PERSONAL HABIT

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After drinking for four hours at Paddy’s bar

I was in love, and felt like a star.

Unable to sing, I was still full of song.

I was right and told people. Was that wrong?

I was unsuccessful, of course;

At dawn, I fell off Harry, the English horse.

I was ready to start world war two.

I wish I were American and puritan—like you.

But this frowning Iranian? This polite man from China?

They will certainly do.

WHAT HAVE YOU GOT FOR ME?

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I can give you a look

At what others don’t normally see.

I can give you words

Immediately poetry.

That’s all romance is,

And you might be startled at how easy it is.

And this might give you pause.

Love is the only thing that’s simple

And has no laws.

The unspoken? In love, no. All is spoken

And seen, at last. Love is that complete.

You are not expected to be neat,

But I can see you wanting to be.

Wanting to be. Wanting to be.

 

A RICH LIFE

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Lots of road rage on Twitter these days.

The Internet is a great mixing bowl of chemical reactions—deep identities interacting. In some ways, the battles are bracing and healthy. Bad emotions are burning off.

The poor need community. But the poor often look up to the rich and try to be like them. The rich are often hostile, cruel, defensive, and isolated in their judgments.

With all this mixing, cruelty has found its community—community has found its cruelty.

A lot of this is due to Trump, but let’s put aside politics for a moment.

The current controversy in the public sphere involves an international fight between two rich men: Trump and Biden.

Like the Internet, which mixes people from all walks of life, and exposes a great deal which has never been exposed before, Trump is a rich boy from the rich club fighting other members of the rich club—and this is exposing a lot of things which are usually kept quiet.  That’s why there’s all this fuss today.

The rich—like the gods on Mount Olympus—fight with each other—sometimes.

Sometimes the gods fight so much they forget they are gods—who mostly rule in silence and secrecy over nobodies like us.

Trump is fighting with other rich people, and a lot of it, this nobody imagines, is purely personal—and he’s using working class, middle America as his ally—and highly indignant, elite, chattering class, liberals as his rocket fuel.

The phenomenon of Trump is exactly like the internet, and mirrors it—a mixing of different classes and beliefs and situations which creates a great deal of electrical energy. Trump is unsettling other rich people like Biden—and Biden’s friends. The Trump era is exposing how the gods on Olympus behave.  It’s not so much what Trump is, but what he is stirring up.

Let’s not get caught up in the rage and the fear too much. Hang together, people. This is a great moment in American history. Learn, laugh. Enjoy it. We are.

—The Scarriet Editors

 

WHAT IF AT THE END

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What if at the end,

You realize you were wrong?

Will this change the beginning,

And the middle, and the late middle,

And the end, of this, our lonely song?

What if, at the end,

You understand how lonely

You were, and how you always had the key

To escape your prison.

And the one you wanted—was me?

Will it make a difference, then,

When you cry out,

And see my face, and there is no doubt there was no doubt?

I wonder this, not because wondering is what I need to do.

I know. I never wondered when I thought of you.

 

 

THERE THEY ARE

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There they are. Those poems which prove

Nothing but that he failed at love.

They were all written to the same woman

Who wouldn’t listen.

Sometimes they rebuked,

And sometimes they pleaded.

The more these poems are contextualized,

The less they are needed.

The more we read these poems

The more we demand to see

Not his pitiful anguish,

But her beauty.

The art is her, lingering behind

This clever speech. This obliterated mind.

 

PHOBIA

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You know someone by their fear.

Some are afraid and some are not afraid, to be queer.

This fearless man is homeless, the germs

Cover him with invisible flies and worms.

This woman showers three times a day.

She washes germs and love away.

This woman believes she will be attacked

By the one she loves.

She assembles hawks to defend the doves.

This man has such a fear of losing money,

He doesn’t believe there is money.

White, he believes his great-grandmother is black,

And one midnight she will take him back

And trade him for a farm animal

He saw once on the Disney channel.

My phobia is I love you until I die.

No one makes a sound. And no one knows why.

 

ALL OF MY BELOVEDS

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All of my beloveds are putting on the pounds

But I’m as thin as a rail.

I need to gain weight—

I’ll succeed in how they fail.

We want opposites. Then how can I love them?

If they are happy, I cry.

If they live, I die.

They will crush me with less and less love.

Unless I take from them, but I cannot.

I am the stick and they are the stone.

I will disappear because I love.

They will love, vast and alone.

 

OR THE DAY

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This had to blast a hole in the night,

And interrupt my sleep—

So I might stay awake—

To write a poem to make her weep.

But weep she never will.

The world’s crammed. She’s had her fill.

They squelched you. Why?

Every store and library has Lloyd, but not you.

It almost makes me want to cry.

Delmore, they are taking your words away,

And using them in electronic crosswords.

You would be dismayed—or maybe, resigned.

You were intimate with nitpicking society, and every kind

Of Harvard scholar and pill.

You burned with introspection and good will.

You separated yourself out,

To find knowledge in yourself in doubt.

Yours was a Freudian Era—

Marked by Marxist separation, ego, error.

I heard you couldn’t sleep—

But you weren’t one to weep.

You were noble, and nobly great.

But a stammerer, and after introductions,

Anxiously scintillating. But, by then, too late.

Your family never settled down,

So you couldn’t just get around.

We need to introduce everyone to your Socrates, again,

The women are getting bored with all the boring men.

They are shaping us into shapes, again.

You, at least had Freud, Dante, and Marx.

Now we are pacified into one,

A boiling, confused, placid sun.

A little like your face you hated.

The great mind! But sad and fated.

You should see us now! Looking into our phones!

Gazing at these devices—as if they were eternity!

Delmore, I think they are.

Devices loading pictures still—by the time we join your star.

WHAT TROUBLES US

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What troubles us is this:

That when we find something delicious,

We’ll never stop eating it.

We’ll be lost in nature’s beauty

And never see our friends.

We will fall in love with films—

One more film is waiting when this one ends.

We will be out on the unstable trail,

Too far away from him and her.

We will weigh three hundred pounds.

Eating delicious things will make this occur.

Someone writes a story and breaks our heart

And then the vaster heart-aches start.

We will read a philosophical tract

And disappear.

We will die by a scary thought—

We couldn’t stop reading the articles

Which said this happened last year.

We found something delicious

Known only to ourselves.

We eat. But no one sees what we do.

But I avoid these dangers—how?

I’m watched. I’m always watched by you.

 

 

PRIVACY

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Privacy is where we kill ourselves, and perhaps, others.

Privacy is where we hide. Privacy is where

The hypocrites dwell.

Privacy is where I think.

I’m thinking of rhyming privacy with hell.

You knew that, didn’t you?

Privately you think you know

A great deal about me,

Even in the snow,

When the outdoors becomes a room

From a sky overcast and sloppy

And snowy trees participate in a gloom

Which is not gloomy at all.

It unites us. We throw a snow ball.

It strikes you on the shoulder

Like a bird call.

The snowy landscape is a privacy for all.

Even Delmore will take hot chocolate with a smile

And be normal for a while.

Usually you need to be alone and read a lot of books

Because life has too much life.

Too many looks.

Remember when privacy was chased away

On that bright snowy day?

And you couldn’t help but love me?

When it was all snowy?

That’s how I know you know me.

I liked that part of the poem.

How I rhyme. The poem in my soul

You glimpse in my eyes from time to time.

I don’t see this at home in the mirror,

Staring at myself when I’m alone.

In my deepest privacy, I don’t know myself.

Strangely enough, privately is where I think I know you.

I take a long walk into yesterday’s mind,

And what it knows, privately, and a little unkind.

 

 

 

YOU WON’T LET ME BE GREAT

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You won’t let me be great,

Because your father wasn’t great.

I can’t see you, if my poetry is good—

You think I’m courting other women

When my poetry is good, even though it’s not me—

I love you. It’s the good poetry.

But yes it is me, if it’s the poetry.

If I’m loved, I’m sorry.

I’m sorry if I’m president and I have a beautiful wife.

I guess I ruined your life.

Your job makes you anxious. Democracy

Is neglectful leadership. And my poetry

Gains me lovers, not voters. Democracy

Doesn’t know anything, unlike poetry.

But there’s hope for you. Beauty

Is hope combined with the sad.

I hope this poem isn’t making you mad.

There’s hope for you. And do you know why?

I know it’s awkward in life, but in my poem

I’m going to tell you and look you directly in the eye,

Almost like facing down a dog, or a cat.

(A dog might respond, but a cat wouldn’t like that)

And here’s why there’s hope for you:

Life is nothing but a long road of revenge.

Revenge is what motivates us all.

You were cursing a lot on twitter yesterday.

You feel it. And when I fall,

You’ll be strong. That’s all I really have to say.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

WHEN I SLEPT

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When I slept, I slipped into the world

Where friends were friends again.

I was whipped, and wept. The world

Punished me accordingly. Again,

I leaped into dreams. Or the dreams

Leaped. I kept to myself, and slept,

Dead to everything. I did things, nonetheless,

Which surprised everything, had it known.

Dreams grew. Did I hear myself groan?

I’m clumsy; I slipped. I did sleep well, I guess.

 

 

 

AMERICA!

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It is sophisticated to condemn your country,

And every country runs with a thousand wrongs,

Even as you root for the cricket team and sing your country’s songs.

But you are guilty of sophistication, of wanting sophistication so bad,

That hating your country becomes how you think,

And for excitement, you make your mother sad.

This is especially true in the U.S., where the unkind

Matters of identity have topped the college mind.

It takes a pretty penny to go to college,

Just to feed resentment of old manners and knowledge.

It takes a pretty penny to reject your parent’s all—

So a man turning into a woman can use the woman’s stall.

The brutal facts of history, unfolding with political zeal,

Galvanized by the unfeeling spy, will ruin how you feel.

The propaganda of history, which murders with its stealth,

Troubles the local habits by which you know yourself.

What condemns your country, when it comes from someone you trust,

Invades your developing mind, which pleads for it like lust.

But history, which is so beyond you, and so vast—

It belongs to all the world, and belongs to all the past—

Makes your lustful certainty of your country’s wrong

The misremembered words of an unmelodic song.

Iran is British Petroleum and British Petroleum is Iran,

And the Muslim will call you Satan if the British secretly can.

America! If you don’t understand the seeds of this fight,

You’ll be crushed. Learn. Hold on tight.

 

 

THE PAINTER

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What is art? A picture comes to life.

A poet makes a picture. But pictures must be brought to life.

To create a picture, the painter’s life

Is full of agony and despair. But more, still, is needed:

The painter has to give the picture life.

The only hope is this: we look at life—

And see how small and mean it is.

The only hope my poetry has:

Even love fails at love and ends up all alone.

Today: people going to work, their mouths and eyes dead.

I’d rather look at stone.

 

 

I WILL UNDERSTAND TOMORROW

Religion says the one comforting thing:

We don’t understand and it’s okay.

It’s always okay to sing.

We don’t understand—and it’s not okay:

This is the secular speculation

In which we lose our way.

We understand there is no God,

And once we establish this,

We think we’ll begin to understand more and more—

But instead our thoughts get more and more odd.

And when we don’t understand, hell! this is not okay.

You need to understand, and this need

Takes you down a darker way.

“I thought I understood he hated me,

And I knew she loved me, and I knew

The easy, the simple, the secular and the true.

I don’t believe in God, and this complexity

Is coming nearer and nearer to a mystery

Yesterday I rejected, when I saw it burning in you.”

The smart atheist becomes depressed.

He is God. And gets no rest.

The worst idea is “everyone knows,”

The social idea of the political middle,

Expressed in the Wall Street Journal

By Peggy Noonan, a Bush supporter; old, now;

Still feted in Washington D.C.

By the rich, with fine ideas of poetry.

She doesn’t belong here.  But here she is, anyhow.

“Everybody knows” is the truth for these

Sunday morning politicians, the hidden disease

Which corrupts everything. Peggy Noonan? I would rather die

Next to an atheist, whose knowledge was in short supply.

 

 

 

THE DOGS OWN ME

The dogs own me.

I’m owned by their poop and their pee.

I’m owned by their scratching—

As I used to be owned by your irritability.

I used to see you in the shadows

And kiss you when we were there.

Now I’m owned by the dog park

And the shedding hair.

I wished I owned the dogs,

But the dogs own me.

I could bring you dogs, old ones.

They would wait. I could read you poetry.

I could bring you the past,

Which is finished, misty, revered.

But that is holy. Glorious. Dead.

That’s what our love feared.

I wished I owned the story,

But the story owns me.

I once owned the slaves and the waves.

But I drowned in the American sea.

See if you can own something.

Put your troubles on the moon.

Buy an admirable dog.

That dog will own you soon.

 

THE REALLY GOOD POET

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The really good poet is disliked by the other poets.

Hate. Hate. Hate.

When John Keats dies, they’ll love him.

Wait. Wait. Wait.

When the sun eclipses the stars,

It is only because you are here.

Tell the professor! Get his opinion!

It will be different next year.

John Crowe Ransom, the sun,

Prefers his manuscript, the moon,

Up there on the glittering stage.

Kangaroos will be reading us soon.

Engage. Engage. Engage.

Wallace Stevens is feeling faint

From too much beer.

George Santayana!

The Modernist calendar is here.

Mrs. Dante is sending invitations

By pony express.

The whereabouts of Mrs. T.S. Eliot

Is anyone’s guess.

A fiendishly sexy Edna Millay,

A terribly sad Dorothy Parker.

No. Get out your marker.

The lighting makes her look that way.

 

 

THE MUSE KNOWS WHAT SHE’S DOING

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The muse knows what she’s doing.

She doesn’t care about your tears.

She knew you would make poetry she likes,

As you pined for her all these years.

What? Did you think poetry was a skill?

Think of a fever dream. The poet has to be ill.

Poetry costs nothing. It’s like drinking for free.

Baudelaire writes a good poem eventually.

He found a formula: laughter and self-pity.

Nothing comes from nothing. That’s it, essentially.

So the muse had to put things away

And make you find them.

You didn’t know what you were looking for,

But the muse made you explore.

You had read the virtuous authors.

But you went further. You saw further.

You wanted it all to be perfect.

The muse hid things from you—

Until you couldn’t take it anymore,

Until words were able to repair

The heartbreak there.

THE CREEPY ONE REALLY LOVES YOU

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The creepy one really loves you—

The beautiful one does not.

Forget the famous one who gets laid a lot.

You love fame, but fame does not love you.

Take a closer look at your shoe.

This creep hasn’t been laid in years, he stares

At you. The lowly creep cares.

And not in a creepy way.

Creepy is the birth of love. Creepiness will circle you and stay.

Look at yourself in the mirror. We all have a creepy curve.

You, too, are jealous and confused!

A creep will love you much more than you deserve.

A FOOL’S SONNET

They are happy who are simple servants

To bland fortuity. Since the lucky

Make us slaves, and since the fortuitous

Does not demand much—being fortuitous—

The best is bland. Don’t envy the dull

Pharmaceutical salesman who likes sports,

Has two children who play sports,

And a wife who doesn’t have to work.

The tragi-comedies of the fabulists

Don’t reflect happiness. Dullness

Is required for happiness.

Difficult literature is a fool’s grave.

I’ll shut this poetry down for a hug and a kiss.

The superficial is good. I won’t miss this.

 

 

 

 

WHAT I LOOK LIKE

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What I look like

Is not what I look like

And I have done research on this.

I took my syntax to 17th century England,

I took my philosophy to ancient Greece

And I did not look like that.

I give you respect by not looking at you at all

Because eye contact hurts my brain.

I can’t listen to you when I’m looking at you.

Finally, all these snapshots tell you

Why modelling is a highly paid profession.

Now that’s better. I can look at that forever.

I can almost fall in love.

 

PLEASURE KNOWS WHEN IT’S OVER

Pleasure knows when it’s over,

Lying helpless on the bed.

But hate never ends,

So love tries that, instead.

On the brick walk, I reflected:

The simple, growing things endure.

But green pleasure has an end.

Pleasure will have an end, for sure.

In the end, rich and poor

Are the two things which mark us.

How much gold is in your pocket?

Can you take your lover to Italy?

If you can, take her for pleasure,

Not love. Love is fragile enough.

Then, after two weeks of bliss—

Sunsets in Venice, kiss after kiss—

When abruptly she says she doesn’t love you: you can laugh.

Pleasure can do nothing when it’s gone.

But watch out for love, which hates,

And takes revenge, to keep things going on.

 

NOW THAT THIS IS FADING

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Now that this is fading,

And the fake outrage at last is seen

For what it is: a childish tantrum,

We can be better this autumn.

You can come into my dreams,

As you did last night: we were laughing

Together— we had observed how grammar

Lingers in round expressions of the sea,

When, drifting in late summer folly,

We noted colors of life by the bay,

Thinking about inhabiting indoor life again.

You applied infinite good will

Abstractly to everything, making my

Attempts at limits appear to imply

I wanted to specifically limit you,

And this wasn’t it at all.

We try to be good. But we make ourselves small.

 

YOU WAIT IN LINE FOR LOVE

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You wait in line for love.

The house is too small.

You could have waited outside, content,

Under the big tree, alone.

But you got in line with the others

So you could say hello to the host—

Love, waiting just inside the entrance.

You were eventually trapped in a small room

Sitting or standing with others, with nothing to say.

You began to enter my room, but turned away.

I took my turn, greeted by the president,

Greeting her. Some time had been spent

Thinking how I should greet her—by title,

Or simply by first name? We are more casual

These days, or so they say.

We owe our lives to law. To formal matters.

War. Peace. Land management.

Innovation. A sudden largesse.

A bored marriage. Not attractive. Bored.

No one dares. No one wants to play.

Nothing is casual, is it? Even when I,

Speaking as casually as I could,

Said to Love: “Isn’t this a beautiful day?”

 

 

 

 

 

BEFORE THE HANDSOME SUNSET

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Better to be handsome, by far,

Than to be a poet—with a rhyme for every star.

Better to be handsome, by God,

Than hide behind scratched words—because you’re odd.

I want vision to be

Her, smiling, directly at me.

The poet’s wordy vision

Teaches pain and division,

Because words tell

The lies of heaven, the truths of hell.

Words are always a difficult sell—

Because they are words.

They do better when they are spoken by trumpets,

Or live in the popular songs of songbirds.

Someone in a suit sold us this plan—

Not by his words—it was the man.

And this beautiful lady, who you despise,

Now stands before me, alive in my eyes.

It is the look—yes, the look—which words cannot describe,

But go ahead, intone the bribe,

Speak your philosophy, say

With conviction, your words, before these clouds, flushed with pink and crimson, slowly drift away.

 

 

 

THE JUDGMENT

Seinfeld, a funny, urban jew,

Won’t clean cat litter or cat dishes

No matter how beautiful the cat is.

That’s enough of our close-up view.

The one thing very difficult to judge

Is how judgmental we are.

We are not flesh. We are fields

Of judgment—to which only judgment yields.

The judgment becomes very pronounced

The weaker it is. We are all interviewers

Overwhelmed by our intended story.

The author we interview is already

Published, has a dozen researched books,

Has quite enough glory.

He doesn’t need you.

You need to judge, but he loves, and judges, too.

Hollywood will make sure the author,

A handsome, mansplaining wit—

Whose books recall old idolatry,

Sacred, ancient conquests and rage,

Seduction without judgment

Seducing the reader on every page—

Hollywood (you guessed it) makes him fall

Hopelessly in love with the interviewer,

Shy, 31, single, and pretty—

But her judgment rejects them all,

Every judge, golden, handsome, tall.

He, who has written about them,

A backwards fraud, his best-seller formula

The matrix which escapes judgment,

Allows him to have as many women

As he wants, if he wants. The ancient texts

Are still revered—after all, men still rape and kill.

The pretty interviewer laps up the swill:

All judgments, all refusals to judge,

Are worked up into great adventures,

And this is what audiences love best:

The sweaty earrings, the swift removal of the golden vest,

Wearing down the beautiful woman’s resistance,

As her “emotional guard” comes down.

But don’t worry, the lusty conclusion

Will give in to a final, moral one,

A climax more worthy and superficial:

A look on her face no one dares dispute.

The red menace slain, the future interviews

Ready to go, with a melancholy ballad

Perfect for an uplifting vocal and flute.

But why not add the mad, strumming guitar,

And find out who we really are?

You cannot judge him, but you do,

Especially becauses he loves you.

 

 

 

THE PART OF ME THAT FAILS

The part of me that fails

Is the part that writes a poem,

Carbon the mind exhales

From fire—when my fire is alone.

I seek no help; I am lover and judge—

As lover and judge are thought to be.

I tried the door—it wouldn’t budge.

The hours had elapsed. There was no key.

Is this frustrating? It should be.

If I cannot write this poem, I cannot live.

I did find some words. Otherwise, failure.

These words under the door are for her,

That she might forgive—

The best of me waits for an answer.

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