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Fifty Poems Fifty

Fifty Poems Fifty

REED WHITTEMORE
Copyright Date: 1970
Edition: NED - New edition
Pages: 80
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.5749/j.ctttt5mf
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  • Book Info
    Fifty Poems Fifty
    Book Description:

    Fifty Poems Fifty was first published in 1970. In this, the seventh volume of his poetry to be published, Reed Whittemore presents fifty poems, all making their first appearance in book form here. Commenting on this collection, John Malcolm Brinnin writes: “Whittemore has his own distinctive voice, his own spare, artfully simple way with a poem, and a grimly merry (or merrily grim) brand of wit that keeps a reader in a state of bemused expectation. His nonsense makes chilling good sense; and his poems inspired by affections are straightforward, touching, and without a twinge of sentimentality. A poet, critic, and editor, Mr. Whittemore was given outstanding recognition in 1969 when he received a major literary award from the National Council on the Arts. In presenting the award the council cited his “lifelong contribution to American letters.” The University of Minnesota Press has published two other collections of Reed Whittemore’s poetry, Poems, New and Selected and An American Takes a Walk.

    eISBN: 978-0-8166-6490-0
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. iv-2)
  3. THE GIRL IN THE NEXT ROOM
    (pp. 3-3)

    Baby girl, you have insomnia.

    I know. I am forty-nine times your age.

    I have insomnia.

    It brings us together.

    In there, what are you thinking?

    Softly you woof woof, like the neighbor’s dog.

    Gently your feet pound the crib, like the moon’s hammers.

    And now you are humming.

    But what are you thinking?

    In here, I, forty-niner, your comrade,

    Am thinking darkly of moons and worlds and flesh,

    As old sleepless ones do, softly.

    Do you have dark thoughts?

    I wish I could ask you, and hear your reply,

    In there,

    The two of us close and soft, far...

  4. SONG OF THE PATIENT PATIENT
    (pp. 4-4)

    My room overlooks the park.

    The trees are like barbed wire.

    My keepers are friendly but firm.

    I am safe here.

    Upright in bed mechanical,

    Having bent to the temperature taker,

    I await the tray lunch

    Cooked by my maker.

    My blood is in vats at the lab,

    Also my urine.

    My pills will appear at three.

    X-ray wants me.

    Am I deserving? No matter.

    In shift serene I give thanks

    For roses and mums

    And respirator.

    Let there be joy amid interns,

    Let cashiers dance,

    That I may further the work

    And look at the park....

  5. THE MISSING TENT
    (pp. 5-5)

    The bareness of the ground where the tent had been was testimony.

    So too the miscellaneous childish junk thrown about. They had been there all right, and recently.

    Nature would need a month maybe to restore the ground to middle-class sufficiency.

    Meanwhile he walked the ground, picking up paper wrappers, taking stock, his own inventory of sufficiency.

    “I have had a great sufficiency,” he had to announce at the big round table,

    Before his mother, presiding, would let him rise from his Bartlett pear and depart the parental twaddle.

    Was it a joke? He never knew. He kept saying it....

  6. WHY DO THE CHILDREN SHOUT?
    (pp. 6-6)

    Why do the children shout?

    Something to shout about?

    I search for a reason:

    It’s shouting season.

    One has a megaphone.

    “Abandon ship. We go down,”

    He caws from his crow’s nest,

    And calls for the neighborhood life vest.

    True, we are going down.

    We are awash. We will drown.

    But since he is busy playing

    I am busy not saying.

    Tell a boy he is a prophet?

    I frown. I tell him to stop it....

  7. THEM
    (pp. 7-8)

    Despite them, soon after birth, he gave up romance

    As too short. They kept after him.

    They plotted tedious beginnings and sticky middles,

    With love hiding its sticky truths behind horses.

    They pummeled and fractured poor tenderness for him, that sweetly

    Its mending would serve as ending,

    With Tchaikovski sawing the chapel up into fiddles.

    But when they were done he was only fifteen, starting smoking.

    Unreal.

    They switched genres.

    They started a war and took him and put him in jeeps

    On real deserts,

    With foulness bartering oranges at his fenders

    While choruses chanted that this time was this...

  8. THE SAD COMMITTEE SHAGGY
    (pp. 9-9)

    In good ole day ze king need no committee.

    Was nize.

    Him says, them does; him sells, them buys.

    Good system.

    But then come big push make king one of guys.

    So king buy chairs, say me no king me chairman.

    So knocked off paradize....

  9. THE TROUBLE OUTSIDE
    (pp. 10-10)

    Drab is the day in the uptown branch of the Middletown Public Library.

    The bright cover colors for National Library Week

    Have been filed away under “Colors for National Library Week.”

    Miss Prunewhip at the main desk is looking more and more

    Like the 1928 edition of the Periodical Guide.

    Yet it is outside the uptown branch that the inside has died.

    It is outside where they have killed Miss Prunewhip, outside on the sidewalk.

    Inside all is in order, magazines, books, periodicals all in order

    (And if you put one out of order Miss Prunewhip will put on her...

  10. CABBY
    (pp. 11-11)

    “In all this mad

    Am I the only sane,”

    Thinks each mad cabby cruising the night-dazzle.

    He dreams of rural meters ticking,

    Grass streets.

    He would end his Checkered career

    In a bathysphere,

    And peer through tinted glass at fish and coral,

    Not men:

    The cabby’s moral....

  11. THE CHAIR
    (pp. 12-12)

    So the baby chair overturned on the soft carpet,

    And the baby herself, who had felled it, said it Fall Down.

    Yes, yes, said I, Fall Down; and Boom, said she,

    Happily, giving our love a bone.

    I sat reading the paper.

    She tiptoed off to the kitchen to implement Boom.

    When she returned she was hitched.

    There was the story,

    And picture too: baby and groom.

    I put down the paper.

    I righted the chair.

    Dearest baby, wrote I in the wax weave of the carpet,

    Why did you give your dada the air?...

  12. THE SET
    (pp. 13-13)

    The set was here last night.

    They lounged in the living room in their minds and minis,

    Chittering birds,

    Bartering records and fashions so current

    The ink was wet on their words.

    I sat in a corner

    Reading my Gutenberg.

    The room was the same —

    Curtains, calamities, lamps

    All as they used to be

    When they belonged to me....

  13. DEATH
    (pp. 14-14)

    I read of the lords of death in old books:

    Of the pyramids and pits

    Into which they marched with their wives and best plates,

    And lived dead but dressy in heaven nooks;

    And of the slaves of death who naked marched to the pits

    To serve those lords.

    Dully they bowed and duly they lost their heads,

    And slaved through in the bone as flowerpots.

    A democrat myself I read my culture

    As the first one to assert man’s natural right

    To die in his own way at his own rate,

    So long as he slaves the dying of...

  14. THE MIND
    (pp. 15-15)

    The mind wears many hats, many different wares.

    Like a bird on a spit it turns in its living sleep.

    It is quick, slow, open, secret, crammed with jokes, prayers.

    It knows not what it knows deep.

    Yet I have known one kind of mind whose vision

    Is steady as the sphinx’s, and whose mold

    Is rock against all sea and salt and season.

    Such a mind, soul, have the old.

    They traffic in fixities; they sit in corners sipping.

    In the sharp declivities of the times they save their breath.

    They are more put out by a misplaced tool...

  15. PHILANTHROPIST
    (pp. 16-16)

    The ads keep asking his help for the poor, the distressed,

    The aged, the orphaned, the whatnot.

    Now here is one asking him cleverly what he can do

    For the earth’s three hundred million Illiterate.

    He can burn books.

    He is overextended.

    He is bringing the peace already, and saving the ghetto.

    He feels helpless.

    He would askthemto helphim, if they could read him.

    He feels death far off and high, in open places.

    Help! he is lying in orchards on steep slopes.

    Help! he is bones, he is wind flesh.

    Send money,

    Hope.

    But the plight...

  16. THE PARABLE OF THE PAST
    (pp. 17-21)

    It wasin a little backward country known as

    Backward Country

    That nestled (that was one of its troubles; it nestled)

    Between the Advanced Iron Works and the Lesser Spaceport —

    It wason Wisdom Day in B.C. (which was a national holiday in B.C.)

    (As well as the Royal Philosopher’s birthday)

    That the Royal Philosopher himself rolled from his cave

    At high noon,

    And announced to the Backward Press that since he was eighty,

    And since Wisdom Day was his day,

    The day was a good day to bring the citizenry up-to-date.

    So it wason Wisdom Day that...

  17. MONOLOGUE
    (pp. 22-22)

    I am warmer now.

    Say I am warmer, more friendly.

    The Evil One has slowly expelled Himself

    Through my mouth and hands,

    And now I am as if new from the shop,

    My sweet self.

    Say I am sweet.

    Wasn’t it dreadful

    When I was puffed up like a blowfish

    With Him?

    How my gastrointestinal tract

    Suffered! And my liver!

    How I raged

    (You may say I raged),

    And paced and smoked,

    Nights sleeplessly tossing,

    Days seething.

    Dreadful. But now He is gone.

    Say He is gone.

    He is gone and I am myself.

    Where is my Evil One?...

  18. PRAYER
    (pp. 23-23)

    It may be that the Mayor will come down from his tower for the meeting.

    It may be that the voters in their wisdom will sell the money tree.

    But who will pound the gavel in the graveyard?

    Be master, soul, master of our misery.

    Let there be light in the darkroom, let freedom sting.

    Bear the loaf and fish to Xerox and press the black button;

    But choose from our most manifold resources some small wingding

    To save sweet delicate poverty from the reformer glutton.

    Yes, save our poverty, dear soul, save aches, save vice;

    Save wretchedness, despair, save...

  19. WASHINGTON INTERREGNUM
    (pp. 24-24)

    When politicos of the old life have departed,

    Movers enter,

    And painters,

    And sometimes fumigators,

    To help get the new life started.

    In the halls there are boxes and echoes.

    There is rain on windows.

    Inside windows,

    Framed by taxpayers’ marble,

    An occasional lingering face in its lostness mellows.

    Newcomers straggle up and down in the wet,

    Waiting in elegant duds on alien corners,

    Calling for taxis,

    Searching out parties,

    Questing for something obscure, unnamed, unmet.

    The something decided not to attend the Ball,

    Nor grace the Parade.

    It failed to appear and perform in the grandstand charade

    On the...

  20. THE DRUG
    (pp. 25-25)

    Never will I write another sonnet

    Now that Karl Shapiro’s gone back on it....

  21. OSPREY SONNET
    (pp. 26-26)

    It was igneous, it was basalt, it was a fierce fault;

    It was eagles, or was it osprey? yes, it was love,

    When in the gay gray Rockies of bibulous youth

    My Edie and I communed and invented the cave.

    The sun had shredded our shirts; our shoes grated.

    We stood, in the gathering omens, graveled by Jove;

    But rations we had, and lore, and sat scraping the lichen,

    As our myriad passionate corpuscles crazied for cave.

    Inward we scrabbled, tearing our nails and lorn flesh,

    Bone against rock, soul-bone hi each furious sleeve.

    Brindled the night; the eyes of...

  22. IN SPRING INTO THE WORLD SONNET
    (pp. 27-27)

    In spring into the world slips a we, but slithers

    In autumn softly away as furnaces wake

    To their hopeless war against cold-and-forever

    Death in the dark for his dear sake

    Who, that god of departures, dealt man, before he departed,

    His final privacy.

    So if one should ask for the music of midwinter Monday,

    It is chuffing chimney,

    And solo saunterings home in the snow’s sittings

    To Tuesday’s dry die, Wednesday’s deep dust and dwindle,

    And days full three of bony disaster preceding

    The final swindle

    Known as Sunday. Oh day of rest,

    Let the forlorn singular soul by...

  23. WHO HAS THE DREAM SONNET
    (pp. 28-28)

    Who has the dream denied has the terror privilege

    Admitting him unto the inner circle of souls

    In hot veritas. The young are forbid there,

    And the wise in their wastings like moles in foxy old holes

    There hide, during drabs.

    Them do not stir, sweet devil; to them let the real

    Seep, and the sad earth’s savings slide

    And fill, and their feebles seal

    Until firm,

    That nobody nevered

    Will rise from the depths then and jests savagely dangle

    Where life and hope severed.

    Who has the dream denied has the war won

    Against all duty deliverance under the...

  24. GENESIS REVISED
    (pp. 29-30)

    Think of an “and” alone,

    Nothing before, nothing after,

    Nothingandnothing.

    The “and” proposes a structure, and by the proposing

    Is. And makes.

    For nothing is nothing, but nothingandnothing

    Are spatial, temporal; the structure does it,

    A nothing thereandhere, a nothing thenandnow,

    To and fro in the space-time.

    But in grammar we cannot think of this. The “and” comes second.

    We need something,then“and.“

    Or if we are willing to grant, without understanding, a precedent “and,”

    We still ask to know where it came from.

    Grammar, logic, math work in the matrix...

  25. THE IRON GARAGE
    (pp. 31-31)

    The iron garage is empty except for a few cardboard boxes filled with leaves and sticks.

    It has no doors. At the end of a hilly alley it sits gaping at weeds, broken bottles, gravel.

    It is poverty-stricken but resonant. Struck, it gives off a thunder sound, small thunder,

    As when a baby anomie speaks its first consonant.

    Where is the soul of an iron garage, where does it keep itself?

    Soon the workers will come in a truck and haul the old hulk away.

    Will the soul stay?

    Garage soul, my soul goes out to you in your emptiness....

  26. THE SILENT TEACHER IN THE DISAPPEARING CLASSROOM SHAGGY, WIZ NO BOOK
    (pp. 32-33)

    A very long time ago, on the little ole isle of Popo, it was custom

    For one big noisy guy to rent one big ole barn of hall and go to dustem

    Chandeliers and highboys and purty ole madagascars, and wax ze parquet floor,

    And put little brown desks in rows on floor, and big desk up before,

    And knock up big black blackboard, and hangem picture of ze prexy

    And ope ze window wide and tell ze world in sotto voce,

    “School Day, School Day, Good ole Golden Rule Day!” — and ring ze bell,

    And haul ze students...

  27. THE QUEST
    (pp. 34-34)

    Now that the best pizzas in town have been framed for the art gallery,

    And the slums are selling like hot cakes, what shall we eat?

    Snipe, dear soul, snipe.

    First we must catch one.

    Long woolen jocks, handwarmers, boots for the bogs.

    It is raining, raw nature doth sing

    Of the snaring of snipe in the spring.

    And so we

    Stalk it, salt its tail, ring its bloody neck,

    And eat it.

    Are you fed now, Soul? Are you whole?...

  28. THE SICK ONES (FOUR DIALOGUES)
    (pp. 35-44)

    Pavlov, that Russian . . .

    Who wants to talk about Pavlov?

    Not I.

    I want to talk about us.

    Pavlov loved to talk of the “cerebral hemispheres” . . .

    Did he love?

    Did that man love?

    It’s a phrase that in English has a pleasant ring

    If you let the meaning go, and the connotations.

    The connotations in Pavlov are dogs, and a few cats,

    With their cerebral hemispheres missing. Their presence is needed,

    Pavlov showed.

    And my presence.

    Is my presence needed?

    Yet he didn’t want the importance that he attached to them

    To be taken out...

  29. THE TERRIBLE FLAT PEOPLE
    (pp. 45-45)

    See, they return,

    The flat people.

    They are flat, they have two dimensions,

    Not three.

    See, they return

    From the library shelves

    Where the three-dimensional

    People put them!

    How simple they are, how predictable,

    And terrible.

    They are types (ugh); they are characters

    Walking the earth

    With labels across their chests — dean, landlord,

    Fuzz, racist (ugh);

    And now they are sitting

    Where the three-dimensional

    People sat!

    (Or so say the papers,

    Flatly.

    Hear the flatulence.)

    So now the three-dimensional

    People are sitting complexly

    Elsewhere.

    They are feeling (with mixed feelings)

    Thinner.

    Fascists!

    Henchmen of Wall Street!

    — see how...

  30. REASON IN THE WOODS
    (pp. 46-46)

    “The tree is lazy. It wastes time.

    I am lazy. I waste time.

    So I must be

    A tree,” said the rock.

    “No, you rock,” said the bird,

    “Try again.”

    “The tree is lazy. I’m a rock.

    I must not be

    Lazy,” said the rock.

    “That’s better,” said the bird.

    “I may be lazy,”

    Said the tree,

    “But I’m no tree.

    I’m a birch.”

    “They talk so stupidly,”

    Said the man,

    And rammed into the lazy rock birch bird tree....

  31. A FASCINATING POET’S DIARY
    (pp. 47-47)

    I am keeping this diary because I am fascinating.

    My impacted wisdom teeth are fascinating.

    My diet, my sex life, my career, these also are fascinating,

    As are my newspaper clippings. Fascinating.

    And all in my little book.

    Up to now I have stuck to fascinating facts in my book,

    Starting at six a.m. when I rise, shave, and write in my book,

    And ending at ten-thirty when I retire with Agatha Christie and my book;

    But starting today I propose to include fascinating dreams in my book.

    In fact I have just had a smasher

    In which I find...

  32. METAMORPHOSIS
    (pp. 48-48)

    The little self and the big self walked in a wood,

    As in a play.

    The big self was wary; he knew that the wood

    Did dabble in selves in its pastoral way.

    But the little self, the child,

    Little knowing the trying and testing of selves by woods,

    Lusted for sylvan simplicities, and said to the big self,

    “Man, could I buy these goods?”

    So the big self, very mature, said he’d have to ponder,

    And excused himself and went and sat in an empty spot,

    And looked high hi the pine trees and low in the pine roots,...

  33. JUICE
    (pp. 49-49)

    We number two or three hundred

    Million. We are hungry. We sit in the coffee shop waiting.

    Why do the trains and pipelines not serve us the breakfast?

    I look at my neighbor.

    He has a cardiac face and four small children.

    The children are spilling the water.

    The mother is whispering threats, pinching their biceps.

    What should we do?

    But now they are bringing the orange juice.

    I catch the eye of my neighbor. He is smiling, drinking his orange juice.

    The children are drinking. They have lovely drinkings.

    The mother is drinking. Even I am drinking.

    Neighbor,

    We...

  34. THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER
    (pp. 50-50)

    It was a big boxy wreck of a house

    Owned by a classmate of mine named Rod Usher,

    Who lived in the thing with his twin sister.

    He was a louse and she was a souse.

    While I was visiting them one wet summer, she died.

    We buried her,

    Or rather we stuck her in a back room for a bit, meaning to bury her

    When the graveyard dried.

    But the weather got wetter.

    One night we were both waked by a twister,

    Plus a screeching and howling outside that turned out to be sister

    Up and dying again, making...

  35. A SONG OF WRINKLES
    (pp. 51-51)

    With wrinkles gathering, gathering round the eyes

    And the flesh, as beauticians say, losing its tone,

    It is time to sit and be wise,

    Rather than loving, carousing, and getting brown.

    No more of all that riot. No more gaudy

    Egyptian nights. Let books and puzzles

    Reign. Let bad old bawdry

    Live with a college boy who flames and guzzles.

    The flab, flab, flab will then go firm.

    The creases will be ironed out by Mind.

    The eyes for age on age will brightly burn,

    Powered by the dry cells behind....

  36. A DREAM OF AN ATTIC
    (pp. 52-52)

    In a dream I find in an attic my two brothers,

    And my own son, and I hear shouting,

    One brother ordering other out of the attic,

    Other declining,

    And I wake and walk to my studio through the woods

    With my flashlight, some jelly rolls, and these dream goods.

    No moon, no wind. Like an attic. But where?

    I run through old attics in darkness.

    None of them fits.

    None of them has the look of the dream, nor the presence

    Unnameable in it that now I have lost

    On the road in the night with my jelly rolls,...

  37. A TREE IN D.C.
    (pp. 53-53)

    Bare has been bare

    For the crooked old tree

    By my second-floor study

    In D.C.

    Since the first year

    In the wordy Welsh air

    Of its infancy.

    A scholar tree,

    It knows gnarled to be

    From the German for hard and lumpy;

    But is senile, thinking the clumsy nest

    In its branched fork in the mist

    Is to flee to and sit down in

    For an old Roman.

    It is rooted and weathered to fixity.

    It feels not the outer wintry.

    Its own nearly speechless cold

    Is within, and back, and down,

    And at least twice as old

    As the...

  38. WHERE DOES IT GO?
    (pp. 54-54)

    GUARD:

    Where does it go, go, that high rhetoric,

    When it skims over the heads and soars to the balcony,

    And flaps at the stained-glass windows, verily?

    TRILOBITE:

    No energy is lost. The vast abyss

    Steams with the fallout breathed since Genesis....

  39. THINKING OF TENTS
    (pp. 55-55)

    I am thinking of tents and tentage, tents through the ages.

    I had half a tent in the army and rolled it religiously,

    But Supply stole it back at war’s end, leaving me tentless.

    And tentless I thankfully still am, a house man at heart,

    Thinking of tents as one who has passed quite beyond tents,

    Passed the stakes and the flaps, mosquitoes and mildew,

    And come to the ultimate tent, archetypal, platonic,

    With one cot in it, and one man curled on the cot

    Drinking, cooling small angers, smelling death in the distance —

    War’s end —

    World’s end...

  40. MOUNTAINS
    (pp. 56-56)

    Surrounded by mountains I feel I should do mountains.

    I buy postcards of them and climb them and eat on them,

    And stand on their edges and stare out dutifully from them

    At other mountains, thinking of bad art.

    Like that, mountains are dumb, not smart.

    They are heavy, for heavy poets decked out in gloom,

    Who look for the good and the true in the cold and the bare,

    And think of readers as flats over whom they may loom,

    Beetle and tower, hour on hour.

    Like them, mountains beetle less than they bore.

    Why do we color mountains...

  41. URBAN GAME
    (pp. 57-57)

    On the checkerboard of the city the wizard, urban, ponders.

    He is green. He sits next to red and olive.

    He owns a small basic industry, two high-rise rental apartments, and a shopping center.

    Each is a square mile.

    On each he earns twenty percent per annum not counting taxes.

    He owns the mayor and two councilmen. They are against taxes.

    He is buying vacant lots in the suburbs to house future employees.

    He plans to double the gross of the industry and set up a mile-square warehouse.

    He watches months pass on the wall. He is thirsty.

    The computer...

  42. ON READING S. S. VAN DINE IN THE CANNED GOODS SECTION
    (pp. 58-58)

    It could be said that there were none of the makings of a great detective in S. S. Pierce.

    At the scene of the crime the D.A. and the Police Chief paid no attention to Pierce,

    Who always sat quietly in a corner eating applesauce.

    The analysts swirled around the corpse,

    While Pierce sat there eating.

    He asked no questions. He took no measurements.

    Yet when the coroner noted a strange sticky substance behind the victim’s left ear,

    And the substance was hastily shipped off to the lab, Pierce was always ahead of them all, saying

    “It’s applesauce.” He was...

  43. THE WINTER OF OUR DISCONTENT
    (pp. 59-59)

    Each day the earlier dark,

    Each dark the strengthened cold.

    Blame the fat Utility, blame rich Oil,

    Blame the Old,

    Those profiteers of winter.

    Say, “Thou hast played most foully for it —

    For Glamis, Cawdor, All.”

    Say the sun is rigged, and the jet stream.

    Blast City Hall,

    Kiddo.

    Confront, refute, confound, conspire,

    And in your turn shake a leg

    To convert the cold to profit,

    The dark to a nest egg.

    Yes, my America.

    For each green fang and claw

    Let the season’s loot be spread,

    As each day the winter widens,

    And rude sons strike rude fathers...

  44. JAMESTOWN
    (pp. 60-61)

    What with the sickness,

    The natives,

    The Charter’s defects, and the King’s

    Meddling, things

    From the start went badly for Company stockholders.

    But staunchly they squandered. They had been

    Dazzled by biblical images

    Of gems, silks, salves and golden elephants,

    All manner of Eastern marvels; and so in their parlors

    They read the reports of winter on top of winter

    Of nothing but debits

    (And always the unhappy losses of personnel)

    Calmly,

    Seeing themselves as patriots who for hard cash

    Soon would barter their martyrdoms.

    Years

    Passed, thus, and the futures

    On many a promising item like glass or iron...

  45. THE BRUTE
    (pp. 62-62)

    So he conceives,

    And in the conceiving

    Threatens,

    And in the speaking of the conceiving

    Threatens.

    He is a small man

    With a bald head.

    He is frightened by spiders.

    Neat, he aspires

    To a clean desk.

    His notes are cross-indexed.

    He is shy with females.

    But when he conceives

    The words come,

    And the words are shaped

    Like cudgels, like bullets,

    Like bombs, like battleships.

    He is a small man.

    He likes gardening.

    He has developed

    An exotic mum....

  46. THE LOVERS
    (pp. 63-63)

    Together they stand in the checkout line with their carton of raspberries.

    They are in love. They love raspberries.

    He is tall and blond. She is tall and blonde. They nuzzle each other noisily, exhibitionists in the market,

    Surrounded by lesser flesh, envious, purchasing slag.

    Soon they will exit, gods into the parking lot,

    And drive away in their car with the flowers on it.

    But the raspberry season is over and they have chosen

    The frozen. The line is long and the carton is starting to drip....

  47. THE CONSERVATIVE
    (pp. 64-65)

    The future was fuzzy, cold, remote — nothing to touch or look at,

    Except inPopular Mechanics. The past was solid. Waking or sleeping he had it, owned it,

    As in the den over the bar where his wife had hung a rugbeater with a hickory handle.

    Called a Batwing Beater. Made in Pennsylvania.

    Handsome gadget.

    Simple, decorous. Needed no rug to beat, or bats, to earn its keep.

    Was it a genuine early American Pennsylvanian antique?

    It didn’t matter.

    What mattered was that it hung there, had hung there, and to the extent that it would hang there

    Would...

  48. OTHER
    (pp. 66-66)

    The other of man is woman, of lion lamb;

    And then there is youth of age, of servant lord,

    And so forth.

    I have many others,

    Like Edgar, Stan, Sterling, Stewart, Smithers.

    They walk around me in drugstores and bus stations,

    Otherly.

    What is otherness?

    I keep reading in books that deep in the drugstores man

    Is his own other,

    And the bearded shadows are his,

    And the thumbed paperbacks....

  49. THE DESK
    (pp. 67-67)

    I sit here at this littered desk, naked,

    Looking at me.

    Here is the body, there the work. It is morning.

    I need a woman to clean me,

    Putting the cigarette butts in the wastebasket,

    Stacking the letters, dusting me.

    I am soiled laundry, unmade beds. What will come of me?

    Call the plumber, get him up here,

    And the rest of them. What will come of me?

    Why does one have to be old and corrupt and messy?

    I say tear down firetraps, burn hovels,

    Lest they go on for pages, naked and sad....