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That’s the one who doesn’t love.

My love was kindly desire, and when I presented

My charm and my libido, she consented.

I asked for more intimacy, and she relented.

I asked for her song, but she said she didn’t sing.

I asked for her story; her past had too much sting.

I asked her to remember us,

But she wasn’t good at remembering.

I asked her. I pleaded and asked,

Because I was in love. But she scorned, or laughed.

The more I fawned,

The more she yawned.

The more I wanted,

The less she gave, and the less she wanted.

The more I wailed at her wall,

The more she didn’t care for me at all.

The more I worshiped, as if she were God,

The more silent she was, like God.

But she had given in so many times—

To my desires, to my observant rhymes—

Something in her had to move

Against my insulting, superior love.

Eventually her sense of self would spring back.

She took revenge on my innocent love.

On the defensive for too long, she had to attack.

She did. I died. She did not look back.





Love is two pathetic losers making themselves feel special.

Hate, hurt by the wrongs of the world, is beautiful.

Hate, enraged, by wrongs, repairs the wrongs.

You’ve lingered here for a day, listening to songs.

You’ve been to the sunset, and think you are beautiful, too.

But now the night begins. There’s a lot of work to do.

Don’t confuse your spouting of morality with morality.

Don’t confuse anxious, useless, love with crazy, useful hate.

No one escapes ignorance; no one escapes the fee.

Doing good means others—not you—don’t have to wait.

So, goodbye. Do some good. I’ll see you in a while.

Be sad. Frown. Figure things out. Never mind the smile.

Never mind frivolous love, which keeps you up at night.

A long sleep with dreams is better. And the dreams are always right.




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Someone must say you can love before you can love.
Love is not the breaking of the law—or the law,
Love is what the law permits.
Whatever lovers allow
Is love. The approval itself, is love.
Love does not approve. Love wants the approval.
No approval is love’s removal.
Someone must say you can love before you can love.
After Valentine’s day, after the money and the flowers,
After dark dinners and clumsy aftermaths, lingered over for hours,
Only then, may the birds’ safety, upon the highest tree,
Give approval to you, and comity to me,
When, stripped of our pride, and our gallantry,
We linger by the tamarind tree.
Someone must say the poem out loud before there is poetry.


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After the child has learned his alphabet and become fluent in their native tongue, when a desire to be a writer takes over, what is the “literacy” which comes next?

There are stages of literacy in which proficiency surpasses itself, but usually we stop short, or venture outward into a verbosity without order.

The order of the alphabet, the sentence, the paragraph—for prose; the line—in the more ordered, or perhaps messier, poetry, is not impressive; it is merely the literacy of anyone—the student, the rank amateur, the mediocre scribbler.

What is the further literacy which marks the pro?

Are there measurable and greater stages? And of what do they consist?  Larger vocabulary? Greater life experiences? Wider reading?

Yes, but does this sum it up?

It’s rather commonplace to think of the novel as merely a series of letters, or epistles—some put this as the origin as the novel; Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein this way.

The great writer rests on this as their crutch—the hidden progress they made from the alphabet to the missive.

All one has to do is write correspondence, and the letter of correspondence is the unit—and enough of these allows the novel, or short story, to exist.

But the poet is lost in the wilderness. The line is a meager unit, but it’s all the poet has. The stanza has no internal organization, per se, except a rhyme, or a refrain—but today these devices are ones poets almost entirely reject. Also, the stanza isn’t much lengthier than a line.

But there is a unit which the poets, even the modern ones, have been using, and rather secretly.

This unit is the sonnet.

Think of the most famous poems in the canon.

Shelley’s Ode to the West Wind is 5 sonnets strung together.

As is the Ode to a Grecian Urn by Keats: 5 sonnets.

Eliot’s Prufrock is 11 sonnets.

Poe’s Raven, when you break its long line in half, is 15 sonnets.

We remember Poe saying the Raven was an ideal length for the popular poem—108 lines.  One could see this unique work of Poe’s as a sonnet-slayer. The sonnet emerges uneasily from it, and it must be admitted that calling any lyric poem an ‘X number of sonnets’ is not always proper, or simple.

Plath’s Daddy is, as we might expect, a formal monstrosity, 4-5 unwieldy sonnets, threatening all the time to be a greater number of shorter sonnets, or murdered sonnets bleeding into each other, even as the unit, the sonnet, is glimpsed; her poem is undermining, and embracing, the sonnet-form as a unit, simultaneously; the poem is both extremely formalist, yet subversive in its formalism—and the sonnet is the underlying reason.

Ginsberg’s Howl is also roughly 15 sonnets—that is, the better known, first, part of the poem equals 15 sonnets. The whole of the poem is 21 sonnets.  The second (Moloch!) and third (Carl Solomon!) parts of Howl are 3 sonnets each. The more famous part, the first one, lacks cohesion—its disordered rebellion finally fails to find poetic unity.  This probably increased its notoriety as a modern, or post-modern work, but there is something which happens when poems are rebellious—they merely sink into prose.

But the point here is that every well-known lyric poem in English is perhaps best understood as a sequence of sonnets—not lines.

And we don’t even have to mention the sonnet in literature itself—the giants who used it: Shakespeare, Milton, Michelangelo, Dante, Petrarch, Sidney, Wordsworth, Yeats, Millay; and what was Dickinson, writing, really, if not the sonnet? How many significant poems are, if not sonnets, precisely, near-sonnets?

Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address consists of three sonnets, with each sonnet corresponding to the three rhetorical turns made in the address, 1) The civil war testing the great proposition 2) We cannot dedicate, we cannot hallow, this ground 3) But we will dedicate, and what we dedicate will not perish.

And wonderful coincidence! An excellent piece on the sonnet’s effect on modern and contemporary poetics, “Petrarch’s Hangover, An Argument in Five Sonnets,” by Monica Youn, was just published this week. Here it is.

The secret literacy of great poetry?

The unit of poetry is not the line, but the sonnet.








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The invasion of the past
Looks like it’s going to last.
I had the best, but you went away.
The winter won’t leave. March is repeating February. It’s
Yesterday every day.
What am I going to do?
My mind keeps looking for you
In the vast spaces of yesterday’s sea,
Which keeps coming back to me.
The ocean keeps having its say.
The winter won’t leave. March is repeating February. It’s
Yesterday every day.
Why don’t you come, and bring the past with you?
The ocean keeps coming back this way,
The way it does every day of the year,
Stretching back to when love was unruly.
I don’t know what you want to say,
But it doesn’t matter. March is repeating February. It’s
Yesterday every day.


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Her nap went on forever—

Is forever tedious or sublime?

The sublimity of forever

Will be tedious—a sublimely dull time.

I don’t think she was bored,

When all afternoon, she slept.

She had been bored, I know,

Had she made the beds and swept—

Seven beds in every chamber,

Six beds in the dark and lofty hall,

The heart of a cavernous mansion,

With Bluebeard on the wall.

Sleeping is unlearned—

We do it lovingly, and then

We stand among the learned, again.

In dreams, the highest logic is made,

The same logic we discern

In Nietzsche’s Eternal Return,

To find each lonely bed, unmade,

With beauty wandering up and down

Dim halls, singing, in a radiant dressing gown.

In sleep, we dreamily hunt the deer,

The deer hides in fields of wheat,

Sleep making everything near,

The day, the deer, on silent feet,

The low shadows, just as fleet.

The door is more logical now.

The mist in winter—but how?

By dreams, dreams are accordingly fed,

By a secret love, or a secret dread,

Of hunting. She will find

A woman changed to a deer in her mind.

In the shortest nap,

She can see inside seeing,

The one deer, and then all of them, fleeing.

She can pin down anxiety, symbol, map,

And arrive at the essence of her being,

And in a moment, asleep, feel

Things more memorable and real

Than the dream recording the life:

Kindness. Sleep. Hunting’s feverish strife.

Who can make themselves coldly themselves, in a cold and seamless life?

She sleeps by the sleepy lake in the sleepy shade.

Was it merely a nap, or death?

Asleep, immortal,

I watch her through the crimson portal.

In the brain, there was life.

For a time, there was life.

Sublime, sublime, even all the time,

In her dream, and in that life.







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Time goes back without you.

It is interested in what all that going forward meant.

It finds the two of you—you and her—there you are,

Looking as you were. The lake. The trees. The cemetery’s descent.

The two of you walk slowly. It’s almost time for the moon

To rise. Talk. Kissing. Talk. More kissing, soon.

The rise, a joke or two, the lake, brown, and small,

More like a pond. Time hardly remembers it at all.

Time gets back, and tells you all that was seen.

“This is what I saw.”

You listen in awe;

Time seeing what it once saw: what does it mean?

“The sun was setting, but you could see and smell the green.”

Time had been there, had really gone back. You feast

On what he says. “Did she love me? How did she look?”

But he speaks of her the least.

He seems to be remembering the past from a book,

Or worse, only from memory, and the pain it took,

And soon you lose patience. “What did you want me to do?”

Time asks. “She was there. But not really with you.”

And that was it. It really is what you fear. It’s true.

Time is kind before, not after. Life does not belong to you.




Tell me about your love

Who inspired all these poems

I read, day after day;

Give me her identity in the crudest terms,

Name, age, background, habits, picture,

Come on, what do you say?

True, a certain amount of privacy

Is the social reality of love’s rarest poetry,

But as one who writes anguished love poetry, too,

As a lover first, a poet, second, can I get this information from you?

Love is the highest curiosity there is,

And as long as there is curiosity, there is hope;

So I’m curious, also as a poet, since the poet should be curious, too,

And since you admire my poetry, perhaps my request will not seem rude?

Beethoven composed on long ramblings.

Can you see him? Slowing, then stumbling on the trail

As he first glimpses in his heart that melody unable to fail?

We know he was a composer first. Heartbreak, that dark path,

His music didn’t walk down. Inspiration is the highest calling.

Show me her picture. Just one picture. I want to see if I laugh.








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The poet knows, that in the act of creation,
The vague inkling, the germ, the seed, of the poem
Is more important than the poem.

The shadowy idea, ready to move
Across the manifestation of articulate love,
Is more unsettling than the poem.

When the fire of inspiration has cooled
Into leafy poetry,
And maybe everyone will be fooled,
Your trees will no longer be like the trees
Which burn—even in landscapes, wintry and sleepy.
But whoever likes trees might like your poetry.
But this is not why you write your poetry.

You write for the birth of—
Not the poem, but love
Of the poem, not yet itself—this is creation.
And if you love the child in the womb
More than the child—until the child lives, and is gone—
Then everything you love, the child, the poem, the idea,
May rise up, singing, from the tomb.



For A.E. Stallings

Please welcome the paradoxical

And the beautiful.

Beware. Not beautiful could be beautiful.

Or better. In your sorrow, irate and bitter,

The beautiful is not very beautiful.

Modern Athens, ruined Athens, and the migrants drown.

But she finds Cambridge is a crazy town.

She proved empathy inimical

To love; selfish empathy is aware

That only with advantage is it possible to care;

We are safe, and when we compare

Ourselves to the drowning—they will always be over there.

If they weren’t, we couldn’t care.

It is only because of the drowning

We feel empathy and do not care.

For those who are safe, to really care,

With empathy, or not—want is here and want is there.

Empathy is selfish, the poet said,

And by empathy into irony her audience by her poem was led.

She proves form is poetry

By proving what makes poetry poetry is almost enough

To ruin paradoxical truth

And assume the face of love.

I realize form is more necessary than I thought,

For poetry proves with its poetry

Form is more thoughtful than thought.

One Harvard grad says all her rhythm is iamb—

But different types of meter do not define meter,

Meter is meter, the idea

Of meter is the iamb itself, and every variety

Cannot exclude the iamb,

Is still based on the iamb.

Meter drowns pedantry.

She proves to us with her poetry

Paradox agrees with beauty.

Her proving is her loving,

So the child does not despair

By what the pedants compare.

Her poetry is kind: to be careless, but always fed

By beauty living in poetry which in life is always dead.



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You ask me about my strange poems—say, what’s the deal?

How can I write these poems? I will tell you, Rosalinda.

The situation must be real.

The whisper in the elevator,

The winter without her

After the messy encounter,

The way you measured the winter,

And then found her and loved her, hiding inside her anger.

All these things matter, Rosalinda.

Rosalinda, it’s not the poems. It’s do you actually feel,

And think, and forgive, everything that’s real?

Are they coming after you? What do you think of them? That’s the deal.

Do you have desires? Desires you cannot actually speak?

Never mind those. What is your diet? Do you think about thinking?

What is your opinion of their physique?

The poem’s argument should be two-sides-becoming-one.

The poem should be at least as beautiful as a mountain.

It’s better to be slightly deluded about what’s real,

And be happy and curious about what you feel,

Then to be obsessed with the bad, and share the bad.

The bad is not the point, Rosalinda. It’s okay to be pleasantly sad.

I will tell you why my poems make you feel the way you feel.

Experience. Rhyme. Observation. The situation must be real.

Rosalinda. Rosalinda. Let your thinking feel.

There’s nothing to invent, Rosalinda. What do you want?

The imagination is vast, but a little too vast.

It’s better to have a good memory—

And want to remember the past.


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Am I allowed now,

After I thought—and then,

Did with her, even again,

The forbidden—am I allowed

Now, to think of her? How

Can I not? For this is not

Thinking—no, it is memory’s

Involuntary joy—and I remember her a lot.

Tell me, can it still be a sin, after the sinning is past,

And she is gone, or old, or stubborn in hate,

To remember her again and again?

And I don’t have to wait? And I don’t have to wait?

The shadows around her long hair in the pool,

And I, a fool, and she, a fool?

Now that I have sinned, I don’t have to wait?

Yes! According to God, yes, I can think how

I loved her and love her now.




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In Melville Village, grammarians abound,

Where being right is a thing profound;

In this neighborhood, the novelists live,

And vegetarians to Democrats give,

And grocery awnings are foreign flags.

The silken elite from oceans away—

Where palms and balconies surround a bay—

Have banded together to banish the gray,

And every prejudice, in the U.S.A.

But that’s political talk for another day.

Before my poem took this fictional turn,

Setting the scene for a boring plot—

I spent a week on your novel. Thanks a lot—

Certain grammarians were coming around

Telling me poetry is grammar as sound.

I thought poetry was love beneath the moon,

Not grammar, but the grammarian himself, in a swoon.

Imagery? White spaces? Grammar only gets in their way.

But remember old poetry which eased off the tongue?

And soothed old passion, and made her feel young?

Grammar is fluency; fluency is joy, and joy loves to play

Agreeable notes and songs, all day.

The harmony of the tune

Is more important than the moon.

Fluent in English, English is only the English I say.

I don’t have to pause, and look in a book;

I have Mozart’s ear. I have Michelangelo’s look.

Poets are grammarians—fluency in poetry is the sound

Of grammar. Don’t tell them that. But that is profound.








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I fell in love with a poem today,

A Romantic poem of highest beauty,

A poem by the wife of a wealthy attorney.

I read it by the light of my phone in bed

In the morning dark. It kicked me in the head.

There are beautiful wives of wealthy attorneys,

Wearing the beauty of their attorneys’ money.

Money turns into women’s beauty,

Beauty loved, immediately, in the eye;

We love the attorneys’ beautiful wives—

Who will love their attorney for the rest of their lives

As long as he respects them, and gives them money.

Money is the poet to female beauty;

The beautiful wife is the attorney’s poem,

Written leisurely in the powder room,

And I am expected, almost as a duty,

To want the attorney’s faithful wife.

But when his wife writes a poem of beauty,

I fall in love with a different beauty.

This is different. You may not tell

The attorney. How does his wife write so well?

There is a technique to poems today—

Romantic poetry is far away.

The woman is not supposed to write

Romantic poems in the middle of the night.

There is a hierarchy, and inside it we fade,

If the face is ugly, or this prose thing doesn’t make the grade,

Or if we don’t see things, or we don’t have money.

Her poem of beauty has made me weak.

I want no more of the modern technique.

I love her. I am disrupted. I am on my knees

Before her poem. Don’t tell the attorney, please.

Be beautiful, in the attorney’s fantasy.

Don’t send any more of those poems to me.

Wear his dress. Or blow a kiss.

But you are not allowed to be beautiful like this.






I don’t want you to see

The inside of me.

My inner thoughts are mine alone,

And that’s why there is this wall—

The wall of snobbery.

Not shrubbery. Snobbery.

What is good taste? And robbery?

The two reasons for walls—and snobbery.

If there is a wall, then you’ll know

Opposites to the world of opposites go

Where everything becomes two:

The never safe, the always uneasy—me and you.

I don’t want you to see every thought I have.

Twins before birth, lovers who share the grave,

Argue. I don’t want you to see every thought I have.






Love is a broken heart, and then, revenge,

Or, what some call healing:

The Bach, then the Brahms, lullaby, in hope of getting rest,

The lifting of the veil of pathos to reveal each separate, tiny guest.

No, no, it’s revenge.

Love. It has nothing to do with whether the other

Knows what you are thinking or feeling.

Mental or emotional impairment of a subtle kind

Haunts it—even as it might be invisible to me,

A waste, those shiny jokes, that flight inside the sanctuary,

So later I am thinking, was she a catatonic schizophrenic?

Was she? Could she have been? Or am I just losing my mind?

But it doesn’t matter that much, that part,

The broken heart of misunderstanding, which afflicts all parts of the brain,

The lungs, the blood, the face, but mostly the fearful, thumping, heart.

The revenge part is what is particularly interesting to me.

This is when lovers, for the first time, communicate:

The interesting parts of Modern and pre-Modern philosophy,

Physicians trained in dreams, laughing at us with a test,

Cows, chopped in half, which end up at the Tate,

A small breakfast, alone, made by her, in brutalist architecture expressed,

An afternoon of you, concentrating, as you make somebody wait,

An afternoon of muffin and marmalade—or was it jelly?

Darkness outside the windows. A book of poetry by Shelley.




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I need the poet near, to explain his poetry to me,

And if he can’t explain it—then to hell with his poetry.

Poet, you’re wanted in Poughkeepsie—

A reader there is trying to understand your poem—though she is a little tipsy.

Poet, get up from your nap—you’re needed in Marigot Bay,

There’s a girl with a Pina Colada who has no idea what you’re trying to say.

There’s a poem in a bottle, floating on the sea.

The content is trivial and mawkish. Now what else do you want from me?

I told you to keep still in the classroom—just listen!

So when you graduate next year,

You’ll see your silence was a blessing.

Actually the blessing will be obsolete—and then the blessing will be clear.

As for your poem, let me tell you frankly, in private, after we travel

A little ways off into the moors, should our relationship unravel.

The forest opines with its judgement among its many moods,

And you’ll go there and breathe those wavering attitudes.

Here’s the forest signature lingering at the eastern base of this tree.

I know you like to write—but hey you should have just told me.

I can see the birds as well as you.

But the forest is deep, and it’s owned by a crackpot, too.

And you’ll pardon me if we avoid the bay?

I can’t stand to see that bottle—that bottle with the poem in it, slowly floating this way.






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Your wrongs are the world.

All I see

Is my own mockery.

What is love? Tell the world: Stop making fun of me!

This is what you want your lover to do.

The world without love is mocking you.

Your wrongs are the world.

Everywhere you look

Is your fault. It’s your fault you looked there.

You look on your faults. The borrowed book

Is not for you. It tells of others—

Who don’t have anything to do with you.

All the faults are yours, but the others

Also see the world as their fault.

So all they want to do

Is put the blame on you.

The person is not the world,

But the world is every wrong

Which they did, and are.

Wrong accumulates. It doesn’t go away,

And neither do you.

The world is every wrong you decided to do.

The world mocks and teases me.

It’s everyone’s greatest conspiracy,

The sick indignity

Which afflicts us, the same.

Wrong, the sound of your voice,

Wrong, the very choice, and wrong, every sound of your name.

If poetry pleases me,

It’s because, ironically,

I can make fun of you safely;

I can mock you with impunity,

Because the world is me;

Every wrong is mine; poetry

Fools you regarding the words you, them, me.

If you think I was referring to me,

You don’t understand irony, or poetry.

This is wrong. Everything I see is wrong.

But I am good.  I am my song.



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