BEYOND ALL THIS

Beyond all this
Perfect lovers kiss,
where no revenge exists,
nor reason for revenge,
nor those flaws,
which harden into laws,
As we look around, never knowing
whether the one we love
—do we love them?—
is coming or going.

Beyond all this…!
Had we such imagination,
All would be bliss!
Had I but seen!
How could I look and look and miss
That perfect kiss
Beyond all this?

 

A HOLIDAY POEM

A certain amount of leisure
Defines a real man,
Not doing something—even though he can.

Despair is on the face of every middle aged woman I see,
Or a kind of triumphant anger
Staring from her baggy eyes defiantly;

She works hard, and her beer belly man works hard
Doing stuff for the house and yard,
But don’t get that shit near me.

Despair lives in the weary face of every middle aged person I see.
A forty-something woman told me her cell was shutting down
For the holidays; she needed time for herself; looking in her face,
I saw the worry and the years eating her beauty
So that even her smile looked like a frown—
It was horrible. And this is not an isolated case.

The only thing I could think was: keep this shit away from me.
I want no part of mortality, its triviality and its oblivion,
And its little bouts of superficial happiness,
And its ignorance and its whining and its complaint.

There will never be an interesting thought in your head.
I want nothing to do with this.
I will kiss my slender reflection in the bathroom mirror.
Then I will write a poem.
Then I will faint.
Then picture me, if you can, asleep in my beautiful bed.

 

 

I TALK TO HER IN DREAMS

 

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I talk to her in dreams.
She dislikes me in real life, it seems.
So I talk to her in dreams.

She looks real to me—and just as lovely—in dreams
And in those dreams she talks to me—
About what? A painter has nothing to see
Until they begin to paint—
And I am no lover until I faint—

So I can’t remember what she is saying:
It isn’t something definite, like what a radio happens to be playing;
She’s a victim of expertise; I don’t know what she really feels;
In life I never understood what she was saying;

Her struggle of mind meant little to me,
Since I was entirely enamored of her beauty—

(This is sadly how it is—
The man dies of beauty, the woman dies of kids)

So what was she saying in that dream last night?
It doesn’t matter. You know it doesn’t matter,
Even if you are one of those who think, and write;
It will never matter what she said to me in that delirious dream last night,
Only that she said something, and I was there
In the dream, and she was beautiful and fair,
Cruel time—which cannot touch my dreams!—had not taken that away,
And she was speaking to me: me, who never cared what she had to say.

Even a beautiful mouth has a tendency to speak
English, when it should be speaking Greek;
Ancient Greek, without modern expertise:
She will know life has one end: to please.

But in English she will talk of some fancy modern American film where every actor is untrue,
Saying who are you talking about I am not really making this particular point to you.

 

 

 

 

 

OUR LOVE RESEMBLES LAZARUS

Our love resembles Lazarus.
Despite what fate has done to us,
Our love comes back from the dead!
You can say yes if when you said, ‘no,’
You only said ‘no’ in your head.

Our love resembles Lazarus.
Love was dead
Without breath or bread.
Now it lives again in us.

Our love resembles Lazarus.
We say, “I hate you! We’re through!”
But I love when we do,
Because that’s when we kiss even more.
Lazarus picks himself off the floor
And love becomes famous, and goes on tour,
And sells more kisses than ever before.

 

 

WHAT DO WE EAT?

What do we eat when we eat someone’s kisses?
What do we drink when we drink someone’s soul?
Why does love always leave us in pieces?
Why can’t two halves ever equal a whole?

The man wants to come home to what is his.
The woman wants some other thing.
The man wants to sing to you, to you.
The woman just wants to sing.

There is nothing a lover hates more than a friend.
One wants passion to start. One wants passion to end.
Desire defines itself in its many ends
Which must be re-started.

We find safety in useful friends;
Excitement leaves us broken-hearted.

When I kissed her, I had to kiss her again;
Kissing makes us confront the end
Of pleasure, again and again;
Too tired from desire,
We end up loving the understanding friend.

The greatest lover is the greatest mirror.
If you love yourself, you and your lover will be one,
But if you hate yourself, you will see yourself—and run.

The abortion came at six o’clock.
What had been life became a rock.
Life had gotten in the way
Of the ex-mother’s pleasant thoughts
She longed to have, if she could have just one pleasant day.

Being a woman is hard on her.
She hates it when you look at her
And quickly look away.

But what she really hates is what you want.
To look at her all day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T HANDLE RACISM, YOU CAN’T HANDLE LOVE

She will go back to her husband
If you say the wrong thing.
If you say the wrong thing (will you? will you?)
You’ll get a slap in the face.
Don’t talk about her husband (pride is all),
Don’t talk about race.

Poetry says the wrong thing
In just the right way.
A good poet can talk racism all day.
A good poet can make the universe all about her and him.

The whole world is racism.
The whole world is wrong.
Will she be going back
If he sings that song?

 

 

THE ONLY UNCERTAIN THING IS THE HEART OF THE ONE WE LOVE

The only thing we really want
Is to feel what one we love is feeling
Tenderly and earnestly,
And with more conviction
Than we feel; it can be real. It can be fiction.
But let the other feel with more conviction.

My daughter told me why
An animated movie can make her cry
While a real tragedy in the news
Leaves her unmoved.
“Because in the movie I get the whole story,” she said;
“But a real shooting which leaves someone dead
Is always a partial story,” and suddenly
I understood the glory of artistic unity
And how the reality of its illusion is cruel:
It pushes all partial pleas into a hole.

Only the complete completely informs the soul.
Complete! Complete! The complete whole!
The other must feel with more conviction—
Since it is impossible for loving to equal being loved.
Nothing moves us more than when we are loved:
Being selected is better than selecting.
We would rather be chosen than choose—
Being picked makes us miraculous and not some piece of idle news.

When tragedy strikes me, I will turn away
From the public view. Until then, see me cry at the play.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I BEGAN MY NOVEL

I began my novel.
I had nothing, really, to tell;
My life is not one for the ages;

My story, I decided, would cover ten years.
But after I wrote ten pages
I broke down in tears.
Oh! what good is the past?
The reflections from all these years,
If I am in the present,
Drowning in present tears?

IT’S NOT FINISHED YET, I SAID

When the muse looked in on me,
I suppose she was just being kind,
But I don’t like to see
Anyone reading my mind.

When the muse looked in on me,
My poem was almost done.
The purple clouds nearly covering
The marvelous, setting sun.

She smiled at the clouds,
She smiled at the sun.
Then she looked at me as if to ask,
Are you sure you’re almost done?

Is the sunset the way you want it?
Because I’ll change everything, for free.
It was something about the way she said it.
The poet wasn’t me.

IS SHE NECESSARY?

Is she necessary because of her kisses?
Or for that beauty which this beauty otherwise misses?
That beauty is hers, hers the beauty that she
Lavishes when her eyes float and she kisses me
And her breasts come out, which I love to kiss—indecently.

And this beauty that loves her beauty is mine
That longs for all beauty but would much rather on her beauty decline.

Sadness in a song is lovely, but in a person something divine,
For when I heard on the street, Cry Baby, Cry, its sad melody
Invoked by a street guitar, I thought this pleasure
Is similar to being with her
And so the secret came to me
Of why I loved her who is now gone;

It was the sadness in her soul, and this old song
Helped me to realize how love is both a pleasure and a wrong,
As sadness struggles to be happy
And cannot be happy in the melody of a melodious song.

She is necessary. And who can blame her that she
Eventually found this—and me—to be wrong?

 

I FOUGHT IN THE WAR OF LOVE

I fought in the war of love
With a thousand others fighting.
The movie set was a dream,
From the fluttering flags of the ships to the red lapping waters.
(The ships were tipping, and as they burned, had trouble righting)
I studied Western Love and the Mediterranean.
I struggled to keep up with history in vain,
To keep up with books. Research was a drain.
She was sweet, had a sense of humor,
But saw everything in the context of dying.

As always happens when you love,
I always vaguely had the feeling she was lying.

I kept telling myself: don’t provoke;
Burn; enjoy it until it ends.

Now I write a poem for every
Reminder the executioner sends.

THE POET DOES WHATEVER HE WANTS

The poet does whatever he wants,
In the soul the soul-things flaunts,
In the soul a little song he sings
Which he loves because you love these things.
The secret is that a little song
Is what the whole song is, no matter how long,
That the lengthy and the forbidden
Is only interesting because it’s hidden.
If you bring it out in the light of day
The poet laughs at it because it has nothing to say.
Go with the poet, who does whatever he wants.
He laughs, he ridicules, he taunts,
And if you are the target, don’t be sad,
The poet loves you and doesn’t want you to be sad.

IF YOU ANTICIPATE THIS: A PSYCHOLOGICAL STUDY

Not everything is possible with love,
But passion definitely gives you a shove.
You may have been competitive and agitated before,
But love has made you compare yourself to others a little more.
Since you thought about that stranger and what he seems to be,
I’m not sure you can still be in love with me—
He hasn’t thought of you, or maybe in his mind
I am the poet and you are not his kind.

UNTRUE

You loved me loving your love
Which loved love but not me,
A song without meaning sung melodiously,
A bird singing but not to the other bird—
Love speaking beautifully without meaning a single word.

Yes, we did the loving
Since I loved you loving love, too.
Awful deception!
Such love! But neither one of us to the other one was true!

We loved love and were loved for that;
Our love could love our love without loving me or you,
And that was our fate—
Passionate love, longing love, but forever to ourselves untrue.

 

 

INEVITABLY, I FIGHT AGAINST THE INEVITABLE

If you want to create a certain mood,
Strike the following keys.
Use this rhythm and you will never be misunderstood.
The blues are actually angry. The melancholy taint is just a tease.
I’m tired of that smell the homeless have
Which sometimes invades the cafe I love.
Or the perfume worn by everyone
Reminding me of one I loved.
The most beautiful star, they say,
Appears to lovers as they fall asleep at break of day.
When I dared to argue
With you—no longer scared of you—
I found you had nothing to say.

THE POEM I CANNOT WRITE

 

The poem I cannot write
Sits on a shelf in the middle of the night,
The subject, you,
Hidden from every reader’s point of view—
Who still may see you by a little light
Even as the midnight rainstorm covers you.

The poem I cannot write
Has a long and lovely body, but poor eyesight,
Is made of misty words,
Huddled on a wire that none use, like birds,
Huddled—babies, too—in the spring, like birds,
Huddled in winter—grown—like huddled
Things of rare moment—
Of which those poems, which were truly poems, lent
Extra qualities of beauty pertaining
To rainstorms unwritten
(I handed you a note—were you smitten?)
Because in every poem you were in, it was raining.

When, at last, you come into my sight,
The rain having almost destroyed the night,
Sun of gold and light!
You will be,
Like my poetry,
The poem I cannot write.

THE ONE I LOVE IS THE ONE WHO DOES NOT MOVE

 

The one I love is the one who does not move.
This lovely statue does not need to walk.
Death came and now I know the meaning of love.
This face is lovely. What use for it to talk?
A long, long time love is in the tomb.
Love has been dead a long, long time.
Love needs nothing but a small room.
There is no sincerity. There is only rhyme.
I will be honest with you about what is here.
Once this is read, the silence begins.
Hell is not pleasant—it’s the place where no one sins.

 

 

I SAW YOU LOOK AWAY


 

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
Even as we erotically kiss,
We whisper the dear name of someone who we miss.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
We kiss the flower and stem,
We cry to the root—yet we are thinking of them.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
We are never unholy or sad—
Our thoughts are good-–though the world is bad.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
The flowers are flowers, indeed!
Vines are dreams and we, merely the seed.

Thoughts, thoughts, thoughts!
Why, I wonder, did you look away?
Death lasted a moment; now must it last all day?

 

LOVE IS CURIOSITY

We desire to know the truth about love:
The plans made below, the nebula above,
The intricate windings of our lover’s heart,
The way to make it last, the way to make it start,
The life and the lust and the looseness of love.
But there’s nothing to know and nothing to see:
Love is only curiosity.

Lost, uncertain, and full of care,
Beauty caused you to stop there,
And now you ponder what might be here—
Somehow beautiful, somehow austere,
Somehow fearful, but a beautiful fear,
And you stop. Wonder. Lust. Stare.
But there’s nothing to ponder. There’s nothing to see.
Love is only curiosity.

Beauty, and the passion for it,
Is not the lover’s destiny,
The artist will feel it and adore it,
And cover it in poetry,
And looking at a sunset, or the most beautiful things,
Or hearing a song, or smelling the vine which clings
Gives us calm and happiness; beauty is ours
Simply when we look at flowers or stars.
No, love is when we can’t let it be.
And this is from curiosity.

Routine kills the madness of love.
Routine doesn’t kill the beauty above,
For stars never lose their beauty for me,
But love! Love needs curiosity.

Did she really love you?
I thought she was furious!
Oh she was angry, but she was also—curious.

 

 

POETRY TOOK MY SONG AWAY

I always loved my song,
I always let it play.
Then rumination came along.
Poetry took my song away.

I walked along, singing,
I sang because I knew how.
Then one day you came along.
I watch my song in silence now.

I wasn’t one to mind
That my song had one thing to say.
Now I wander from point to point to point.
Poetry took my song away.

Poetry has a passion
For songs and more than song.
The singer’s but a picture, now
And the picture seems wrong.

I always loved my song.
My song had only this to say:
Songs without love are wrong.
Poetry took my song away.

 

SEX, SEX, SEX!

http://media1.s-nbcnews.com/i/streams/2013/August/130801/6C8486411-130801-adamphoto-hmed-0205p-files.jpg

We do not intend to annoy our readers in exploiting the topic of sex: this is not a cute attempt to get attention, nor an indulgence in bad taste, or worst, plain lust.

Perhaps we could have written, “Gender! Gender! Gender!” or “Gay! Gay! Gay!” but sex, with all due respect, is the issue, and the issue here is how we pretend sex is not the issue.

Take Gay Marriage, for instance.  What is the difference between a gay person and straight person?

There is no difference—except one: how they have sex.

Gay issues, then, are sex issues.  Sex is not a component of gay issues; gay issues are 100% sex issues. For there is no other difference between straight and gay, and to imply any other difference would be to prejudice the gay person.  (And also, prejudice the straight person.  But we can leave this aside.  Or perhaps we can’t?)

We need not indulge in speculation such as: is a person of a certain sexual orientation that sexual orientation when they are not being sexual? We need not ask this question, for the axiom remains, and it remains untouched: the one difference between gay and straight, as these terms are universally defined in a non-prejudicial manner, is: how each type has sex.

Give me the right to have sex the way I want to have sex.

This is the formula (there is no other) for all matters pertaining to gay rights.

We have no right to imply anything else, for anything else would automatically prejudice the gay person as being different in other ways—the very definition of prejudice.

We have no right, for instance, to imply that one of the criteria is love, for this would open the door to prejudice: anything but sex differences as a reason given for the difference between gay and straight is not permitted, if we are to avoid prejudicial judgment.

We would never want to stigmatize the gay person as someone incapable of loving people of another gender or of another sexual orientation.

Gay is sex, not love, for the axiom is plain: the difference between gay and straight is how they have sex, not how they love, for if we came anywhere near this formula, this would be to equate sex and love, and further, to equate sex and love in the behavior of the gay person, which would be highly prejudicial against the gay person.

This is precisely the same mechanism as the following: it would be highly insulting to insist that any man and woman who are married are only married for one reason, and one reason alone: the sex. Imagine the countless middle-aged and elderly married couples who were seen as being in a married relationship for this sole reason.  Cries of indignation and shame would come from all quarters, and rightfully so.

Love, and all the shades of affection which make people wish to be with each other, or to do good for each other, is not, in any one’s mind, tied to sex alone, or even tied to sex at all.  Anyone attempting this definition would be laughed out of town.  How, then, can we take the previously established sole difference, by non-prejudicial definition, between a gay and a straight person: how they have sex, and add love into the definition of that definitional difference between gay and straight, in which sex becomes how we define love?  We cannot.

All gay issues, then, are about sex, and come down to the following, which we repeat from above: Give me the right to have sex the way I want to have sex.

All social freedoms come with the caveat that our freedom does not take away another’s…”the pursuit of happiness,” for instance, does not mean: “take away another’s happiness.”

So, Give me the right to have sex the way I want to have sex implies mutual and not coercive sex.

Matching up gays, by definition, has one criterion, and one criterion only: matching up sex partners. If this sounds crude, it is only because we have backward and old-fashioned and prejudicial notions of gays and sex.

Here some might argue that once we have established the group, “gay,” matching up now involves qualities non-sexual; love and friendship, for instance. Yet if we see an old rich person and a young beautiful person in a marriage, the marriage still exists only for the established definition of the group in question: in this case, “gay.” Wealth and beauty are in the mix—but they do not change the sole definition of the group, which is “gay,” for beauty and wealth exist entirely independently of “gay.”

Rights are either universal—“happiness”—or they pertain to a group—“gay marriage.”

Since we have defined this particular group—which we must do, if we are to give the group rights, in a non-prejudicial way, ‘gay marriage’ is really ‘sex marriage’—marriage for sex.

By definition, it cannot be anything else.

And if ‘gay marriage’ is ‘sex marriage,’ it follows that ‘straight marriage’ is ‘sex marriage,’ too.

In a free society, sex rights make perfect sense.

Yet now we are back to offending all those married couples!

Is it true that social offense flies in the face of logic?

What can we do about that?

Shouldn’t it make sense that if a wife, or a husband, wants to have sex with someone other than their spouse, this should be a right, in exactly the same way that gay or straight marriage is a right?

The whole issue is ‘sex rights’ and nothing else.  To introduce anything else: property, money, love, or morality is to introduce old-fashioned considerations which distort the truth of the matter.

If this outrages our sense of decorum, it is only because of prejudice and backwards thinking.

If we sentimentalize the issue, we introduce prejudice and distortion not only to gay rights—which are solely about sex—but to marriage between gays or marriage between straights, so defined: the two terms, gay and straight creating, by definition, the existence of the other, since to choose a gay partner must involve not choosing a straight partner.

But if the issue is sex, as we have established, and ‘sex rights’ the natural outcome of the whole matter, what does this say about the ‘sanctity’ of marriage?  Is there a sanctity of marriage, and if there is not, what is marriage? If marriage is a sex contract, but sex rights transcend staying with one person, don’t we have to rethink everything?  Doesn’t everything fall apart?

We have attempted to show—to articulate in words—the underlying logic which drives certain unspoken prejudices—expressed, or felt, or manifested, as squeamishness or disgust: feelings—manifested by social offense flying in the face of logic—which have far more lasting impact on society than words.

In this brief Scarriet essay, we have exploded the meaning of significant terms: Sex, marriage, gay, and we don’t think any related issue can be looked at quite the same way, again.

Is it any wonder that Scarriet is swiftly becoming the most important cultural site of its kind?

 

 

 

 

 

POETRY WITHOUT BEAUTY IS VANITY

The first thing a rapper always does
Is tell you he uses all these words because
Words are full of shit and it is “ME
Who is the power and the glory.
And the next thing you know he is on Hannity.
Poetry Without Beauty is Vanity.

Now you have these poets with their MFAs
Who mix John Donne with their Willie Mays
And scoff at wearing the poet’s crown
As they do cocaine at a bar downtown
And pretty feminists toy with their sanity.
Poetry Without Beauty is Vanity.

The avant-gardes are ugly and old,
Modernists, yet not modernists, I am told.
They write poems on the kitchen sink
Without irony, or ironically, or so they think.
They race to trendiness ahead of me.
Poetry Without Beauty is Vanity.

 

 

THE BEGINNING OF A POEM IS A SONG

I only had to look at you,
I didn’t need to look very long.
There isn’t much love has to do.
The beginning of a poem is a song.

Make a list of things
A song must do before it sings
If you need to be precise,
Or maybe we could kiss;
That, too, would be nice.

I could write some poems
Astute, verbose and dense,
Or maybe write a song
Because emotion is immense.

Because love is always going
And life isn’t very long,
I’m almost afraid to speak.
The beginning of a poem is a song.

I STILL DO (NEW SCARRIET POEM)

Is that all you have?
A selfish soul unable to love?
Is that all you’ve got?
Indignantly making me into something I’m not?

Romance can be made,
Like writing a poem or a play:
Come sit with me beneath this shade,
Kiss me, and tell me what you did today.

Romance can be made of lies,
Or romance can be true;
I don’t know what you’re feeling,
But I really did love you.
And because I love to write romance,
I still do.

VALERIE MACON!! A SCARRIET EXCLUSIVE

Valerie Macon is the best poet from North Carolina.

Let us look at the poems, shall we?  (Valerie Macon’s poems are below.)

The haughty indignation of the Credentialing Complex speaks well for itself, we suppose, and why shouldn’t those obsessed with credentials be haughty? It’s the wine that grape makes. And the naturally intoxicated poets should pity them, if nothing else, and wish them well. After all, the Credentialing Complex does so much work which has nothing to do with poetry, slaving in the world of academic adornments, perfecting the art of pleasing in a personal manner under the guidance of nuanced rules of conduct, stapling, taking out staples, tapping out, early and late, their e-calendars! All so the solid infrastructure of poetry might live! And not “melt, thaw and resolve itself into a dew.” Shouldn’t Credentialing holler if the ripe, hidden fruit is too easily plucked? Why of course. Credentialing, weary and wise from its labor, is subtle enough to know that the poetry of poetry is not the real point. Subtle masters of haughtiness! In the North Carolina case, Credentialing only had to speak: action was swiftly taken.

Oh but let us look at the poems, shall we?

It will do us good for once.

We shall not hound the good people of North Carolina with tales of poetic martyrdom, or rebuke North Carolinians for allowing one of their own, a poet—a poet of the people, no less—to be hounded from office by what must have been good intentions.

Just for curiosity’s sake, let us look at the poems.

It shouldn’t hurt a bit.

We hope all will forgive, as well, the intrusion of the Critical Faculty into the affair, as much as we revere and respect the good work done by the Credentialing Complex. The Critical Faculty will be excused, we hope, even by the haughty of North Carolina, for making the poems of Valerie Macon its business. We hope the Credentialing Complex will not be offended.

Valerie Macon—pardon us as we speak of her poems—trusts the image to tell the story; the significant detail is at the heart of what is significantly said, and this practice is a significant part of poetry; and Macon, casting her “cold eye” on objects and events, succeeds on this level to such an extent, that we would go so far as to say that it places Valerie Macon in a position of not insignificant excellence on this point, enabling us to assert, with confidence, our very favorable opinion of her.

Her poem, “That’s Good Eatin,” is visceral, literally, and we, as readers, become the squeamish audience—thanks to Macon’s sure description—to an earthy, 12 year old character, drawn as well as anything in Wordsworth; for this portrait alone Macon has made herself immortal. Anyone who reads poetry, or struggles to write it, will appreciate Macon’s command of lucid, economical description. The final image in this poem—“neat stack of pink filets”—is a little too pat—she trusts the image (and the statement it makes) a little too much, and yet, given the image, perhaps this is her point; yet the “point” fails for us precisely because it is too boldly made; but this is really a minor fault, given the overall skill of Macon’s cold eye.

That’s Good Eatin’

He seizes the gasping catfish,
stabs a screwdriver between its glazed eyes,
impales it to a tree stump.

He’s twelve, dusted with dirt,
baked bronze, cutoffs crusted
with stink bait and worm blood.

I’ve already skinned five foxes,
two deer, and a field of rabbits!

A circle of wide-eyed disciples
squat around him.
He starts to strip off the skin—
but the silver jacket hangs tough,
and the fish thrashes under his blade.
The cohorts cower.

It’s dead, that’s just its nerves,

he lectures; wipes his brow
with a gut-slicked hand.

Shimmering entrails gush out.
But for the sake of the squeamish
he crams them back in;
then the lungs blow a big milky bubble.

Boy and catfish struggle fist and knife
until at last the fish surrenders its flesh
into a neat stack of pink filets.

We see, in her other poems below, her reliance on the cold fact paying even greater and more subtle dividends.

Take “Morning News” and the effectiveness of “But flames…” with the list of personal items, and then “No immediate word on what caused the blaze the reporter tags.”

Or “Taking Up Serpents” and its powerful ending: “relieving him of his earthly ministry.”

Or “Soup Kitchen,” with its drama sympathetically rendered, finishing with the understated “I try to concentrate on my beef stew.”

Or “Blank Canvas Arts 210 8 AM” and the marvelously spondaic last line, “coats fat over lean with a bright brush.”

We challenge anyone to find better poetry, that which succeeds as well at the type of poetry it is attempting to perfect, as that which we see here from Valerie Macon, who was briefly, too briefly, the legitimate Poet Laureate of North Carolina—the best, we believe, it has ever had.

Morning News

A family displaced after fire broke out
in their Horsetooth Holler home overnight
a reporter chants.

In video clip, neighbors plucked
from dreams stand in bunches, mumble
into microphones how they’ll pull together
for this decent family, see them through.

But flames already licked up
the mouse-and-cheese platter
fresh from yesterday’s flee market;
bread and butter pickles,
tomatoes and jams put up,
labeled and lined in the pantry;
the finished cross quilt, colors
like the fall garden out back;
photos of Zack his first day of school,
Ben in his lucky fishing hat
stuck on the refrigerator;
the Lego tower waiting its next story;
the miniature rose in the yard
that struggled to continue
after the first hard frost.

No immediate word on what caused the blaze
the reporter tags.

———————

Soup Kitchen

Just the smell of hot food begins to thaw
the cold that’s creeped into my bones.
The dinin’ room only holds twenty; the rest
of us stand in the waitin’ area where
some Sundays there’s church donuts.

Bein’ a small woman, I keep to myself ‘cause
a lot of the regulars are kind’a rough.
One day this big guy they call Leroy was walkin’
‘round tellin’ everyone how hungry he was,
complainin’ the line wasn’t movin’ fast enough.
He made the mistake of rummagin’ through
the bags of this bent old lady with a blank stare.
Stole her candy bar. She caught ‘im, flipped out.
Bit ‘im hard on the hand, drew blood.

In the dinin’ room, manners ‘r in short supply.
Me, I never rest my elbows on the table, always
put my napkin on my lap, chew with my mouth shut,
and mind my own business. But this skinny guy
with a comb-over called Gus uses an ungodly
amount of dressin’, makes his salad look like soup;
puts hot sauce on his oatmeal cookie.
I try to concentrate on my beef stew.

————————

Staying Clean

You’ll spot them in a supermarket,
the homeless, bowed over
a scummy sink, wiping down
with hand wash and paper
towel course as cow’s tongue;
or stealing a hose shower
behind a moonlit garden shed.
Tonight, under a kinship of stars,
a fallen fellow squats
in the fountain at Lemon Park,
face in a lather. Humming,
he tugs his razor over bristled
cheeks, bends his chin to the blade,
splashes his face with the plumes
of water that dance around him.
Nearby, his clothes wait
stretched across a park bench,
washed up and wrung out.

——————————–

Taking up Serpents

His dad and his grandpa before him

handled snakes—timber rattlers,

copperheads, cottonmouths, adders—

survived vicious bites, no doctor.

Preacher, himself, had nine previous

bites, then, the tenth, his finger fell off.

Suffered through it with not so much as

an aspirin, instead let it rot hard and black

as a piece of coal, expose bone before it broke off.

Wife still keeps the stub in a glass jar.

She says handling a serpent is the best

feeling she’s ever had, higher than any high,

unexplainable happiness, joy in your soul.

This night in a remote church building,

Preacher stomps and bellows a fiery rant,

band pumps up the fever, congregation shouts,

dances, spins with collective adrenaline.

He reaches into a box takes up a rattler

drapes it around his neck, swings it tenderly

back and forth above his head, his face ecstasy.

Hallelujahs rise, cymbals rattle.

Viper bobs and weaves, coils in the reverend’s

grip then strikes like the snap of a whip,

bleeds death into the meat of his hand,

this time, relieving him of his earthly ministry.

——————–

Soul Food

There’s something spiritual
in symmetry—
Row after row
of verdant sprouts
grow in one accord,
pulsing with new life
like saints planted
on Sunday morning pews,
crops in ruler-straight lines
stitched on chiseled ridges
of fragrant brown earth,
like the handiwork
of a Baptist quilting circle.

Soon, poking and pushing
up with the rhythm
of a needle through
the underside of a frame,
the beggar weed
and the bittercress;
as prolific as the
small uniform stitches
in a finished work,
the stink bug
and the armyworm.

At the edge of the field
the farmer swings his plow
in an ark, precise
as a slice of harvest moon
worked into a new quilt.

————————–

Blank Canvas
Arts 210, 8 AM

Professor arrives,
tumbled-out-of-bed hair gray
nappy paint-flecked sweater
he calls his old friend, whiffs
of linament and turpentine.

You are the boss of your canvas,

he counsels, sketches the basics
of human anatomy—egg head,
two-cone torso, legs half the figure.

Love the white expanse before you,

strokes the linen with burnt sienna
thinned to melted butter.
Oil is a forgiving medium.
It allows time and layers
to figure it out,

defines the hard edges, darkens
the shadows, lightens the lights.

So paint boldly my friends!

coats fat over lean with a bright brush.

——————————-

After Valentines Day

On a polished walnut vanity a dozen
roses stand on firm long stems,
bunched in pear-shaped crystal
adorned in glossy foliage,
cheeks flushed fresh pink,
perfume sweeter than
dark chocolate truffles.

Too soon—
it seems like only days pass—
huddled in Waterford Irish lace
they slump over canes,
bow their wizened heads
form dowager’s humps.
Additives depleted, their water
turns foam and sour milk.

THE GREAT TRAGEDY OF HUMAN EXISTENCE

The great tragedy of human existence:
To fight is easier than to love.
Deny them, deny them is the least resistance.
Downward is the reason for above.

And now there is nothing more to say—
Obligation has killed desire.
I wish every guest would go away.
The seller, too, must be sold to the buyer.

The sweet sensual time we had
Was not from love, but from war.
Sweetly we hated; good rejoiced in bad.
“Don’t do it!” Oh then we must do it all the more.

SHELLEY KNEW THAT LOVE IS MEAN AND VILE

Shelley knew that love is mean and vile

Because we must select one among the many.

This is how love must be, if there is to be any.

You have one—but the many attracts you all the while.

Beauty lives in many eyes,

But all that is many falls into the many and dies.

Shelley knew that love is mean and vile

So he wrote poetry for awhile.

 

 

 

IN VAIN, IN VAIN!

In vain, in vain,
All this sunshine and this rain.
Children have no children here,
This greenery is a green disguise,
This fertility is merciless and sere,
Love not for the womb, but for the eyes.

In vain, in vain,
To sit beside you on the train;
There won’t be any meeting here.
Breeding’s forbidden,
Romance is killed by fear,
The reason for the future hidden.

In vain, in vain,
All this beauty made in pain;
Pain by too much thought made weak;
This beauty fails to dream or speak;
Beauty silent, hopes to stay
With hope alone, but alone silently fades away.

 

 

THE POEM THAT NO ONE READS

The poem that no one reads
Has been sitting here for hours,
Resting by the brook
With a few dried flowers.

The poem that no one reads
Has been sitting here, among
Songs that are never sung,
Even though the harmony of their notes
Would sound from lips’ loveliest throats
In manner of major and minor key,
Beautiful in a melody
Which everybody needs.

But placed before my eyes,
Eloquence sings and cries
From a previously hidden source:
The poem no one reads, of course.

TO GET AWAY FROM RELIGION

To get away from religion,
I did what I pleased today.
I greeted the sun—which owns light and its dome of blue—
As if it were a cloud, or a dying thought of you—drifting away.

My morning was a yawning blank.
There was no one who needed me, and no one to thank.
No altar, temple, or undertow
To people belief or fill a church with one sometimes as kind as you,

There was no candle for my cave, no chanting music graced my den;
No buildings were built, no slaves were made
To build canopies of comfort and shade;
Sweetly alone, I watched my loneliness well.

There were no reminders or alarms;
No fruits or candies, no gauzy charms;
The hours did not feel like hours and there was no bell.

No meal was cooked, no plates set in rows.
Noon never came, with trumpet or horn.
There were no friends, nor friends of foes;
No voices. No praise. No scorn.

No face of saint was judged too pale,
Or lacking the right artistic touch,
No harrowing stories of bloodshed or whale,
No heroes, no descendants of such-and-such,
Disturbed the peace of my contemplative sleep.
No mourners with candles entered the evening to weep.

I didn’t have to worry about my dress,
Or what sandals surrounded my toes,
Or the best thorns for my crown,
For when had we ever considered those?

You walked naked in the naked day
For you belonged to me naked, in the naked night.
For the naked in this naked world, loneliness is right.
Take the lily from my brow, for I just burn it up,
Take away my incense, my icon, my carved and painted cup.
I’m devoted to myself. The sun. The sun has not come up.

 

 

 

YOU GET ME

Slender beauty who hides in the baskets and the tea,
The gypsy who hungers, and Ursula, who writes poetry
Are better at making signs than taking advice,
For they do not understand: you get me.

This is not the most attractive thing about being nice,
Which, if understood, is how we build up our pride—
Being attractive amounts to letting the other decide.
What is best at being insanely lovely
Is how the sad world is led inside;
The leaf and flower are waiting: you get me.

They want each choice to be right.
They will have me, they think, tonight.
They will be the moon—there are many,
Or a day, or a thought—there are many.
If the world needed children, it would let me.
But no, darling; you get me.

 

WHAT IF MY POETRY IS WRONG?

My poetry wants you to love me
And maybe this is wrong.
There is always a story
Underneath the song.

They say there is a crime
Behind every care,
They say that hidden blood
Is on all we eat and wear.

Unchanging love
Changes love that went before.
Fewer words mark the poem—
The story’s always more.

It’s nobody’s business
What this poem says to you,
With its effort to be pretty,
And its secret for the Jew.

ALAS! ALACK!

If there are twenty as beautiful as you,
Let me love them, and be twenty times untrue—
And be untrue to each of their charms,
Forty times untrue with their beautiful arms—

And as I kiss each beautiful back,
Their breasts cry, “alas, alack,”
Or as I sigh at the top of their head,
Their feet demand I love them instead;

I’ll be untrue in every eye,
Which envies the other, although nearby;
But there are none as beautiful as you.
I love the many. I am not untrue:

I love your thoughts, what your thoughts do,
Your wants, your needs; I love you, you, you.

 

 

 

 

 

I’M ONLY DUMB ABOUT THE DUMB THINGS

When am I right? What is the name of this bird?
How many miles to Cincinnati?
Is the truth direct? Or must it be overheard?
Does this go in there? Is there a cost and a fee?

Has the poem started yet?
Can I stop when I know you have understood?
Do I know how much I forget I forget?
I don’t know if you are reading this but I did and I wish that you would.

I’m only dumb about the dumb things.
When the orchestra begins playing
All the audience was saying
Stops. And the soloist sings.

 

KNEW, DID NOT LOVE; LOVED, DID NOT KNOW

The only purpose of this bird
Hidden from you by the trees
Is that its signature be heard—
And one sharp note will do,
Gallant among the melodies,
Announcing its joy to you.

You sing to birds with human songs in vain.
You have edges but not a center.
Shadows of shadows sing shadow songs in your brain.
The smell and sound of the rain may enter
But not the rain.

 

IF THE POEM ASK

If the poem ask, what is my beginning?
Its hesitation is the reason for its sinning,
For truth starts right away
To be good. Night at once begins the day.

If the poem ask, why is there sorrow?
Even as you read this line tomorrow
The answer, like every seed, will fall,
And one will grow into many, only to confuse them all.

If the poem ask, is there lasting joy?
This question will annoy
The barren and the sad—
And ruin the joy felt by the glad.

If the poem ask, do not answer.
Treat all questions as if you were a sculptor or a dancer,
Or any craftsman building things in space.
Questions are the weakness of the human race.

If the poem ask, why is there death?
Even as you speak that line with your own dear breath
Meaning will be emptied of its cup,
The line will end, and the grass will spring back up.

 

 

NOTHING WILL GET DONE

She is loving you because she hates somebody else.
To know something, you must hate it.
You never know what you love.
The mist which covers love is more important than love.
The worst offense is to reveal the ignorance of someone’s pleasure: let them be wrong;
It is the wrong itself which pleases them.
Beauty doesn’t waste time. Efficiency is beauty.
Beauty says all with less;
Beauty isn’t love; beauty is love beginning immediately;
Beauty is the innocence resented by wealth
Whose wealth took a long time to grow.

I AM JEALOUS OF YOU

I am jealous of you,
Who read what I write,
Not because of who you are,
Or who you are not.

I am jealous of you
Because I am certainly dead,
Given the swiftness of time—
Here you are, alive, and reading
With light the swiftness of my rhyme.

I am jealous of you,
Who came into my life,
And now I don’t remember…
Was there a child? A wife?

I am jealous of you,
Who are walking behind
Among the cloudy flowers—
And I, on this same path, am now only a mind.

 

SAY THINGS YOU SAID TO ME BEFORE

Say things you said to me before—
The memory of what you are is driving me mad:
That beginning of that unlikely tour
When our love was discovered, when shy as we were, we became bad.
Love, when it wins,
Creates lovely prisons
Of loves who forget how it used to be.
Passion is needed now, not tranquility.

Say things you said to me before—
The poems passed to me in secret made me glad then.
How cunning it is to secretly adore
Love secretly discovered: as good as we were, we became bad then.
Love domesticated
Seems less fated.
Love needs to remember how it used to be.
Passion is needed now, not tranquility.

I was yours from the first minute
We both announced to each other we were in it
And we decided to open up the door.
I can’t say what we need to do;
The world is a word articulated by you.
Say things you said to me before.

 

AN AUDIENCE OF ONE

Now that I am famous
Do you think I want less
Of the lovely moon
Who rises too soon
With beaming song and misty dress
Desired, as she is, by everyone?
Or the grand triumphant sun?
No. I’ve always had an audience of one.

Do you think the careless crowd
Boisterous and loud,
That crowd whose crowding is never done
Thronging, tumultuously wronging
All that is delicate and small
Will be enough
To eclipse my love?
No. I will always have an audience of one.

When I wish before the mirror,
When I sigh before the sun,
When I put my dreams into a face,
Do I want expansion?
Do I want life to split into hundreds of pieces and run?
No. I will always have an audience of one.

Have you seen reactions
In the flowers
Trembling in the wind on flowery hills for hours
When worship determines its fractions
In the way fragility is moved,
In the way innocence is loved?
Do you remember those few hours
When fame finally landed on earth with the sun?
I’ve always had an audience of one.

 

 

 

 

 

 

YOU ARE NOT WRONG

You are not wrong
Who have a faith which cannot be shaken.
If you skip one step, it appears
Any sequence is smarter than you,
And so the world makes us seem mistaken,
And so we fail in philosophy and song.

Parts are infinite, and so is our part
In them. But we are never wrong
Who have a faith which cannot be shaken.
Faith is founded on what cannot be measured or seen.
Faith lives in the heart.
There is no winter there, and the lawns stretching to infinity are always green.

NEXT TO BE SAD

She traded Henry for James
And now James is glad,
But James doesn’t know he’s
The next to be sad.

The one she abuses
Learns a lesson, Jimmy, lad;
T
he one she chooses is
The next to be sad.

The man she refuses
Is rejected a tad,
But the man she chooses is
The next to be sad.

If you are the next,
For a while you’ll be glad—
But her next is, you ought to know,
The next to be sad.

MISS UNIVERSITY

Put down your device and listen to me.
Do you know Miss University?
We owe her a trillion dollars in debt.
Are you listening yet?
Professor Benjamin took a suicide pill.
Hunted by Nazis: no money, no will.
America hunted the Nazis down.
Miss University was burned to the ground.
They cancelled many a college course
As Miss University was handled with force.
The intellectualization
Of Miss University never saved a nation.
When groups like Nazis start to hold sway
Miss University just does what they say;
But every poet and scientist is dead
Unless Miss University lets them get read.
She is the girl every intellectual desires,
The lovely of brick and ivy covered spires;
But these days any building will do
To pull the ass-kissing degree-seekers through
For vanity and pride, a printed degree,
A victim of Miss University.
A program to please every trend and taste
As the competition must be laid to waste,
As ‘on-line’ and ‘psycho-babble’ mix and blend;
(With most of the courses cancelled in the end)
Miss University’s catalogue advertises
Plenty—in cynical disguises.
University accepts every crazy and flake—
She has enrollment goals to make,
And retention numbers to count,
As crushing debt continues to mount,
As graduates find out a degree
Doesn’t equal opportunity:
You’ve been pleasured by Miss University.
She knows how to avoid disasters:
A teacher to keep teaching must get a masters.
Just make it necessary
To bow and scrape for her degree
And make her’s the kind of place
Which teaches the same disgrace
Of paper pushing guile
Which first made her smile.
The deans and bureaucrats multiply
And become the very reason why
The whole business exists at all.
Raise money to buy a new hall
For Miss University to dance
On corpses, so you, hypocrite!—might have a chance.

 

 

 

 

WHAT COULD BE MORE WRONG THAN A POEM STOLEN FROM A SONG?

 

 

Dante may have rhymed like the Cat in the Hat,
But who will take you seriously if you rhyme like that?
A mournful picture which takes your breath away,
A rain covered river in a mist of gray,
The reedy banks and the green hanging over,
The river swollen, the foliage sinking lower,
Makes an impression on the eye—
But too much rhyme makes the reader want to cry…
If you want an orchestra to support your art
Poetry can play only a small, wordy part.
There is nothing more wrong
Than a poem stolen from a song

Poetry is somber and grammatical.
It sympathizes with the painter’s art
To find in objects a sympathetic heart,
To find in nature where nothing but cruelty is
A bird’s flute or a hesitant kiss.
But the poem lives in shadows
And cannot turn towards the light
For it lives with reason only,
Not with laughter—or any sensual delight;
It does not drum. It has no sight.
There is nothing more wrong
Than a poem stolen from a song.

Good night, poetry, in your safe lake of death.
You have no music, no eyesight, no breath.
Music marches and pictures tease.
A poem is only marks on a frieze.
A poem is a meditation on a grave;
It brings silence to the mind.
Sober poetry’s thoughts are of a different kind;
It knows not music’s immediate bliss;
It thinks of—but is not—the kiss:
Yet without this there is no genius.
There is nothing more wrong
Than a poem stolen from a song.

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’M THE ONE WHO DOES ALL THE WORK

My novels are long, ten times longer than yours,
My intricate poems take years to write;
I assembled my wardrobe with more effort than you can imagine,
The colors that match and the expensive material should tell you something,
And you can’t possibly appreciate the mammoth undertaking
That went into my cleanliness or my clever jokes
Aimed at dismantling the system
Which oppresses, oppresses
Even from its bed, even while it is naked, held by
The lover that loves.

THE PRICELESS FUTURE–FOURTH OF JULY POEM

Call it the love that it is:
Body of flesh pointing to the future,
Venus of reproduction, a daughter
Not down here for poetry or dance
Or the lesbian alternative.
Sexy prophecy of now,
More lovely than a golden cow.
The only reason for her sexiness:
Bearing children in the priceless future.
Hips, breasts, the good flesh,
A conspiracy of reproducing nature.
Nature will let you touch the breast
After painting and poetry have spoken,
After the speech, perhaps the sacred portal will open.
Life—without reason—will begin.
Here is accident without nuance.
Here is the clumsiest dance.
Sacrifice to silence and pilgrimage.
You, ashamed to kiss
Pure quantity?
Call it the love that it is.

 

 

NOTHING MUCH HAPPENS HERE (New Scarriet poem)

Nothing much happens here after four.
Five will show up, in his usual place,
always looking suspiciously
ready to make a disclaimer regarding his appearance,
but we’re used to that. Five becomes quiet when Six arrives.

We’re getting rather tired of him, too.
What does Six talk about?  The usual stuff about what happens
between five and six, but we suspect he has no idea what he’s talking about.
He doesn’t talk much about what happens between six and seven,
and becomes very depressed when he does, almost like his time is running out.

Once, he began crying softly for ten minutes. Only when Seven came did he shut up.
Seven is a somber character and she becomes more somber as the evening goes on.
She keeps asking where the others went. Isn’t that obvious?
You and I sit here because we like to be with each other; we’re in love, and we talk almost as an afterthought,
because it’s what people do— they talk, and we hold each other, less shyly as evening comes on.

Eight arrives. In the summer, it’s day, and we see him, dressed like sundown, a brilliant shadow of
A third world person, obsessed with clouds; he chirps more like a cricket than a bird.
Nine shows up, has given up looking for work, given up on a lot of things, but likes to read
And will carefully sing to us about what he’s read. We would love
to have a really interesting conversation, but we can’t. We are falling asleep.

We keep thinking someone else is arriving. Even when I hold you, you look at your watch,
But I am happy to be with you, on an island, in the shadows, for a short hour.

SINCE THE WOMAN IS SUPERIOR SHE SAYS NO

Since the woman is superior, she says no;
Because she is the jewel
To have, she makes
The man, sad, come and go.

Since the man is inferior, he says yes;
Because she is the jewel
To have, she makes
The man run and stop and guess.

Because she is everything, she says no.
Because he is nothing, he whispers
Beatrice! Beatrice! I love you so!

POET

Poet! Ungrateful child!
Lover of beauty for its own sake!

Did you expect the moon, your mother,
To give and give, and never take?
To always be a light for you?
In this day, where there is no poetry,
You long for a night that will never return,
When night held you, before the sun rose
And son was the pun too bright to learn.
Listen to me: there is no beauty
For its own sake. Do your duty.
Look inside yourself. You are a dark, indifferent tune.
You need to be a mother.  You need to make another moon.

 

IN THE MORNING–SONG

Cargo pants,
I’ll take you to the dance,
And we’ll have fun
In the morning, in the morning

Take my hand
In the military band
And we’ll have fun
In the morning, in the morning

I am free.
No one needs me,
And watch me pee
In the morning, in the morning

A golden ring,
And the markets sing;
I am lingering
In the morning, in the morning

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