ROMANCE

Is Romance a dance

Born not to last?

So we find ourselves

Mourning romantic things in the past?

Is it doubt and forgetful death

Which lends charm

To love—a charm in every sighing breath

So charming we forget the alarm

That is sighing in company with love’s sigh

So love becomes indistinguishable with death?

And we don’t see the sorrow—beautiful sorrow!—in her eye

Which makes her eye beautiful

But is the very sorrow

Which will fall in love with sorrow

And say goodbye?

I’m afraid it is so.

One left me, even as love was at its height;

We had spent many a delirious night

In each other’s arms,

And when, in disbelief, I asked her,

In icy tones, she said: “I don’t know.”

Love melted into sorrow.

I fled to madly analyze the past.

She smiled calmly on tomorrow.

 

 

 

YOU CAN’T STAY HERE

Get out of the womb,
You can’t stay here.
The cozy nursery room?
You can’t stay here.
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?
Goodbye, childhood,
Innocent childhood,
You can’t stay here.
A troubled child, sassy and wild,
Too brassy now to kiss away your tear,
Changing to a woman,
You can’t stay here.
Get out, get out!
You can’t stay here!
Did you think that death
Was the only thing to fear?

OFF THE VINE

 

Fruit off the vine
Is like a line
Of poetry.

You slowly grew
And so you knew
Of poetry.

Poetry is time.
Time, here’s a rhyme
Of poetry.

The fruit must drop.
The line must stop
For poetry.

What is the line
If not imagined
Pleasure to see?

And to hear—
If poetry’s fear
Made the poet lucky?

I feared poetry
In my younger days;
The music plays

To insult poetry sometimes
With its rhymes.
But speech will get its revenge
When amid the hullabaloo

You say, “Did you know I love you?”

Then music will seem kind,
Sweet food for the blind,
And you and poetry
Will be of one mind.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I WENT TO VIEW THE GALLERIES

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I went to view the galleries

And I left with a woman on my arm

Who some painters used to see—

Will this do some harm

That she is now with me?

I don’t paint. I write poetry.

 

Now the painters talk.

I get to kiss her silently.

 

I view her eyes in various light

Of days’ moods dying into moody lights at night,

But her eyes have their own light

If day drowns us, or beautiful night.

Her eyes don’t need to look at me. But they might.

 

The length and shape of her produces delight.

The painters never get her beauty right,

Not understanding perspective or the light

Which drops in shadows on the long days

Of love’s torture, to sweeten our gaze,

Loving love in the umber haze.

 

 

 

 

 

THE INSCRUTABLE

Inscrutable the lake, inscrutable the trees,
Inscrutable the voice which sounded like a breeze
Intimate with love, and its mysteries,
Like a melody springing from melodies,
Or one memory living in a heart broken
By many memories,
Not one of them spoken.

The dinosaur crept in the lake and waited,
And when global warming’s ice age had abated
And we were allowed to be human again,
The fire built to please all men,
The lake, frozen, protecting all women,
With fish below, how far below,
Swimming stratas increasingly slow,
Descending in a beautiful ratio—
The dinosaur rose, looking pitifully human,
Naked outside, scientific within,
Surrounded by the lakes and trees
Inside the poem of melodies
Crashing against the side of a successful shadow.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FIDDLESTICKS

Sanity stands apart from poetry,
Viewing my pronouncements with disdain,
But if I should sing a little song,
Sanity may yet smile, and not think me wrong,
Not think poetry is entirely insane.

Yes, we wish we were inhabited by gods,
But the gods have left us alone
To ourselves, to ourselves,
To strive for a barren throne.

Sanity has something to do
In the parlor, at the store;
So this poem is over.
I won’t be singing to you anymore.

But later, in the evening,
When she is tired and needs to rest,
I will sing to sanity softly,
And she’ll love poetry the best.

 

VALENTINE’S DAY POEM: WHEN WE SIGHED

The lovers are silent and in a hurry.
Words are from hurt, and worry.
Words are from sorrow and fear of death,
When limbs are weak and weak, the breath.

But when we sighed in those distant rooms
There was almost joy in those glooms.
When we courted with our words
And sang to each other like birds
Or were silent for hours, hoping with fear,
Love was actually here,
Hoping desperately deception
Was not hidden in love’s’ reception,
There was a joy in this,
That, in hope, was almost bliss.
When I was courting,
My poems did their best reporting;
Oh God! those hopeful sighs
Were almost paradise.
Now that selfish love is gone,
Beautiful thoughts still linger on,
Now words are our greatest friends,
Poems, of sweet beginnings, and even sweeter ends.
We say to ourselves, with a sigh,
“Eventually a word will happen by,
One, by this sweet occasion fit,
And it will be love when I am saying it.”
The thought is what carries us through the life,
Since thoughts are words and a word marries us to a wife.
Words comfort us out of the air
When nothing but heaviness is there.

THE DAY IS RED, THE DAY IS FADING

The day is red.
The day is fading.

I would have fought for you,
Though you had been my enemy,
Though you had been untrue—
For when I love, I love
And nothing else will do.

You kissed me slowly.
I wrote poems to you.

“Take me for your own,”
Was all you had to say:
I would have taken you

In the light of day
And carried you away.

But you were like those girls
Who don’t know what to say
When the loving one they love
Is standing in their way.

You thought about the others—
The others? Love which filled the years
Will pass. They will be puzzled by your tears.

 

 

 

 

 

TO ______

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The one I love wants to talk—
I hope she wants to talk of love;
I hope she wants to talk of kissing
And the silent stars above.

The memory of her kisses
Cannot be wiped away
By love, by a conversation,
Or by a song I heard today

That tells of a broken heart
And the pain that comes from love—
Despite all the kissing
And the silent stars above.

MY LOVE NO LONGER BELONGS

My love no longer belongs to your life;
But your love to my life still belongs
For my happiness. For my happy songs.

You have given my love back.
But I still love you: I do not have that lack.

My love no longer belongs to you,
Your soul, or all your soul knows it must do.

Love made your life too precarious,
Too fateful and too serious.
Calmly, you move back to old, slow habits;
And you will grow old, and the years shall run like rabbits.

No need to run for that illicit train
Or present for love’s inspection your body and brain;
Now you can relax while you dream.

Now you can put on makeup for everyone, not me,
Who made paramount you, and your beauty.
Now you can just say anything, again,
And impress billions of men.

Who wants to be confined?
And to make matters worse, we pined.

Love really was a pain in the ass.
It had its moments, but let them pass.

What was it for, if not for children?
It only takes a moment to make a child
So then it happens you can never be wild.
You were getting old for them to have been,
So love fed amusement, flattery, and sin.
The pleasant illusion you had of me
(Of course) couldn’t stand up to scrutiny.

Women love jealousy, because they are turned on
By sparks of social comparison;
This jealousy the man has to rise above;
Indifference to the woman is the secret to success in love.
And its downfall, as well.
No wonder passionate love is a kind of hell.

I learned this too late
(I don’t know how I survived the first date)
Because I was focused entirely on you—
Or maybe not. Maybe I had some genius for indifference, too.

Who really knows?
Maybe you got sick of the shape of my nose.
Or maybe you had anxiety disorder
And you couldn’t handle me crossing your border.
I doubt it. It was the jealousy
That finally did in you and me.
I dug in. So you had to flee.

But your love in my life still remains:
For my songs, for which I take such pains.

 

 

 

I CARE WHAT BEAUTY LIKES

I care what beauty likes,
And what beauty likes is hate,
For when beauty finally loves
Liking is too late.

Beauty noticed long ago:
The standards of beauty are severe.
I kiss her, I kneel before her;
But beauty loves distantly; she doesn’t love what’s here.

Beauty made me jealous;
I was blinded by my fire,
A flame she loved too much:
Shame overtook desire.

Now what can she say
To family and friends:
Here is my life
And here is where it ends?

Our love was not heroic.
It’s easy to be distracted:
This is why she erred,
And why I reacted.

THIS POEM IS NOT FOR YOU

 

 

I’m sorry you have to read this.
It is not for you. What you are reading
Is me writing to somebody else
Who has a mouth I want to kiss.

There is nothing for you here
And not in the sense of false, or true.
You have no context for what she and I do.
In every sense this poem is not for you.

If you saw my love in a picture
You still wouldn’t know.
There is just something about her…

Am I wise to let this go?
Should I have more faith in language?
But that’s precisely it—I do.
I am using language to make an important point:
The impossibility of this poem being able to say anything to you.
It is her mouth I want to kiss.
You will have to be satisfied with this.

 

 

 

 

JUST A WORD

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I examine the picture with horror,

A photograph of one I loved,

A photograph marking a place and memories

With others, all having little to do with me.

Yet, because of the intimacy we achieved

It has everything to do with me.

The more we try and make sense of sex

The more it seems absurd.

My eye caught fire from her body and face.

Only poetry saves. Please, just a word

Of kindness for her before I die in disgrace.

She is not smiling in the photograph,

Nor does the picture capture the beauty

She had all those times when she was kissing me.

She and I hate being photographed, not because we are ugly—

No, she’s an exquisite beauty, but smiling naturally isn’t easy;

She’s sad, even miserable, and when she laughs, she laughs bitterly.

Almost religiously, I hate images, but the cruel smile

Of Cover Girl femme fatale is what my poetry uses.

When I ask her to smile for my poem, of course she refuses.

 

 

 

WHEN A WOMAN HATES

 

 

 

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When a woman hates,

There is nothing worse for a man,

For there is no creature on earth who can hate

Like a woman can.

When a woman gives love

From her soft breast,

Unsentimental imagination soars.

Inspired, the poet finds no rest

In love’s poetic task

Making obscurity so bright

The critic doesn’t need to ask.

Darkness and obscurity

Loom when the woman doesn’t love.

Light shines in every crevice

When she does.

 

 

 

THE WORLD WAKES UP

The world wakes up,
Still dark and cold,
The sound of cars in the distance;
Normally, I would be awake,
Pinned to the bed
By gossipy insistence.
Today I don’t wake up.
The world wakes up.
“Shall I marry him
Or kick him out?”
She thinks wearily.
The world holds together
Because of this doubt.

It’s winter. I don’t like
The winter weather,
But I like the seasons.
There are millions of reasons
To do this, or not do this,
So we make ourselves
Stupid and decide.
“You should have seen
How much fun I had
On the ride.”
Groan. The world wakes up.

I would be awake
Feeling the light.
Today something’s not right.
My bed is lumpy.
The body is lumpy.
I cannot face demands,
And offices, and you.
I feel the light
Today as not quite true.

The world wakes up.
I do not wake up.
Today my fear
Will be tested.
How will it be
Alone in the ground
Without a sound
As the world wakes up?

A LITTLE WINE AND YOU THINK OF ME

A little wine and you think of me,
A little more and you want to be
In the back seat kissing me.

Virginity is sobriety.
My older years have come to be
Passionate, but bad for me.
You needed wine to be
Desperately in love with me.
Drunk, you loved me desperately,
Your beauty loved me desperately.

Sober, your beauty
Was cruel to me.
Was the wine true?
Or the sober you?
We never knew.

It’s the worst
When love is a thirst:
When sweetness flies
And there is only wine—and lies.

GOD IS THE MOST CONVENIENT OF LOVES

God is the most convenient of loves
Because God is always there,
To love you in sorrow,
To love you—when everything is unfair.

I loved a woman who had another mind
Even when she loved me, and was unkind
In that way one is when one belongs to the world.
I looked for her but never knew what I was going to find.

I tried to see her! I tried to see the windings of her mind!
I kissed dust. There was a song like a flower with petals curled.
It was a pleasure to be with her but there were too many ways
For her to be gone, so now I must forget those days.

Where is the temple? The book?  The sacrifice?
She loved me, but what trouble! even on a good day she wasn’t nice.
There are no gods now! There are none!
There is only this convenience. This one.

 

 

THE LAMB THAT’S LOST

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Is all we see or seem but a dream within a dream? --Edgar Poe

We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here---
That's why nothing---nothing---is clear---
We love the lamb's that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.

That's why when you speak
I always disagree---
Because the thing you love
I cannot hear or see.

Lost! Lost! Lost!
What we love is lost,
The valley in our mind
That we have never crossed.

I can't explain the lost to you---
The explanation is lost, too...

That's why you're a mystery,
Smiling and near---
We love the lamb that's lost,
Not the lamb that's here.



POEMS ABOUT POETRY

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Poems about poetry are the best poems there are.

The best light is the light which illustrates a star.

The best love is love which focuses on love,

Not those who wear love’s hat and love’s glove,

If the haberdashery is not too far.

We notice in faces, traces

Of a life busy and sad,

But we don’t like these faces.

Poems that are bad

Tell of other things,

When all we want from poetry

Is a poem inside of poetry—

A specter in a cloud that sings.

 

 

 

 

ONLY ONE PICTURE

 

 

Only one picture captures who I am
And does not let me run away,
A picture you saw of me
When the morning sun’s first ray
Penetrated, like the world’s first camera,
The black darkness of a heart
Comforted by its darkness, tra la.
When you have time, throw that picture away.
The forest majestically throws shadows,
A hushed, dappled memory which consumes my heart.
By the brook, where the twigs are broken,
Where we spoke? There I’ll die by a new dart.

DO WE WANT EQUALITY?

“Married with my uncle…but no more like my father than I to Hercules”  —Shakespeare, Hamlet

Equality. Do we want it?

Equality is, for both the peon and the pundit alike, the political aspiration of modernity.

But what if this honored term—equality—veils something terrible which undermines all that equality is?

What if there is an iron law of psychology that says equals will always be rivals?

In every practical aspect of life, subordination exists, often without us even thinking about it. We who count ourselves fortunate (and enlightened) that we no longer obey royalty, find supervisors, bosses, sub-bosses, managers, assistants to the assistant manager, everywhere we look, never thinking how we are more enslaved than ever by iron laws of inequality.

We have less equality than ever, even as modernity itself is defined by this very idea.

In contemporary parlance: WTF?

Shakespeare’s most important point in his History Plays: Being a king sucks.

Even if you are a peon, don’t envy the king.

This is the core belief of conservatism: social progress is an illusion—because equality is an illusion.

Here is the two-part conservative wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Good news for the peons: being a king sucks.

This is far better than radical wisdom:

1. Bad news for the peons: there will always be kings.

2. Bad news for the peons: you must kill the kings.

Being a king, being responsible, being public, being wealthy, running things? It’s no fun.  You don’t want to do it.

Be glad you don’t have to do it. Better to tinker (write, paint, invent, frolic, laugh, love) under the radar.

Today we can dress better and have more girlfriends than our boss—and no one cares; not even the boss.

And why?

Because he’s our boss.

If he were our equal, then the two of us would be rivals. And then it could get nasty fast, as the ‘girlfriend count’ would become a matter of high importance. And the company would suffer, because equality would foster a rivalry that petty office hierarchy prevents.

We often notice, to our chagrin, how quickly marriages fall apart—witness the divorce rate among modern Westerners who freely and voluntarily partner with rationally and carefully chosen equals.

Not that unequal relationships survive, either—but why do equal matches fall apart just as often?

Because of the equality.

Of course it’s not equality itself that’s to blame, but equality is inevitably something else: a rivalry.

And here’s the dilemma.

Equality, that modern ideal, runs smack up against something natural and ancient and pernicious.

Nobody wants to be equal to somebody else.

And we often talk about “equal opportunity:” summed up by: ‘we know everyone is not going to be equal, but at least give everyone an equal chance to succeed.’

But this distinction is empty, since equal opportunity is a bigger illusion than mere equality; the millions of ways to be unequal are rolled into so-called “opportunities” in such a way that the whole noble “equal opportunity” ideal is never, and will never be true.  There is no blank tablet, no starting from scratch; the race never begins at the beginning.

Equality and equal opportunity are merely the formulations of polite words.

The truth is, in the reality of our hearts, equality, when it does happen to exist, or is perceived to exist, is a license to fight.

“Let’s settle this now, and determine who is better at this and that, and who will make the decisions on this and that!”

Calculation (which can detect equality) is tied up with war.

The very idea of equality is like blood in the water to the sharks of real life.

As soon as calculation is able to discover equality, equality is doomed.

It is doomed to be torn apart in a fight, and equality cannot survive love, either, especially when love bends to contracts and agreements and calculations.

And the truth of love is the truth of rivalry: behind every lover stands a multitude of rivals.

Equality is not even a dream.

It’s a lie.

 

 

 

FIRST YOU HAVE TO FALL IN LOVE

First you have to fall in love
And be a victim of the god
Who died yesterday in the flowers
But lives today in your beating heart
Which makes you lie awake by the moon for hours.

Then you make that grand correction
Where the one becomes part of the many again.
The numerous stars overwhelm the sun.
It was happiness to be weak
And feel yourself a sigh among the sighs,
Your life belonging to one set of eyes,
The one you have the one you seek.

But the true One, which is the many,
Reasserts itself against the Two—
And you fall into disunion
Which is perfect; which is perfectly you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

GETTING TO THE BOTTOM OF YOU

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I need to get to the bottom of you.

I’ve had some superficial loves; now only the deep will do.

Love makes cowards of us all:

We choose the rich, the beautiful, the tall,

And then because we’re cowards, love makes us sad.

The only way to love is to be completely mad.

So come, let us go

And find what love can know.

We stare at a Rembrandt for hours,

We listen to Mozart for a day.

We peek behind the curtain

Of a Shakespeare play.

Someone speaks to us openly

Of things we consider in bad taste.

We write the letter quickly

And sign it, “Yours, in haste.”

Now we plunge towards stone even as cold winds blow

Around the never yielding, the never beautiful, below.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

SCARRIET ROCKED 2014!

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Thomas Brady: the simpleton who writes it all

In the 365 days of 2014, Scarriet brought you half that many original items: poems of lyric poignancy, articles on the popular culture, essays of Literary Criticism, the occasional humor piece, and the Literary Philosophy March Madness Tournament—in which Plato, Aristotle, Hume, Freud, Baudelaire, Woolf, De Beauvoir, Marx, Maimonides, Wilde, Poe, Emerson, Wordsworth, Pope, Wollstonecraft, Butler, Rich, Frye, Mallarme, Adorno, and 44 others sought immortality against one another in an orgy of wit and game.

Without further ado, here (with publication dates) are the most notable of the past year:

1. The One Hundred Greatest Hippie Songs 2/13.  This wins based on numbers. Over 15,000 views for this post alone in 2014, and it is averaging 120 views per day for the last 3 months, with views increasing, nearly a year after its publication. It’s always nice when an article has legs like this. We’re not sure what ‘search engine magic’ has made 100 Greatest Hippie Songs so popular. Prophetically, in the piece, we wrote, “All American music is hippie music.”

2. This Novel Has More Information Than You Need 9/18.  An essay provocative and charming at once.

3. No Boobs! 11/27. Hilarious (part two) satiric commentary on the December issue of Vanity Fair

4. The Problem With Rhetoric 5/1. Pushing the intellectual envelope is perhaps what we do best. In this essay we argue that reason does not exist.

5. Integration of Poetry and Life 11/3.  Another nice essay of essential Scarrietesque provocation smoothly rendered.

6. Marjorie Perloff, Adam Kirsch & Philip Nikolayev at the Grolier 9/15. Wearing a journalist’s hat, we meet Perloff, debate her, win her over, and demolish Concrete Poetry for our readers, as well.

7. Poe and the Big Bang: “The Body and the Soul Walk Hand in Hand” 3/10. Poe does most of the lifting here; a crucial addition to Scarriet’s campaign to lift the slander-fog hiding the world’s greatest mind.

8. Badass, Funny, But Alas Not Critic-Proof 6/27.  Tough love for the poet/professor David Kirby. And for those who fret Scarriet is too rancorous, relax; ‘The Kirb’ is still a FB friend. We don’t flatter—that’s the secret.

9. Is Gay Smarter Than Straight? 2/3. Only Scarriet would dare to ask—and really answer this question.

10. Rape Joke II 6/14.  We delivered a true poem; it offended one of our loyal readers for not being feminist enough; even though our poem was true, it was somehow supposed as an insult against Lockwood. We stand by our poem which is true, if imitative. We value originality, but since when was art that imitates a bad thing? We also admit we wrote the poem to become well-known. We played it up on twitter. So what? Scarriet believes everyone deserves to be famous.

11. Poe v. Wordsworth 8/18. March Madness contests are always excuses for brilliant essays. We made use of a wonderful book: Michael Kubovy’s The Psychology of Perspective in Renaissance Art.

12. “I Still Do” 10/13 Nice poem.

13. Chin & Weaver at the Grolier 7/21. Meeting up with California-based Marilyn Chin at a reading becomes an excuse to write an essay on the laws of poetic fame.

14. Painters & Artists Need to Shut Up 6/23.  Usually we pick on the poets.

15. Rage In America 7/7.  A political corrective to Jim Sleeper’s Fourth of July essay.

16. Poetry Hot 100 10/8.  Scarriet releases these now-famous lists several times a year. Valerie Macon topped this one.

17. What Does The History of Poetry Look Like 12/2. We often bash T.S. Eliot and the Modernists; here we lay down a genuinely insightful appreciation of Eliot’s Tradition.

18. Valerie Macon! 10/6. The credentialing complex destroyed Macon. We did a radical thing. We looked at her poetry, after she graciously sent samples.  Memo to the arrogant: her poetry is good.

19. 100 Greatest Folk Songs 11/17.  Not just a list: an assessment aimed at revival. Don’t just reflect the world. Change it.

20. The Avant-Garde Is Looking For A New (Black) Boyfriend 11/8.  A popular zeitgeist post inspired by Cathy Hong, which got po-biz stirred up for a few days.

21. Religion Is More Scientific Than Science 12/15.  An interesting discussion of free-will. Yes, we take comments.

22. Poetry, Meta-Modernism, & Leonardo Da Vinci 1/6.  Da Vinci compares poetry and painting in fascinating ways.

23. De Beauvoir v. Rich 4/22.  Scarriet’s March Madness contest yields essay on Behaviorism and Feminism.

24. Sex, Sex, Sex! 10/19. An interesting essay (obviously) in typical Scarriet (Are you serious?? We are.) mode.

25. Philip Nikolayev 11/15.  An excuse to try out ideas while praising a poet and friend.

26. “Poetry Without Beauty Is Vanity” 10/17.  A lyric poem which ‘gets’ rap.

27. Harold Bloom v. Edmund Wilson 8/13. Wilson was a real force in March Madness and so is this essay.

28. Fame: Is It Really Hollow? 7/2.  An exciting essay using Scarriet standbys The Beatles and Poe.

29. 100 Greatest Rock Songs Of All Time 5/9. The definitive list. Another constantly visited post.

30. 100 Essential Books of Poetry 5/21. People love lists. We get it now.

31. “Not Everyone Is Beautiful” 6/5.  A lovely little poem.

32. All Fiction Is Non-Fiction 5/19.  Scarriet makes the counter-intuitive simple.

33. The Good Economy 12/30.  We nail a simple but brain-teasing truth which rules us all.

34. Fag Hags, Cock Teases, and Richard Wagner 11/11. A bitter essay on a complex topic.

35. 100 Greatest Jazz Vocal Standards 10/14. And the Scarriet hits just keep on coming.

36. Hey Lao Tzu 10/27.  Scarriet takes down the wisest of the wise.

37. Ben Mazer At The Grolier 10/20.  The Neo-Romantic genius gets the Scarriet treatment.

38. “A Holiday Poem” 12/14.  An offensive poem written from a persona; it’s not our opinion.

39. Misanthrope’s Delight 6/11. An amusing list which makes light of misanthropy.

40. “What Could Be More Wrong Than A Poem Stolen From A Song?” A lyric gem.

And that’s our Scarriet top 40 for 2014!!

Be sure to read these if you missed them!

Scarriet thanks all our readers!

And especially the great comments! You know who you are! Always welcome and encouraged!

Happy New Year, everyone!

 

GETTING WHAT YOU WANT

Getting what you want
Always depends on someone else;
Even if you are the sun,
You need the glass to be seen;
A wall will keep you out—though you make the whole world green.

The road is built by the government,
But the government is built by a man;
You have to do what you need to do; you have to do what you can.
The label they give you does not matter,
Though you may think it does—
It was for their convenience, and they have moved on;
Conveniently, the reason for everything is gone.
They didn’t just give you a stomach,
They gave you a stomach to fill—
So nothing is what it is, unless it has a will
Imprisoned, or free,
And nothing is what it needs to be
Unless it needs what doesn’t need it
As when love falls into a life but is forced to quit
By triviality getting in the way of it,
And it may need you

For a year, or maybe if you’re lucky, two—
Or unlucky, if what needs you is ill—
Then it is you against its will,
The sunlight hoping to get inside
Where you sleep fitfully; where you hide.

 

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

 

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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!

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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.

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