Miscellaneous Works

Welcome To These Lines

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 poetry
from The Energy of Slaves (1972) 

All There Is To Know About Adolph Eichmann





DISTINGUISHING FEATURES:.................................None

NUMBER OF FINGERS:........................................Ten

NUMBER OF TOES:...........................................Ten


What did you expect?


Oversize incisors?

Green saliva?

from Flowers for Hitler (1964) 

Beautiful Losers

     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)

How To Speak Poetry

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. 
from Death of a Lady's Man (1978) 






from Selected Poems 1956-1968 


A Person Who Eats Meat

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 lost 
from 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

Love is a fire  
It burns everyone  
It disfigures everyone  
It is the world's excuse  
for being ugly.  

-Leonard Cohen 

 I'd Like To Read

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  
happened with money  
girls and late evenings of talk  

Where are the poems  
that led me away  
from everything I loved  

to stand here  
naked with the thought of finding thee 

-Leonard Cohen 

What Is a Saint

What is a saint? A saint is someone who has achieved a remote human possibility. It is impossible to say what that possibility is. I think it has something to do with the energy of love. Contact with this energy results in the exercise of a kind of balance in the chaos of existence. A saint does not dissolve the chaos; if he did the world would have changed long ago. I do not think that a saint dissolves the chaos even for himself, for there is something arrogant and warlike in the notion of a man setting the universe in order. It is a kind of balance that is his glory. He rides the drifts like an escaped ski. His couse is a caress of the hill. His track is a drawing of the snow in a moment of its particular arrangement with wind and rock. Something in him so loves the world that he gives himself to the laws of gravity and chance. Far from flying with the angels, he traces with the fidelity of a seismograph needle the state of the solid bloddy landscape. His house is angerouse and finite, but he is at home in the world. He can love the shapes of human beings, the fine and twisted shapes of the heart. It is good to have among us such men, such balancing monsters of love. 
-Leonard Cohen

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