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I’m the only good person in the world. White American liberals, who raised me, are hypocritical and racist. And then I hear that in other countries, in Latin countries, in India, all over the world, the slightest hint of darker skin generates the most vicious bigotry one can imagine. So, then, who is good? If where I’m from is bad, and elsewhere is bad, who is good? Only I am good. If I don’t know you, because you live far away, you are either bad, or, if you are good, you don’t know me, so you don’t share your goodness with me! You withhold your goodness from me, so how can you be good? And if I read or hear about someone who is good? That’s not good! I don’t experience the advertised. The advertised is not true goodness. Nothing that is advertised is the whole story. Who runs to me? Who throws money at me? Who tries to really get to know me? Who in the world has the courage to really say what they are thinking to me? No one. You are all bad. But I know exactly what I am thinking all the time. I am going to listen to Mozart now. I am going to write a beautiful poem now. There is so much beauty in the world! It makes me cry. And none of it is trying to be beautiful. It just is. No story is needed. Once the story begins, it is an advertisement, a lie. Only I am good. I don’t need a story. I’m the only one who I know, for certain, is good, because I’m the only one who I know, and good, to be good, must be known! I don’t hate you, I just don’t know you. I want to be honest. I want to report the facts that I know. I’m the only good person in the world.


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Use your beauty for love, not control,
And I will give you, for this love, my soul.
And since beauty on a person doesn’t last,
It might be good to put it to good use fast.
If you fail at love with your fortunate good looks,
Shit. You might as well experience love in books;
No love is going to be possible at all
If you fuck it up, when you are beautiful and tall!

If you have doubts about your beauty, listen to me:
I am partial to myself, so if your vanity
Is not something you value much,
Trust my eyes, my poetry, my love, if not my touch.
You don’t have to give your love to me;
I know you are beautiful and I know that means you’re free.
But believe me: love isn’t going to be possible at all
If you won’t accept you are beautiful and tall.

Use your love for beauty, not control,
And discover the secret to poetry’s soul.
Since beauty in poetry lasts forever,
It will be a profitable endeavor
For poetry, to work on your poem’s good looks,
If you want your poems to live forever in books,
To comfort those not poetic at all,
Who don’t have love, or beauty, and are not even a little bit tall.




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There was very little Catherine could actually do:

Read a book. Put on jogging clothes and jog down the avenue.

Be slightly useful to a boss; friendly to a friend, or two.

What made Catherine interesting was what Catherine knew.

The important facts of her life were few:

Children, none.

Job, a joke, but at least that meant she could have some fun.

She knew the secret of a wandering star

Of poetry. This is what made her superior by far.

This is what allowed her to seem kind

To a friend—betrayed, because she had been unkind;

She had tried hard to love with her body but had been too angry in her mind.

Catherine learned her friend’s secret and decided to be kind.

When a good secret lives in the head it isn’t that bad to be blind.






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The porn of us in love is the most forbidden.

On trains, in marches, people push and shove,

Speeches, episodes, scenes are watched, but we are hidden.

Those attributes are anonymous, cheap.

The common story arc comes to a climax and we weep.

The naturally cautious are not about to go crazy.

Love can’t last; we are tongue-tied, distracted, banal, lazy.

You can see right away what the problem is;

What is her is hers and what is his is his.

The porn of us in love has many obstacles.

The first is that it’s too unique to be imaginable.

Marriages set up house and meal.

You don’t find love in marriage. Get real.

The porn of us in love is nearly impossible.

The porn of us in love is not quite laughable.

The porn of us in love is so hidden that it has no will.

Since all of us are types, you must love all men in the man.

You might write a poem about our porn, but I don’t think you can.





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I don’t think about you; I hope you don’t think about me.

I’m not worth thinking about—I can’t understand poetry

Unless I know what the poet looks like, and the song

Makes the poet dance. Even then I tend to get it wrong.

The strings are languid. The drums are fast.

Can you admit love will never last?

I don’t think about you. I hope you don’t think about me.

You protest—with words like “infinity.”

You’re my ex: it’s February, and there you are, a Christmas tree.

Things end. That’s how my life works. That’s how I fight my war.

Things must end. I end them. Things have ended for me before.

“But what about memory,” you ask, and look at me in tears.

But even then I wasn’t moved. And now it’s been years.


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Love! The more in love,

The easier jealousy can kill

The love. One whispered word

Thwarts a happy lover’s will.

Sad, in the garden, sad, in the street.

No where and no one, jealousy

Said, other loves, might possibly meet.

Other loves? What is wrong with others?

The more madly in love, the more we sweep aside

Everything. In the walls of love things hide.

Friends, whispers, rumors, a meaningless joke about mothers.

The more in love, the more a whisper manages to make its way in

To conquer sighs the lovers used to conquer sin.

My love! I found out too late!

A word was dropped in the river—

Your river, our river, which flowed with love—to water a river of hate.







Love compares its way to religion,

Religion compares its way to love.

Religion does not save a person, but a people;

Your religion is always theirs, not yours.

None of the things which arouse pity

Should be the goal, but rather, those things

Arousing pity should be escaped and surpassed.

Love involves partiality to an extreme degree,

Or it is not love, but there’s nothing partial about love;

You either love, or you don’t, and its completeness

Defines its love, and by comparison, nothing else is,

For you, and everything is, for you in love with them.


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Since eternity is death, I’ll take this hour as my bride,
This hour! When the light of the sky is leaving
And beauty begins to coincide with light’s deceiving
In that hour when all the phantom lights begin to be lit inside.

This bride of mine shall be beautiful, in the same hour
When youth and its maturity mix with time—
To land in a splash, and linger in leaves of leafy rhyme
After leaping by the smoke-exhaling river and perfume-damaged flower.

Someone laughs. The blessed know when it comes,
The hour when the child is no longer a child,
And this is when you lie down in the wild
And weep, and your heart plays eternal drums.

There is an hour when some of my dreams come true—
An hour I spend dreaming of an hour, lost in those hours
When I made rhymes, missing you,
As I smile, pretending there is an island which has eternal flowers.

I will decide on this hour—no other hour but this.
That hour? When I called out your name
In urgency? I remember that hour. The shame.
I want this hour—the holy hour when I hardly look at you and kiss.

I was hurt by that urgent hour. I called you.
I called you again. You didn’t respond.
I ran the entire length of the pond.
Thank God hours like that are few!

The hour I choose will be holy, and filled with treats,
Like Christmas when I was young.
The trembling holy days when the holy songs were sung
And life lived, and we read Keats.

The bride climbs the hill.
All her friends are crying, as if it were a sacrifice.
Do not weep, friends! We’ll kiss you and kill
Your fear. And serve you cold drinks with clinking ice.

Within this hour, I shall be with the bride
Who in the outdoor lamplight wakes
Calmly, as if she were death life gently shakes
And she were curious to come inside.

This will be the hour, gleaming,
Defying eternity and its length!
The delicacy of the hour its strength—
A dreamy hour, before the delicate sleeper lies dreaming.

I decide—after hours of thought—my hour will be the one
When night is blue along the long earth, but not yet all.
We don’t need to know how the motion of the sun—
Look! Has made the large and gold look so sad and small.

And now the bride comes down in the shadowy blue
And everyone is weeping, and we
Do not believe—who can believe anyone is true?
In this hour I am marrying eternity.


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Desiring to articulate what I saw

I used words. But words don’t see.

What I saw saw nothing.

My love for you betrays

Not only nights, in which I try to see

And don’t, and don’t sleep, but all my days

Which, to be good days, need rest.

To know is not free.

The worst happened when I loved you the best.

This is why my friends are amazed and cannot understand:

I don’t speak to you or look at you though I love you and you are close at hand.




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A good poem needs 2 things.

Most have the first: an anecdote, theme, or story which supports the poem.

The second is why 99% of poems fail.

It is because the anecdote, the reason for the poem, is a thousand times better than the poem.

One attempt to fix this is to write a poem which is so brief, the anecdote is the poem.

The other is to make the poem so lengthy that it forgets, for many lines, its theme. Both of these attempts fail.

99% of poetry stinks.

One might counter this with a list of exemplary qualities which every poem requires to be successful. But the problem with this is that such lists can go on forever. We believe the simple “anecdote” warning above beats every list in the world.

And further, any lengthy list of what makes a poem good can actually do harm, as striving to satisfy many elements of expression may destroy the poem’s unity. Wit lessens options; it doesn’t expand them.

Pope’s phrase is exemplary: ” what oft’ was thought, but ne’er so well expressed.” A poem needs but 2 things ever: ‘what people are thinking’ and the ‘better expression of it.’ The ‘better’ is the rub. And ‘what people are actually thinking’ helps, too.

Pope, the Augustan Wit, belongs to an era lost to our day—flying beyond the Romantics and the Moderns, so that Pope is hardly considered a poet at all to those who long ago bought into aesthetic statements such as the “Red Wheel Barrow.”

The fetish of the romantically tinged image of the early Modernists struck a blow against philosophical wit—to no effect, really.

Wit looking at objects is all poetry is, and has ever been.

The Romantics—who the Moderns and Post-Moderns have never quite escaped—countered the Augustan Wits with heart.

But as we examine the Romantics from our modern future, we see the Romantics were Wits, too.  Read Byron.

Today, most poetry has neither wit nor heart: no, that may not be quite true.  It often has heart, but no wit.  Or wit, but no heart.  The good poem tends to have both: a good theme sweetly expressed. But modern poetry has mostly left this combination behind, in the name of (what to call it?) a modernity which considers itself too modern for any broad sense of sweetness, virtue, or virtuosity.

Modernity has replaced the Muse. Today poets write as they are taught: to write against the past, instead of adding to its glories. One criterion exists in the Post-Modern, Creative Writing Program Era: Whatever you do, avoid the Iconic Past. Write in any manner you like, just as long as you don’t sound like Byron!

A good example of how this Modern Stupidity has replaced the Muse is the following poem which every modern loves.

In this poem, the ten year old who rhymes is secret code for Keats, Poe, Byron.

And the schoolteacher (cunningly dismissed, as well) in this poem is nothing more than tradition and poetry itself, replaced by the 20th-century, business model, vanity of the Creative Writing Program—which became a kind of solution during Bunting’s lifetime to the insulting woes described in the poem. Bunting’s clever poem seems to be a defense of poetry. It’s not. It’s a defense of modern poetry. And there’s a very important difference.


What the Chairman Told Tom by Basil Bunting (1900-1985)

Poetry? It’s a hobby.
I run model trains.
Mr. Shaw there breeds pigeons.

It’s not work. You don’t sweat.
Nobody pays for it.
You could advertise soap.

Art, that’s opera; or repertory—
The Desert Song.
Nancy was in the chorus.

But to ask for twelve pounds a week—
married, aren’t you?—
you’ve got a nerve.

How could I look a bus conductor
in the face
if I paid you twelve pounds?

Who says it’s poetry, anyhow?
My ten year old
can do it and rhyme.

I get three thousand and expenses,
a car, vouchers,
but I’m an accountant.

They do what I tell them,
my company.
What do you do?

Nasty little words, nasty long words,
it’s unhealthy.
I want to wash when I meet a poet.

They’re Reds, addicts,
all delinquents.
What you write is rot.

Mr. Hines says so, and he’s a schoolteacher,
he ought to know.
Go and find work.


We almost feel sorry for Tom, the sorry-ass modern poet who writes “rot,” but still wishes his “rot” to earn him a living. Is the speaker of the poem attractive? Not exactly, though his honest approach is the entire merit of the poem—take this away, and there’s no poem. Now, it is true: wrestling with how to make a poem better than “writing advertisements” or more significant than “a hobby” are valid questions, but Bunting’s poem isn’t interested in that; it only wants us to assume the poet is honorable—simply in the face of the “unkind” chairman’s remarks. Unfortunately, the “rot” the chairman mentions, as everyone who attempts to read most poetry knows, despite the poem’s self-pity, is depressingly real.

Bunting’s poem has heart—but no wit.

Bunting’s poem is good, raw anecdote—with a dubious agenda.









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I went into a situation totally blind,
Teaching my love a lesson with documents official,
Saddening myself, as I thought I was unkind,
But later found elation in wisdom of mind behind the mind.

She was secretive—he told her to be, but they were soon to find
True love doesn’t like secrets
And their apparent kindness was soon to unwind,
Thinking they were aware, but both were unaware—of the mind behind the mind.

You cannot rob a person who is intent on love, the mind
Cannot be deceived, even if the eyes are fooled.
Love only wants desire, not to bind—
So I opened doors and found the flowering in the mind behind the mind.

I wrote a poem unconsciously, but said
Exactly what I thought; you read
What I wrote, you were amazed
How I put it. Now she is sultry and dazed.

She has learned the lesson. Look, her mind
Is gradually opening and loosening, the official
Life used against her was the life that was unkind.
She wasn’t seeing, but now she is seeing the mind behind the mind.

I thought I was wrong—but no;
I knew exactly what to do and where to go.
I had no idea what I was doing, but I knew
What was going on and who was really unkind.
I found out who I am in the mind behind the mind.







Don’t you remember how we tried to read that book?

How exactly do you think two nerds are expected to look?

You are actually beautiful, and you don’t like to read,

But want your nerdy lover—a true nerd!—to fulfill that need.

Look at your beautiful face, hovering above the page—

Uncomprehending! in a quizzical, lip-biting, rage.

Look at me, insouciant, unattractive, sly,

Understanding even more than the author as the pages fly by.

Look at you, your perfect nose, your perfect posture, your uncanny, beautiful chin,

Breasts hidden by shallow breathing, and thoughts—God where have they been?

I don’t care anymore; you’re a creature of sentiment and feeling alone.

Eye glasses make you look even more beautiful. And look, now you’re looking at your phone…





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The one you love is always the one who loves you.

Your thinking is always—someone else thinking inside of you.

And that’s what love is. Love is desire. Desire is, and already is, what you do.

Did I just do that? did I just think that? you say.

Yes you did. And what you did a long time ago is what you are and exactly who you are today.

Things change outside, but you don’t change. You are

Not the light that flickers. The flickering light is not the star.

The flickering lights are not what you love, or will ever know.

That’s right. Look.  The curving sunlight is moving.  Into the shoot you go.

You are the universe trying to get into something very small.

Here comes your lover. The uncanny face. And you are not exactly sure—are you?—exactly how tall.




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Telling you I love you made me love you.

That’s what poetry can do.

It doesn’t matter if you or I ever meant this to be true.

Love has a sister: desire. And desire looks for a way.

But desire, being desire, never knows what to do.

Desire rises from her nightly bed and stands speechless before the day.

Love, to really love, needs to hear what the poets say.

A poet comes from the east, wearing purple and yellow and red,

And the poetry is alive, even when the poet is dead!

Look where Emily Dickinson down to the darkness is led.

Now law says there will be a husband and he will come to your bed

And if he does not please you, you may leave him, is what the law finally said.

Now this is what love says to you when she reaches for you in bed:

When you have a moment, will you remind me what the poem you composed for me said?







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1 Bob Dylan. Nobel Prize in Literature.

2 Ron Padgett. Hired to write three poems for the current film Paterson starring Adam Driver and Golshifteh Farahani.

3 Peter Balakian. Ozone Journal, about the Armenian genocide, won 2016 Pulitzer in Poetry.

4 Sherman Alexie. BAP 2015 ‘yellow-face controversy’ editor’s memoir drops this June.

5 Eileen Myles. Both her Selected Poems & Inferno: A Poet’s Novel making MSM lists.

6 Claudia Rankine. Citizen: important, iconic, don’t ask if it’s good poetry.

7 Anne Carson. The Canadian’s two latest books: Decreation & Autobiography of Red.

8 Paige Lewis. Her poem “The River Reflects Nothing” best poem published in 2016.

9 William Logan. In an age of poet-minnows he’s the shark-critic.

10 Ben Mazer. “In the alps I read the shipping notice/pertaining to the almond and the lotus”

11 Billy Collins. The poet who best elicits a tiny, sheepish grin.

12 John Ashbery. There is music beneath the best of what this New York School survivor does.

13 Joie Bose. Leads the Bolly-Verse Movement out of Kolkata, India.

14 Mary Oliver. Her latest book, Felicity, is remarkably strong.

15 Daipayan Nair.  “I am a poet./I kill eyes.”

16 Nikky Finny. Her book making MSM notices is Head Off & Split.

17 Sushmita Gupta. [Hers the featured painting] “Oh lovely beam/of moon, will you, too/deny me/soft light and imagined romance?”

18 A.E. Stallings. Formalism’s current star.

19 W.S. Merwin. Once the house boy of Robert Graves.

20 Mary Angela Douglas. “but God turns down the flaring wick/color by color almost/regretfully.”

21 Sharon Olds. Her Pulitzer winning Stag’s Leap is about her busted marriage.

22 Valerie Macon. Briefly N.Carolina Laureate. Pushed out by the Credentialing Complex.

23 George Bilgere. Imperial is his 2014 book.

24 Stephen Dunn. Norton published his Selected in 2009.

25 Marilyn Chin. Prize winning poet named after Marilyn Monroe, according to her famous poem.

26 Kushal Poddar. “The water/circles the land/and the land/my heaven.”

27 Stephen Burt. Harvard critic’s latest essay “Reading Yeats in the Age of Trump.” What will hold?

28 Joe Green. “Leave us alone. Oh, what can we do?/The wild, wild winds go willie woo woo.”

29 Tony Hoagland. Tangled with Rankine over tennis and lost.

30 Cristina Sánchez López. “I listen to you while the birds erase the earth.”

31 Laura Kasischke. Awkward social situations portrayed by this novelist/poet.

32 CAConrad. His latest work is The Book of Frank.

33 Terrance Hayes. National Book Award in 2010, a MacArthur in 2014

34 Robin Coste Lewis. Political cut-and-paste poetry.

35 Stephen Cole. “And blocked out the accidental grace/That comes with complete surprise.”

36 Martín Espada. Writes about union workers.

37 Merryn Juliette “And my thoughts unmoored/now tumbling/Like sand fleas on the ocean floor”

38 Daniel Borzutzky. The Performance of Being Human won the National Book Award in 2016.

39 Donald Hall. His Selected Poems is out.

40 Diane Seuss. Four-Legged Girl a 2016 Pulitzer finalist.

41 Vijay Seshadri. Graywolf published his 2014 Pulitzer winner.

42 Sawako Nakayasu. Translator of Complete Poems of Chika Sagawa.

43 Ann Kestner. Her blog since 2011 is Poetry Breakfast.

44 Rita Dove. Brushed off Vendler and Perloff attacks against her 20th century anthology.

45 Marjorie Perloff. A fan of Charles Bernstein and Frank O’hara.

46 Paul Muldoon. Moy Sand and Gravel won Pulitzer in 2003.

47 Frank Bidart. Winner of the Bollingen. Three time Pulitzer finalist.

48 Frederick Seidel. Compared “Donald darling” Trump to “cow-eyed Hera” in London Review.

49 Alice Notley. The Gertrude Stein of the St. Mark’s Poetry Project.

50 Jorie Graham. She writes of the earth.

51 Maggie Smith. “Good Bones.” Is the false—“for every bird there is a stone thrown at a bird”— poetry?

52 Adrian Matejka. His book The Big Smoke is about the boxer Jack Johnson.

53 Elizabeh Alexander. African American Studies professor at Yale. Read at Obama’s first inauguration.

54 Derek Walcott. Convinced Elizabeth Alexander she was a poet as her mentor at Boston University.

55 Richard Blanco. Read his poem, “One Today,” at Obama’s second inauguration.

56 Louise Glück. A leading serious poet.

57 Kim Addonizio. Bukowski in a Sundress: Confessions from a Writing Life came out in 2016.

58 Kay Ryan. An Emily Dickinson who gets out, and laughs a little.

59 Lyn Hejinian. An elliptical poet’s elliptical poet.

60 Vanessa Place. Does she still tweet about Gone With The Wind?

61 Susan Howe. Born in Boston. Called Postmodern.

62 Marie Howe. The Kingdom of Ordinary Time is her latest book.

63 Glynn Maxwell. British poetry influencing Americans? Not since the Program Era took over.

64 Robert Pinsky. Uses slant rhyme in his translation of Dante’s terza rima in the Inferno.

65 David Lehman. His Best American Poetry (BAP) since 1988, chugs on.

66 Dan Sociu. Romanian poet of the Miserabilism school.

67 Chumki Sharma. The great Instagram poet.

68 Matthew Zapruder. Has landed at the N.Y. Times with a poetry column.

69 Christopher Ricks. British critic at Boston University. Keeping T.S. Eliot alive.

70 Richard Howard. Pinnacle of eclectic, Francophile, non-controversial, refinement.

71 Dana Gioia. Poet, essayist.  Was Chairman of NEA 2003—2009.

72 Alfred Corn. The poet published a novel in 2014 called Miranda’s Book.

73 Jim Haba. Noticed by Bill Moyers. Founding director of the Geraldine R. Dodge Poetry Festival.

74 Hessamedin Sheikhi. Young Iranian poet translated by Shohreh (Sherry) Laici

75 Pablo Larrain. Directed 2016 film Neruda.

76 Helen Vendler. Wallace Stevens champion. Helped Jorie Graham.

77 Kenneth Goldsmith. Fame for poetry is impossible.

78 Cate Marvin. Oracle was published by Norton in 2015.

79 Alan Cordle. Still the most important non-poet in poetry.

80 Ron Silliman. Runs a well-known poetry blog. A Bernie man.

81 Natalie Diaz.  Her first poetry collection is When My Brother Was An Aztec.

82 D.A. Powell. Lives in San Francisco. His latest book is Repast.

83 Edward Hirsch. Guest-edited BAP 2016.

84 Dorianne Laux. Will always be remembered for “The Shipfitter’s Wife.”

85 Juan Felipe Herrera. Current Poet Laureate of the United States.

86 Patricia Lockwood. Her poem “Rape Joke” went viral in 2013 thanks to Twitter followers.

87 Kanye West. Because we all know crazy is best.

88 Charles Bernstein. Hates “official verse culture” and PWCs. (Publications with wide circulation.)

89 Don Share. Editor of Poetry.

90 Gail Mazur. Forbidden City is her seventh and latest book.

91 Harold Bloom. Since Emerson, Henry James, and T.S. Eliot are dead, he keeps the flame of Edgar Allan Poe hatred alive.

92 Alan Shapiro.  Life Pig is his latest collection.

93 Dan Chiasson. Reviews poetry for The New Yorker.

94 Robert Hass. “You can do your life’s work in half an hour a day.”

95 Maurice Manning.  One Man’s Dark is a “gorgeous collection” according to the Washington Post.

96 Brian Brodeur. Runs a terrific blog: How A Poem Happens, of contemporary poets.

97 Donald Trump. Tweets-in-a-shit-storm keeping the self-publishing tradition alive.

98 Ben Lerner. Wrote the essay “The Hatred of Poetry.”

99 Vidyan Ravinthiran. Editor at Prac Crit.

100 Derrick Michael Hudson. There’s no fame in poetry.




















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When you, a stranger, came on too strong,

I immediately thought there was something wrong.

But how much beauty fails to speak

Because we are too wise and weak?

How much love by caution killed?

A colosseum empty, when it should be filled?

A Shelley dead, because he was too bold?

Love sitting around until it’s old?

The landscape is ruined with ruins wild.

I should have kissed. But smiled.




This country has millions of beautiful women

And all of them are sad.

In my dreams, I walk through shadows of mango trees

Covering the boulevard, and the harmonious music

Gradually fades away.

Are they resting, hurrying, thinking

Or looking in their handbag for keys, or phone?

This country has trillions of automatic actions

Per second and everyone is alone.

The lead singer, in the light, has drummers and violins

To facilitate the final grand crescendo.

I duck into the forest of street lamps,

Thinking of one of the last moments with her in the café

And wonder how many signs have been selected to tell me where to go.

Don’t miss your opportunity, she tells me,

Giving me confident advice and hope—in the misery

I can feel from here. There’s a Japanese company

In your country and if you work hard and she decides she will never leave,

Marriage can be the answer, and you will only occasionally grieve.

Bombs will solve the need for reforms, and TV

Reruns can keep the construction crews comforted, late at night,

As the grin in the face of laugh tracks will make them feel everything is alright.

Laughter. That will do it. A little seafood and wine.

A perfect sauce. The Nibelungen. T.S. Eliot singing softly beside the Rhine.




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