Welcome to these lines There is a war on but I'll try to make you comfortable Don't follow my conversation it's just nervousness Didn't I make love to you when we were students of the East Yes the house is different the williage will be taken soon I've removed whatever might give comfort to the enemy We are alone until the times change and those who have been betrayed come back like pilgrims to this moment when we did not yield when we steadfastly refused to call the darkness poetryfrom The Energy of Slaves (1972)
EYES:..................................................Medium HAIR:..................................................Medium WEIGHT:................................................Medium HEIGHT:................................................Medium DISTINGUISHING FEATURES:.................................None NUMBER OF FINGERS:........................................Ten NUMBER OF TOES:...........................................Ten INTELLIGENCE:..........................................Medium What did you expect? Talons? Oversize incisors? Green saliva? Madness?from Flowers for Hitler (1964)
Catherine Takakwitha, who are you? Are you (1656-1680)? Is that enough? Are you the Iroquios Virgin? Are you the Lily of the Shores of the Mohawk River? Can I love you in my own way? I am an old scholar, better-looking now than when I was young. That's what sitting on your ass does to your face. I've come after you, Catherine Tekakwitha. I want to know what goes on under that rosy blanket. Do I have any right? I fell in love with a religious picture of you. You were standing among the birch trees, my favorite trees. God knows how far up your moccasins were laced. There was a river behind you, no doubt the Mohawk River. Two birds in the left foreground would be delighted if you tickled their white throats or even if you used them as an example of something or other in a parable. Do I have any right to come after you with my dusty mind full of junk of maybe five thousand books? I hardly even get out to the country very often. Could you teach me about leaves? Do you know anything about narcotic mushrooms? Lady Marilyn just died a few years ago. May I say that some old scholar four hundred years from now, maybe of my own blood, will come after her in the way I come after you? But right now you must know more about heaven. Does it look like one of these little plastic altars that glow in the dark? I swear I won't mind if it does. Are the stars tiny, after all? Can an old scholar find love at last and stop having to pull himself off every night so he can get to sleep? I don't even hate books any more. I've forgotten most of what I've read and, frankly, it never seemed very important to me or to the world. My friend F. used to say in his hopped-up fashion: We've got to learn how to love appearances. F. died in a padded cell, his brain rotted from too much dirty sex. His face turned black, this I saw with my own eyes, and they say there wasn't much left of his prick. A nurse told me it looked like the inside of a worm. Salut F., old and loud friend! I wonder if your memory will persist. And you, Catherine Tekakwitha, if you must know, I am so human as to suffer from constipation, the rewards of my sedentary life. Is it any wonder that an old scholar who never made much money wants to climb into your Technicolor postcard?first chapter of the first chapter of Beautiful Losers (1966)
|Take the word butterfly. To use this word it
is not necessary to make the voice weigh less than an ounce or equip it
with small dusty wings. It is not necessary to invent a sunny day or a
field of daffodils. It is not necessary to be in love, or to be in love
with butterflies. The word butterfly is not a real butterfly. There is
the word and there is the butterfly. If you confuse these two items people
have the right to laugh at you. Do not make so much of the word. Are you
trying to suggest that you love butterflies more perfectly than anyone
else, or really understand their nature? The word butterfly is merely data.
It is not an opportunity for you to hover, soar, befriend flowers, symbolize
beauty and frailty, or in any way impersonate a butterfly. Do not act out
words. Never act out words. Never try to leave the floor when you talk
about flying. Never close your eyes and jerk your head to one side when
you talk about death. Do not fix your burning eyes on me when you speak
about love. I fyou want to impress me when you speak about love put your
hand in your pocked or under your dress and play with yourself. If ambition
and the hunger for applause have driven you to speak about love you should
learn how to do it without disgracing yourself or the material.
What is the expression which the age demands? The age demands no expression whatever. We have seen photographs of bereaved Asian mothers. We are not interested in the agony of your fumbled organs. There is nothing you can show on your face that can match the horror of this time. Do not even try. You will only hold yourself up to the scorn of those who have felt things deeply. We have seen newsreels of humans int he extremities of pain and dislocation. Everyone knows you are eating well and are even being paid to stand up there. You are playing to people who have experienced a catastrophe. This should make you very quiet. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Everyone knows you are in pain. You cannot tell the audience everything you know about love in every line of love you speak. Step aside and they will know what you know because they know it already. You have nothing to teach them. You are not more beautiful than they are. You are not wiser. Do not shout at them. Do not force a dry entry. That is bad sex. If you show the lines of your genitals, then deliver what you promise. And remember that people do not really want an acrobat in bed. What is our need? To be close to the natural man, to be close to the natural woman. Do not pretend that you are a beloved singer with a vast loyal audience which has followed the ups and downs of your life to this very moment. The bombs, flame-throwers, and all the shit have destroyed more than just the trees and villages. They have also destroyed the stage. Did you think that your profession would escape the general destruction? There is no more stage. There are no more footlights. You are among the people. Then me modest. Speak the words, convey the data, step aside. Be by yourself. Be your own room. Do not put yourself on.
This is an interior landscape. It is inside. It is private. Respect the privacy of the material. These pieces were written in silence. The courage of the play is to speak them. The discipline of the play is not to violate them. Let the audience feel your love of privacy even though there is no privacy. Be good whores. The poem is not a slogan. It cannot advertise you. It cannot promote your reputation for sensitivity. You are not a stud. You are not a killer lady. All this junk about the gangsters of love. You are students of discipline. Do not act out the words. The words die when you act them out, they wither, and we are left with nothing but your ambition.
Speak the words with the exact precision with which you would check out a laundry list. Do not become emotional about he lace blouse. Do not get a hard-on when you say panties. do not get all shivery just because of the towel. The sheets should not provoke a dreamy expression about the eyes. There is no need to weep into the handkerchief. The socks are not there to remind you of strange and distant voyages. It is just your laundry. It is just your clothes. Don't peep through themn. Just wear them.
The poem is nothing but information. It is the Constitution of the inner country. If you declaim it and blow it up with nobel intentions then you are no better than the politicians who you despise. Youa re just osmeone waving a flag and making the cheapest appeal to a kind of emotional patriotism. Think of the word as science, not art. They are a report. You are speaking before a meeting of the Explorers' Club of the National Geographic Society. These people know all the risks of mountain climbing. They honour you by taking this for granted. If you rub their faces in it that is an insult to their hospitality. Them them about the height of the mountain, the equipment you used, be specific about the surfaces and the time it took to scale it. Do not work the audience for gasps and sighs. I fyou are worthy of gasps and sighs it will not be from your appreciation of the event but form theirs. It will be in the statistics and not the trembling of the voice oor the cutting of the air with your hands. It will be in the data and the quiet organization of your presence.
Avoid the flourish. Do not be afraid to
be weak. Do not be ashamed to be tired. You look good when you're tired.
You look like you could go on forever. Now come into my arms. You are the
image of my beauty.
PLEASE FIND ME
I AM ALMOST 30
from Selected Poems 1956-1968
A person who eats meat wants to get his teeth into something A person who does not eat meat wants to get his teeth into something else If these thoughts interest you for even a moment you are lostfrom Selected Poems 1956-1968
I heard of a man who says words so beautifully that if he only speaks their name women give themselves to him. If I am dumb beside your body while silence blossoms like tumours on out lips it is because I hear a man climb the stairs and clear his throat outside our door.from Let Us Compare Mythologies (1956)
|Love is a fire
It burns everyone
It disfigures everyone
It is the world's excuse
for being ugly.
|I'd like to read
one of the poems
that drove me into poetry
I can't remember one line
or where to look
The same thing
Where are the poems
to stand here