten in the morning,
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.
When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking.
Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"
When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water ruching over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.
Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?
When he says, "Ours is a transitional era.
"That's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the Martini he is sipping.
They fight all the time
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter.
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.
One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
another nine times.
When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there.
He doesn't complain that
she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.
When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.
When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.
David St John |
It was in the old days,
When she used to hang out at a place
Called Club Zombie,
A black cabaret that the police liked
To raid now and then.
Stepped through the door, the light
Would hit her platinum hair,
And believe me, heads would turn.
Loved it; he'd have her by
The arm as he led us through the packed crowd
To a private corner
Where her secluded oak table always waited.
She'd say, Jordan.
And I'd order her usual,
A champagne cocktail with a tall shot of bourbon
On the side.
She'd let her eyes
Trail the length of the sleek neck
Of the old stand-up bass, as
The bass player knocked out the bottom line,
His forehead glowing, glossy
With sweat in the blue lights;
Her own face, smooth and shining, as
The liquor slowly blanketed the pills
She'd slipped beneath her tongue.
Maestro'd kick the **** out of anybody
Who tried to sneak up for an autograph;
He'd say, Jordan, just let me know if
Somebody gets too close.
Then he'd turn to her and whisper, Here's
Where you get to be Miss Nobody.
And she'd smile as she let him
Kiss her hand.
For a while, there was a singer
At the club, a guy named Louis--
But Maestro'd change his name to "Michael Champion";
Well, when this guy leaned forward,
Cradling the microphone in his huge hands,
All the legs went weak
Underneath the ladies.
He'd look over at her, letting his eyelids
Droop real low, singing, Oh Baby I.
Oh Baby I Love.
I Love You.
And she'd be gone, those little mermaid tears
Running down her cheeks.
Was always cool.
He'd let them use his room upstairs,
Sometimes, because they couldn't go out--
Black and white couldn't mix like that then.
I mean, think about it--
This kid star and a cool beauty who made King Cole
Sound raw? No, they had to keep it
To the club; though sometimes,
Near the end, he'd come out to her place
At the beach, always taking the iced whisky
I brought to him with a sly, sweet smile.
Once, sweeping his arm out in a slow
Half-circle, the way at the club he'd
Show the audience how far his endless love
Had grown, he marked
The circumference of the glare whitening the patio
Where her friends all sat, sunglasses
Masking their eyes.
And he said to me, Jordan, why do
White people love the sun so?--
God's spotlight, my man?
Leaning back, he looked over to where she
Stood at one end of the patio, watching
The breakers flatten along the beach below,
Her body reflected and mirrored
Perfectly in the bedroom's sliding black glass
He stared at her
Reflection for a while, then looked up at me
And said, Jordan, I think that I must be
Like a pool of water in a cave that sometimes
She steps into.
Later, as I drove him back into the city,
He hummed a Bessie Smith tune he'd sing
For her, but he didn't say a word until
We stopped at last back at the club.
slowly out of the back
Of the Cadillac, and reaching to shake my hand
Through the open driver's window, said,
My man, Jordan.
David Berman |
It's too nice a day to read a novel set in England.
We're within inches of the perfect distance from the sun,
the sky is blueberries and cream,
and the wind is as warm as air from a tire.
Even the headstones in the graveyard
Seem to stand up and say "Hello! My name is.
It's enough to be sitting here on my porch,
thinking about Kermit Roosevelt,
following the course of an ant,
or walking out into the yard with a cordless phone
to find out she is going to be there tonight
On a day like today, what looks like bad news in the distance
turns out to be something on my contact, carports and white
courtesy phones are spontaneously reappreciated
and random "okay"s ring through the backyards.
This morning I discovered the red tints in cola
when I held a glass of it up to the light
and found an expensive flashlight in the pocket of a winter coat
I was packing away for summer.
It all reminds me of that moment when you take off your sunglasses
after a long drive and realize it's earlier
and lighter out than you had accounted for.
You know what I'm talking about,
and that's the kind of fellowship that's taking place in town, out in
the public spaces.
You won't overhear anyone using the words
"dramaturgy" or "state inspection today.
We're too busy getting along.
It occurs to me that the laws are in the regions and the regions are
in the laws, and it feels good to say this, something that I'm almost
sure is true, outside under the sun.
Then to say it again, around friends, in the resonant voice of a
nineteenth-century senator, just for a lark.
There's a shy looking fellow on the courthouse steps, holding up a
placard that says "But, I kinda liked Reagan.
" His head turns slowly
as a beautiful girl walks by, holding a refrigerated bottle up against
her flushed cheek.
She smiles at me and I allow myself to imagine her walking into
town to buy lotion at a brick pharmacy.
When she gets home she'll apply it with great lingering care before
moving into her parlor to play 78 records and drink gin-and-tonics
beside her homemade altar to James Madison.
In a town of this size, it's certainly possible that I'll be invited over
In fact I'll bet you something.
Somewhere in the future I am remembering today.
I'll bet you
I'm remembering how I walked into the park at five thirty,
my favorite time of day, and how I found two cold pitchers
of just poured beer, sitting there on the bench.
I am remembering how my friend Chip showed up
with a catcher's mask hanging from his belt and how I said
great to see you, sit down, have a beer, how are you,
and how he turned to me with the sunset reflecting off his contacts
and said, wonderful, how are you.
Philip Levine |
I bought a dollar and a half's worth of small red potatoes,
took them home, boiled them in their jackets
and ate them for dinner with a little butter and salt.
Then I walked through the dried fields
on the edge of town.
In middle June the light
hung on in the dark furrows at my feet,
and in the mountain oaks overhead the birds
were gathering for the night, the jays and mockers
squawking back and forth, the finches still darting
into the dusty light.
The woman who sold me
the potatoes was from Poland; she was someone
out of my childhood in a pink spangled sweater and sunglasses
praising the perfection of all her fruits and vegetables
at the road-side stand and urging me to taste
even the pale, raw sweet corn trucked all the way,
she swore, from New Jersey.
"Eat, eat" she said,
"Even if you don't I'll say you did.
you know all your life.
They are so simple and true
they must be said without elegance, meter and rhyme,
they must be laid on the table beside the salt shaker,
the glass of water, the absence of light gathering
in the shadows of picture frames, they must be
naked and alone, they must stand for themselves.
My friend Henri and I arrived at this together in 1965
before I went away, before he began to kill himself,
and the two of us to betray our love.
Can you taste
what I'm saying? It is onions or potatoes, a pinch
of simple salt, the wealth of melting butter, it is obvious,
it stays in the back of your throat like a truth
you never uttered because the time was always wrong,
it stays there for the rest of your life, unspoken,
made of that dirt we call earth, the metal we call salt,
in a form we have no words for, and you live on it.
Erica Jong |
a frozen memory, like any photo,
where nothing is missing, not even,
and especially, nothingness.
-- Julio Cortázar, "Blow Up"
he photographed reflections:
sunstorms in puddles,
cities in canals,
double portraits framed
the fat phantoms who dance
on the flanks of cars.
Nothing caught his eye
unless it bent
over something else.
He trapped clouds in bottles
the way kids
Then one misty day
he was stopped
by the windshield.
an avenue of trees,
the mirror of that scene.
He seemed to enter
what, in fact, he left.
Philip Levine |
Something has fallen wordlessly
and holds still on the black driveway.
You find it, like a jewel,
among the empty bottles and cans
where the dogs toppled the garbage.
You pick it up, not sure
if it is stone or wood
or some new plastic made
to replace them both.
When you raise your sunglasses
to see exactly what you have
you see it is only a shadow
that has darkened your fingers,
a black ink or oil,
and your hand suddenly smells
of c1assrooms when the rain
pounded the windows and you
shuddered thinking of the cold
and the walk back to an empty house.
You smell all of your childhood,
the damp bed you struggled from
to dress in half-light and go out
into a world that never tired.
Later, your hand thickened and flat
slid out of a rubber glove,
as you stood, your mask raised,
to light a cigarette and rest
while the acid tanks that were
yours to dean went on bathing
the arteries of broken sinks.
Remember, you were afraid
of the great hissing jugs.
There were stories of burnings,
of flesh shredded to lace.
On other nights men spoke
of rats as big as dogs.
Women spoke of men
who trapped them in corners.
Always there was grease that hid
the faces of worn faucets, grease
that had to be eaten one
finger-print at a time,
there was oil, paint, blood,
your own blood sliding across
your nose and running over
your lips with that bright, certain
taste that was neither earth
or air, and there was air,
the darkest element of all,
falling all night
into the bruised river
you slept beside, falling
into the glass of water
you filled two times for breakfast
and the eyes you turned upward
to see what time it was.
Air that stained everything
with its millions of small deaths,
that turned all five fingers
to grease or black ink or ashes.