First American Poetry Disc, Volume II: Contemporary American Poetry



but the wonderful thing about the Blues is that the Blues has a great deal to do with the circumstantial and vibrant aspects of life they are what we call the mundane aspects of life and they're the kind of things when everybody has to confront and one of the things I like about being in this country is that life is difficult for everybody no matter how much money you have or no ma no matter how much education you have seems to be that people come to problems you know and no matter how much they are fortified they still have to sing the same kind of song and this particular song by Bessie Smith which I kind of pirated from her his last affair best his blues song the first word is like I said before the cutting away of the arm and shoulder from the torso this articulated arm torn out large veins cross her shoulder intact her tourniquet her blood in all white big bands can't you see what love and heartaches done to me I'm not the same as I used to be this is my last affair mail truck or parked car in the fast lane afloat at 43 on a Mississippi Road 200 pound muscle on a ham bone another nigger dead for a noon can't you see what love and heartaches done to me I'm not the same as I used to be this is my last affair $50 record cut the vein in her neck fool about her money toll a black train wreck white press mr. funeral in the same stack deck can't you see what love and heartaches done to me I'm not the same as I used to be this is my last affair love the little black bird hurt she could sing Martha in a vineyard pestle in the spring Bessie had a bad mouth made my chimes ring can't you see what love and heartaches done to me I'm not the same as I used to be this is my last affair this is the hand I dipped in the Missouri above Council Bluffs and found the springs all through the days of my life I escort this hand where would the Missouri meet a kind of friend on top of Fort Rock in the Sun I spread these fingers to hold the world in the wind along that cliff that old cave or men used to live i grubbed in the dirt for those cool springs again summits in the Rockies received this diplomat brush that concealed the lost children yielded them to this hand even on that last morning when we all tremble and lose I will reach carefully eagerly through that rain at the end toward whatever is there was this loyal hand it's called my son and I my son is a sculptor there's a New York City which shop until January was the city that I hadn't known since I was pretty young I lived there since January and I'm just for a semester and when I first went to see him in New York City been there I don't know months and they was about to abandon and then he was about 22 or something 23 and he took me around New York because he knew it much better than I did and he squired me around he was served my daddy I mean our roles was curiously reversed and I found it interesting way I found it terrific it was wonderful to become his friend not his father it's great relief you know you'll last up to one maybe you can do the other one and that's what this poem is about the beginning of the poem I say he's believes I'm dying I don't mean that he believes I'm dying the way I am you know day by day sure enough he thought I was had some incurable disease I did it was stupidity but I mean nobody ever died of that is all of us can attest it some of us excuse me uh we need a way out there wasn't anything seriously wrong with me but one of my friends said oh you know how your friends alarm people one of my dearest friends that scared the hell out so he was very upset he is a sculptor and that enters the pump my son and I in a coffee house at 3:00 a.m. and he believes I'm dying outside the wind moves along the streets of New York City picking up abandoned scraps of newspapers in tiny messages of hope no one hears he's dressed in warned corduroy pants and shirts over shirts and his hands are stained as mine once were with glue in paint a brown stocking cap hides the thick blonde hair so unlike mine for 40 minutes he's tried not to cry how are his brothers I tell him I don't know they've grown away from me we are Americans and never touch on this stunned earth where a boy sees his life fly pass to a car window his mother she is deaf and works in the earth for days hearing the dirt pray and guiding the worm to its feasts why do I have to die why do I have to sit before him no longer his father only a man because the given must be taken because we hunger before we eat because each small spark must turn to darkness as we said when we were kids and knew the names of everything just because I reach across the table and take his left hand in mine I have no blessing I can tell him how I found the plum blossom before I was thirty how once in a rooming house in a Laconte a man younger than I in Argentina I barely understood sat by me through the night while my boy Teddy cried out for help and how when he slept at last my friend wept with thanks in the cold light I can tell him that his hand sweating in mind can raise the Lord God of stones bring down the republic of Lies and hold a spoon instead I say it's late and he pays and leads me back through the empty streets to the Ural Hotel with a room sours with a mold of old Bibles dumped on the air shaft in my coat I stand alone in the dark waiting for something a flash of light a song a remembered sweetness from all the lives I've lost next door the TV babbles on and on and I give up and sway toward the bed in a last chant before dawn she's next when it has a famous line which I'm sure you'll recognize the last line in the poem from Wallace Stevens who of course is one of my favorite poets this plan was called Cobra Lily's in the supermarket and I think the only things I need to tell you are what I already told you that I studied the piano for many years and in case you don't know cobra lilies are carnivorous plant I wonder as I'm driving to the Market Basket why I have lived my life as I have the mother of my third husband a blonde blue-eyed singer she was told me I was a crybaby because at the time I was crying she said you should fix up your life and then not cry about it my own mother said referring to my fourth husband who left me why are you crying for buy your own house so that the next one who leaves you won't be able to take your home away and she too said you always were a crybaby when I cry now it is usually an anger but sometimes I still cry in pain then I hide myself in rooms where no one can see me I bought a house but cannot live in it my fifth husband says he would leave me before living there and since he is a nice man but perhaps it is just that I am older I didn't cry nor have I recently been called a crybaby I still live in other people's houses listen to their music live out of suitcases driving to the supermarket in the rain today shopping for someone else's dinner I wondered if anyone ever felt he had a home other than in his head I was tantalized with the Cobra Lily sitting next to the oranges and avocados like a purple clenched fist and rolling its tongue but unwilling to speak to me I thought when I studied the piano I always cried at my piano lessons my teacher stopped criticizing me I heard that secretly she called me a crybaby I gave up piano took up voice instead now my lessons are concerts where crying is considered an art I shout I speak I whisper and at last again I can cry this time no one taunts me but other crybabies and when I am alone I defend myself with poetry I remember the cry of the peacocks I won't I won't tell you who I'm a baby in this poem I'll just tell you the title and let you guess it's called the death of the hired Zimmer she sat watching The Moth at the candle waiting for Eli when he came home she ran to tell him Zimmer is back I saw him step out of the woods at noon look both ways then head for our place what can we do be calm Eli said was he alone only a shadow a bulge in his pocket Eli be kind she said and took the market things from his arms don't laugh at him he has a plan I'll go and see him now he said you sit and watched the moon slide through that patch of clouds he went came back too soon it seemed to her dead she questioned as he sat down drunk was all he answered [Applause] how's rebuttal Washington Irvin his problems and seems I've done Hudson River Valley a long time ago there are ghosts and all kinds of demons and things running around up there and you don't get that much anymore you got ticky tacks and you know quote marks restaurants and all this you know you know I thought since since since there will be a time when you will know everything about this cabinet what will happen a mystery no where's the guy go for fiction and mystery now and I'll bring about these publishers and easier of considering abandoning a fiction and poetry from that set lists that they will only do how-to books and jaws and things like that so I was this is a poem the moaning the loss of American romance and it's called the Catskills kiss romance goodbye after 20 years of nods he enters a new regime the machine guns have been removed from the block Hendrick Hudson's tavern has slipped beneath the freeway where Holliday drivers rush as if they've seen the hessian trooper seeking his head they get their goosebumps at the drive-in nowadays where the lady in white at Raven Rock is Betty Davis and Burton Abe's major Andre hanging before the haunted bridge a New England historian has proved that King George wasn't so bad gave in to every demand donated team to the American needy Yankees are just naturally jumpy where once to admit men button holding you gentlemen think of martinis on the train to Mount Vernon our IPO rip cuddle up in your romance your dog wolf is dead you're crazy gala Gaskins out of style your cabbages have been canned your fire lock isn't registered your nagging wife became a scientist you are keeping her down returned to the boarded up alley and catch some more winks dreaming is still on the house yeah I think I'll read it rather short and memories Robert Lowell who was a very good friend of mine for 35 years or so and this is about it's an island called North Haven I go in summer and he went as you'll see he went and what's your price what's called my favor [Applause] I was there last summer the year after you die huh I can make out the rating of a schooner a mile off I can count the new cones on the Spruce it's so still the pale day whereas a milky skin the sky no cloud except for one long carded horse's tail the islands haven't shifted since last summer even if I like to pretend I have drifting in a dreamy sort of way a little north a little softer side why's that they're free within the blue confined the bay this month our favorite favorite was full of flowers buttercups red clover purple vets hot weeds still burning daisies pies I break the fragrant bed straws incandescent stars and many more returned to paint the meadows with the light the gold finches are back there others like them and the white-throated Sparrow five note song pleading and pleading brings cheers the eyes nature repeats herself or almost does break teeth repeat repeat revise revise revise years ago you told me it was here in 1932 you first discovered girls and learn to sail and learn to kiss you had such fun you said that classic summer fun it always seemed to leave you would lost you left North Haven anchored in its rock afloat and mystic mystic blue and now you've left for good you can't do range or rearrange your poems again but the sparrows can their son the words won't change again sad friend you cannot change these happen to have something to do with the war in Vietnam but they could be about a war you know the fact that they were Vietnam is irrelevant there could be any war these would happen to be in the David Susskind prog it was a Saturday night and I was feeling oh you know I should be doing something new they're really great or something worthwhile but stealing not watching television there I was watching television I thought well you know again this guilt thing you know I'll try to make something out of it and again I thought I was gonna kind of revise these poems or you know make them into my poems but when I ended up doing was really keeping them more or less as the person talking about you know his experience had said it and I guess for me this what's interesting with this is that none of these people who were being interviewed thought that he's weren't you know the letters who thought in any way that they were protesting this war of the war anymore and yet instead of her life but you know but what they say you know they said that they were all very gung-ho but what they say is sort of different this is part of like a whole series I read about the robbery three of them how it happened you see a guy get his lips blown off you do things you don't want to think of by the 6th day I was mainlining all the time not to feel high I didn't want to feel anything [Applause] there was his heart outside in the trees when we came back the old people will cry after that I'd shoot up all the time the little kids pulling at my knees crying you know the old women had popsicle sticks there were scraping pieces of a woman off the walls I could tell that by the breasts in a corner even the animals wouldn't come near us [Applause] first you're so scared then it's hard to live with yourself but I didn't get hooked until the hospital in Japan you understand they not harmed us by mistake first I couldn't feel much water won't put it out now I go out in the Sun and I feel the fire you know I wanted to get off morphine but they said why not try unemployment a supermarket in California what thoughts I have a view tonight war Whitman for I walk down the side street under the trees with a headache self-conscious looking at the full moon and my hungry fatigue and shopping for images I went into the neon fruit supermarket dreaming of your enumerations what peaches and what penumbra's whole family shopping at night aisles full of husbands wives in the avocados babies in the tomatoes and you garcia lorca what were you doing down by the watermelons I saw you Walt Whitman childless lonely old rubber poking among the meats in the refrigerator and I ain't a grocery boy I heard you asking questions of each who killed the pork chops what priced bananas what kind of poisons are in the jams monosodium glutamate in the margarine are you my angel I wandered in and out of the brilliant stacks of cans following you and followed in my imagination by the store detective we strode down the open corridors together in our solitary fancy tasting artichokes passing every frozen delicacy and possessing them but never passing the cashier where are we going Walt Whitman the doors closed in an hour which way does your beard point tonight I touch your book and dream of our Odyssey in the supermarket feel observed will we walk all night through solitary streets the trees add shade to shade lights out in the houses we'll both be lonely will we stroll dreaming of a lost America of love past blue automobiles and driveways home to our silent cottage with a TV antenna sticking up into the night under the stars dear father graybeard lonely old courage teacher what America did you have when Sharon quit holding his ferry and you got out on a smoking bank and stood watching the boat disappear on the black waters of Lethe [Applause] ten years later 63 to William Carlos Williams on hearing of his death the poem called death news house in India and the students showed me a copy of Time magazine which said that that Williams had died and I remembered a visit that I had made with Jack Kerouac and Peter Orlovsky and Gregory Corso to nine Ridge Road Rutherford where Williams had his physicians practice baby doctor he'd received us he knew my poetry he knew Howell and had written a preface for and for an earlier book that are written in Patterson in 51 six years before and he like Gregory crosses poetry and he loved Kerouac and his mother his wife who was there took Kerouac in the kitchen and no sip a lot of wine and talked about the time when Florence Williams and her husband had been young and Vienna beer gardens medical students so this is a an account of that time we all sat in a sofa in the living room and inquired wise words from him and Williams had had a stroke and was stricken by then he looked at us young kids and pointed out through the window through the curtains onto Main Street and said there's a lot of bastards out there walking at night on s4 campus Road by the German instructor with glasses William Carlos Williams is dead he said in accent under the trees in Banaras I stopped an ass williams is dead enthusiastic and wide-eyed under the Big Dipper stood on the porch of the International House annex bungalow insects buzzing around the electric light reading the medical obituary in time out among the sparrows behind the shutters Williams is in the Big Dipper he isn't dead as the many pages of words arranged thrilled with his intonation the mouths of meat kids becoming so even in Bengal thus there's a life moving out of his pages Blake also alive through his songs experienced machines where Williams has last words anything black out there in the carpeted bedroom of the gable wood house in Rutherford I wonder what he said or was there anything else left in realms of speech after his stroke and brain thrill doom and her death thoughts if I pray to his soul in the Bardo thodol he may hear the unexpected vibration of foreign mercy quietly unknown for three weeks his death now I saw Passaic River and Ganges one consenting his devotion because he walked on the steely Bank of the Passaic and prayed to a goddess in the river that he only invented another mother Ganges riding on the old rusty Holland submarine of the ground floor of the Patterson Museum instead of a celestial Indian crocodile mourn oh ye angels of the left wing that the poet of the streets is a skeleton under the pavement now and there's no other old soul so kind and meek and feminine Jordan him I can see you what you wanted of me among the bastards out there do you know that if you stand in Manhattan as I did when I was a student at Columbia and walked in a melancholy manner down Riverside Drive and and in those days you looked across the Hudson River there weren't all those high-rises you know there was only one thing you saw and that was a sign for for spry frying spry baking he used to flash on and off across on the Palisades it became a part of my life and it took me 30 years to write a poem about it 30 40 things are getting bad 40 years I'm losing track of decades now it used to be years anyhow I went to the period dontist which is what happens to you as time goes by you find yourself at the clutches of people such as periodontitis and this is a poem about periodontics you know what that is if you don't you're lucky it's the man who says to you oh yeah you've got gum problems and starts to chop your part inch by inch over a period of months this is called period antics and I figured god damn it I'm gonna get a point out of this period antics am i hurting you says you be I shake my head no for I've learned not to show pain at the school of dental hygiene where you be got her diploma they teach them not to be put off by a wince or gathering tear but to stay on the sensitive spot and Festina lente be thorough I try to think of something else PC the initials on the dental unit in front of me these were Paula's initials the Chapmans lived on Riverside Drive oblique ly across from the sign for spry spry for baking it said and blinked off then on again for frying the apartment had wall-to-wall carpeting and dark brown furniture waxed so it Shawn there was a cabinet with glass doors full of objeto an elephant carved out of ivory a wooden Russian dong there was an old wind-up Victrola with hits from Broadway musicals and classics Gershwin and Tchaikovsky a bookcase held The Wandering Jew by Eugene su mr. Chapman had studied for the PhD but universities wouldn't hired you so instead he went into business how are we doing says you be ok I not fine I call her my book involved baby with her eyes of cornflower blue that never looking to mine directly but at some view slightly to the right or to the left as she travels with the Cavett Ron oh my god said Paula you aren't even wearing a tie she looked like a fairy princess in a bright blue gown that showed that her breasts had budded as Proust would say I was wearing a suit but it was brown and tired and I had no tie I hadn't thought it was required he can wear one of your father's said mrs. Chapman so we went to the prom after all where Paula danced with everyone else as I stood by the wall drinking quantities of pink lemonade out of paper cups her laughter rang like a chime of bells I didn't see her for years while I was in the army then we made up the last time at the movies in the balcony on my sofa that converted into a bed and under the trees it was summer at night on Riverside Drive spry for baking said the sign shining above the Palisades a barge with its warning lights would be going up the Hudson the George Washington Bridge gleaming in the moonlight against the scudding clouds that's it said Paula there are you alright says you've been I nod I'm not going to let on though I brush after every meal when she gives me the paper cup with the liquid that's bright red and bitter and I've held it in my mouth for thirty seconds pat it out and rinsed with the mouthwash and she hands me the mirror there are always some traces of the plaque that causes decay mrs. Chapman didn't approve of me it took me some time to catch on he's – she told Paula Bohemian she was saving her precious daughter for someone able to provide her with the better things of life wall-to-wall carpeting and dark brown furniture Paula wanted to be in the theater so her mother packed her off to some second-rate school in Boston where they taught it whatever it was actors I told her weren't people like monkeys or parrots they could repeat sounds and simulate feelings but had none of their own don't call me she said I'll call you she was as good as her word she called twenty years later she had just winged in from the coast and was staying at a friend's apartment in Soho there was a restaurant right on the corner I recognized her at once though she was wearing a pantsuit and big glasses with rhinestones and the skin that used to look like some marvelous tropical fruit was sallow and the glossy black hair was still black but lustreless like ink the expressions that used to be endearing fluttering her eyelashes touching her tongue to her top lip were like the moving eyelids and mouth of a dog and the shoptalk she kept dropping names of people in Hollywood and Beverly Hills I had never heard of or wanted to I said as much I could hear myself sneering like Diogenes in a washtub and what did I have to feel so superior about where were my screen credits did I own a swimming pool more to the point where was the novel I was going to write that would put Proust in the shade the magic as they say was done like a song that used to be on the hit parade but there is always a new song and some things never change not long ago visiting a friend who lives on Riverside Drive I saw that the sign for spry is still there shining away spry for baking it blinks off and on again for frying then the lights run around in a circle I have one about or rather two poems about President Harding I've been thinking about President Harding in recent days again he he didn't come to a good end I suppose when I think of what's going on during our presidential election year and over when I think over so many of the people in this century human beings like the rest of us who have had some kind of power in their hands and wondered at least for a moment what to do with it I don't think Harding comes out so bad two poems about President Harding one is death in Merrion the honey locust trees are falling everybody in town remembers the white hair the campaign of a lost summer the front porch opened to the public and the vaguely stunned smile of a lucky man neighbor I want to be helpful he said once later you think I'm honest don't you weeping drunk I am drunk this evening in 1961 in a Jag for my countrymen who died of crabmeat on the way back from Alaska everyone knows that joke how many honey locusts have fallen pitched route long into the open graves of strip mines since the first world war ended and Wilson the gaunt Deacon jogged sullenly into silence tonight the cancerous ghosts of old con men shed their leaves for a proud man lost between the Turnpike near Cleveland and the chiropractor sign is looming among dead mulberry trees there is no place left to go but home Warren lacks mentality one of his friends said yet he was beautiful he was the snowfall turned to white stallion standing still under dark elm trees he died in public he claimed the secret right to be ashamed to his tomb in Ohio the epigraph to the second poem is from the sort of obituary notice that HL Mencken wrote about his enemy William Jennings Bryan Bryan died suddenly and he had just eaten a heavy meal and hadn't some kind of attack and died and the word got around that Bryan who had sort of had once been a very highly respected political figure and then get mixed up in born-again Christianity and whatnot and was sort of humiliated by Clarence Darrow at that Monkey Trial the Scopes trial in Dayton Tennessee somebody wrote that Bryan had died of a broken heart and Lincoln said he didn't die of a broken heart he died of a busted gut well he died of a busted gut said Megan when I say north of us I'm from Ohio from southern Ohio and thinking of it geographically that way a hundred slag piles north of us at the mercy of the moon and rain he lies in his ridiculous tomb our fellow citizen no I have never seen that place where many shadows of faceless thieves chuckle and stumble and embrace on beer cans stogie butts and graves one holiday one rainy week after the country fell apart Hoover and Coolidge came to speak and sniffle about his broken heart his grave a huge absurdity embarrassed cops and visitors Hoover and Coolidge crept away by night and women closed their doors now junk men call their children in before they catch their death of cold young lovers let the moon begin it's quick spring and the day grows old the mean one legarre who rakes up leaves has chased the loafers out of the park minikin leonard half believes in God and the pool room goes dark america goes on goes on laughing and harding was a fool even his big pretentious stone lays him bare to ridicule I know it but don't look at me by God I didn't start this mess whatever moon and rain maybe the hearts of men are merciless the next poem is another description it's called a blessing just off the highway to Rochester Minnesota Twilight bounds softly forth on the grass and the eyes of those two Indian ponies darkened with kindness they have come gladly out of the Willows to welcome my friend and me we step over the barbed wire into the pasture where they have been grazing all day alone they rippled tensely they can hardly contain their happiness that we have come they bow shyly as wet swans they love each other there is no loneliness like theirs at home once more they begin munching the young Tufts of spring in the darkness I would like to hold the slender one in my arms for she has walked over to me and nuzzled my left hand she is black and white her mane falls wild on her forehead and the light breeze moves me to caress her long ear that is delicate as the skin over a girl's wrist suddenly I realize that if I stepped out of my body I would break into blossom I'm putting things in order file this throughout that I look to Secretariat in Rea each claim and caveat to better serve the cause of alphabet throughout this file and file list so that we know beyond all doubt how perfect order to reconcile and now throughout the files associate to end on slicing to the fall according accurate acute remembrances pronouncing them beautiful even as the body leans charts of silence saying thanks in principle amidst much be president smile here caressing their flick of an occasional expression where we are sentenced to the sentence and now with the coming of spring coming and coming and coming and the body cause this winter well having stayed north we earned the rights of spring against snow cities learned to fly down fly up and eat out of our hands three wild frail bodies their cold clutch on our fingers they lighted and were proved right entrusting us yes by far like s the chance to have lives how does the need to die I'll read my two poems to weigh a dead wife so shortly after she died first one is a countdown at Five Forces four centers first is five lines the second four four three two one and it's free verse second is a there's a quatrain and and a couplet with internal rhymes shifting back back and forth and the the first one is I don't never know how that I we used to say in Latin Dainius Loki but I just say genius low sign I suppose a Angela sided and the spirit of the place until you died my love somehow I had belief in fear of ghosts but now in this lonely place that is so full of you whereby I'm not in my essence over lonesome all lovelier than that and if you what lovelier than if your spirits the genus of this house did materialize right here before me dear love will always I tried to earn you but now you are the absolutely given well I each night like conscious of my loss second is posted when something goes some other takes its place maybe a thistle where had been a rose or where lace was next time I chose France missile erase to face life says when something goes her definitely such as tangle after growth like garlic here I have I love this book you

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