poem index

Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223

Cosmic insignificance, politics, social nuances, identity, and love
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
At the Gym
Mark Doty, 1953
This salt-stain spot
marks the place where men
lay down their heads,
back to the bench,

and hoist nothing
that need be lifted
but some burden they've chosen
this time: more reps,

more weight, the upward shove
of it leaving, collectively,
this sign of where we've been:
shroud-stain, negative

flashed onto the vinyl
where we push something
unyielding skyward,
gaining some power

at least over flesh,
which goads with desire,
and terrifies with frailty.
Who could say who's

added his heat to the nimbus
of our intent, here where
we make ourselves:
something difficult

lifted, pressed or curled,
Power over beauty,
power over power!
Though there's something more

tender, beneath our vanity,
our will to become objects
of desire: we sweat the mark
of our presence onto the cloth.

Here is some halo
the living made together.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
When a Woman Loves a Man
David Lehman, 1948
When she says margarita she means daiquiri.
When she says quixotic she means mercurial.
And when she says, "I'll never speak to you again,"
she means, "Put your arms around me from behind
as I stand disconsolate at the window."

He's supposed to know that.

When a man loves a woman he is in New York and she is in
or he is in Boston, writing, and she is in New York, reading,
or she is wearing a sweater and sunglasses in Balboa Park and he
     is raking leaves in Ithaca
or he is driving to East Hampton and she is standing disconsolate
at the window overlooking the bay
where a regatta of many-colored sails is going on
while he is stuck in traffic on the Long Island Expressway.

When a woman loves a man it is one ten in the morning
she is asleep he is watching the ball scores and eating pretzels
drinking lemonade
and two hours later he wakes up and staggers into bed
where she remains asleep and very warm.

When she says tomorrow she means in three or four weeks.
When she says, "We're talking about me now,"
he stops talking. Her best friend comes over and says,
"Did somebody die?"

When a woman loves a man, they have gone
to swim naked in the stream
on a glorious July day
with the sound of the waterfall like a chuckle
of water rushing over smooth rocks,
and there is nothing alien in the universe.

Ripe apples fall about them.
What else can they do but eat?

When he says, "Ours is a transitional era,"
"that's very original of you," she replies,
dry as the martini he is sipping.

They fight all the time
It's fun
What do I owe you?
Let's start with an apology
Ok, I'm sorry, you dickhead.
A sign is held up saying "Laughter."
It's a silent picture.
"I've been fucked without a kiss," she says,
"and you can quote me on that,"
which sounds great in an English accent.

One year they broke up seven times and threatened to do it
     another nine times.

When a woman loves a man, she wants him to meet her at the
     airport in a foreign country with a jeep.
When a man loves a woman he's there. He doesn't complain that
     she's two hours late
and there's nothing in the refrigerator.

When a woman loves a man, she wants to stay awake.
She's like a child crying
at nightfall because she didn't want the day to end.

When a man loves a woman, he watches her sleep, thinking:
as midnight to the moon is sleep to the beloved.
A thousand fireflies wink at him.
The frogs sound like the string section
of the orchestra warming up.
The stars dangle down like earrings the shape of grapes.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
What I Am
Terrance Hayes, 1971
Fred Sanford's on at 12
& I'm standing in the express lane (cash only)
about to buy Head & Shoulders
the white people shampoo, no one knows
what I am. My name could be Lamont.
George Clinton wears colors like Toucan Sam,
the Froot Loop pelican. Follow your nose,
he says. But I have no nose, no mouth,
so you tell me what's good, what's god,
what's funky. When I stop
by McDonalds for a cheeseburger, no one
suspects what I am. I smile at Ronald's poster,
perpetual grin behind the pissed-off, fly-girl
cashier I love. Where are my goddamn fries?
Ain't I American? I never say, Niggaz
in my poems. My ancestors didn't
emigrate. Why would anyone leave
their native land? I'm thinking about shooting
some hoop later on. I'll dunk on everyone
of those niggaz. They have no idea
what I am. I might be the next Jordan
god. They don't know if Toni Morrison
is a woman or a man. Michael Jackson
is the biggest name in showbiz. Mamma se 
Mamma sa mamma ku sa, sang the Bushmen 
in Africa. I'll buy a dimebag after the game, 
me & Jody. He says, Fuck them white people 
at work, Man. He was an All-American 
in high school. He's cool, but he don't know 
what I am, & so what. Fred Sanford's on 
in a few & I got the dandruff-free head 
& shoulders of white people & a cheeseburger 
belly & a Thriller CD & Nike high tops 
& slavery's dead & the TV's my daddy-- 
   You big Dummy!
Fred tells Lamont.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
Pear Tree
H. D., 1886 - 1961
Silver dust   
lifted from the earth,   
higher than my arms reach,   
you have mounted.   
O silver,
higher than my arms reach   
you front us with great mass;   
no flower ever opened   
so staunch a white leaf,   
no flower ever parted silver
from such rare silver;   
O white pear,   
your flower-tufts,   
thick on the branch,   
bring summer and ripe fruits
in their purple hearts.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005
America, you ode for reality!
Give back the people you took.

Let the sun shine again
on the four corners of the world

you thought of first but do not
own, or keep like a convenience.

People are your own word, you
invented that locus and term.

Here, you said and say, is
where we are. Give back

what we are, these people you made,
us, and nowhere but you to be.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
Dear George Bush
Kristin Prevallet, 1966
I am writing this letter just to inform you that the tide is turning.
It is a fickle tide,
one that has the presence of mind
to alter its course.
You may remember how just a year ago
many believed you to be illegitimate
(you still are).
Those were the days when your
slips of the tongue
were circulated as comic relief
when in reality
they weren't very funny.
After all, they revealed
your true feelings
like the clown with the innocent face
who sneers under his smile
while handing out glasses of water
laced with arsenic.
You're a prophet, George Bush, 
every dangling modifier
and stumbling qualification
were just your way of telling the truth,
like how you accidentally predicted on
Dec. 18, 2000, during your first trip to Washington, DC as President-Elect:

"If this were a dictatorship, it'd be a heck of a lot easier. . .
just as long as I'm the dictator. . ."

I understand why the majority of Americans
think any mocking of your character is unpatriotic,
and I understand the importance of patriotism
when there is a need to rally a country
into a nationalist collective identity
that forcibly sends a message to the rest of the world
(including our allies)
that nobody messes with the U.S.A.,
a war cry that echoes out and incites
all the two-Lexus SUV families
and those who believe they too will someday own one
(in other words, not all of us)
to shout in the spirit of the moment:
"Bin Laden: nowhere to run, nowhere to hide!"
and "Red, White and Blue: these colors will not run!"
Great slogans, actually.

They've worked.

I've overheard some astute political commentary
just listening to people on the street.
"They should execute him publicly
and live on TV just like they do over in those countries,"
and "Look around the world. You see
that there are only two choices: Capitalism or corruption."
From my standpoint, there are some logical problems
with these heartfelt opinions
(the former makes the ranter into the thing he most hates,
and the latter obviously did not lose his life savings when
Enron executives pocketed over a billion dollars
before the stock tumbled).

I am one of many 
who does not believe that these good people,
and they are good people,
represent the viewpoints of the citizens of the U.S.A.
I know you hate that word, citizen.
And that this is not a new thing.
The principals of democracy are threatened by the big game
you're playing with those energy corporations:
they contribute to your campaign,
you put them on your cabinet
to set environmental policy--
did you really think we wouldn't care?

Of course I know that the 1st amendment was being threatened
long before you took office
and long before this current discussion of "homeland security"
terrified the people,
putting the country into a state of siege,
making it easier for you to control.

I remember the Republican National Convention
in Philadelphia, July 2000.
The police raided a warehouse
where protesters were making puppets
because the materials
chicken wire and cardboard
could have been used
to make bombs.
They destroyed the puppets
and put all of the protesters in jail
initially charging them
with the intent to incite riots
when in fact they were intending
to inspire people to participate in democracy.

I remember being corralled like cattle
at anti-globalization protests
and marching along wondering
what happened to freedom of assembly?

I remember racial profiling,
and how all of these other constitutional violations
have been used for centuries,
especially against the African-American community,
and that minority citizens and immigrants
have been subject to some of the grossest
infringements of civil liberties--
the two words that uphold the very power of democracy--
for a very long time.

And you hate that I know these things.
That I know about Unocal's
plan for a pipeline through Afghanistan
to reap oil from the yet untapped reserves in the Caspian Sea.
That I know about your family's immense profits
from doing business with the Bin Laden family,
which preserves the Saudi court.
That I know about how you hindered the FBI 
from investigating the Bin Laden family's connections to terrorism
before the September attacks.
That I know about how between 1988 and 1999
Dick Cheney's company, Halliburton,
oversaw $23.8 million of business contracts
for the sale of oil-industry equipment and services to Iraq,
greatly helping Hussein maintain his grip on power.

Seems as if conflict of interest
is just a reality
that I'll have to learn to live with,
but you can be sure
that I'll never stop
looking for the big picture
and the larger context
because these days there is always
more going on than can be reported
on Fox News Channel upbeat
sound-bite news reports.

I know that in the U.S.A. Patriot Act
there are some implications
that good citizens should just keep their mouths shut,
and you think we will sit by
while gray-suited vigilantes
from your new private army
stop us on the street
and let you see our ID,
making the whole country
into one gigantic Palm Beach
where non-white citizens had to carry ID to prove that they
were indeed non-white citizens.
This practice was eventually made illegal in 1985,
but I can't help but see a connection
between this and the fact that in this same county
a phony list of felons
prohibited 45,000 people
(54% of whom were African-American)
from voting in the 2000 presidential election.

This makes me think
that your idea of security
will only be imposed
upon anyone who is either not white,
or, if white, not dressed in America's mandatory
Banana-Republic-Gap-Old-Navy individuality uniforms.

And I know that really
I don't know anything
about what is really
going on.
After all, I'm just an ordinary citizen.

I am telling you these things
because I want you to know
that I participate in democracy,
that I have conversations about politics
and get my sources from the independent press.
And I know that it is America
that grants me that freedom,
and so, yes, 
I defend what is good about America.
And you?

If telling you these things is unpatriotic,
then poetry is unpatriotic,
and did I mention that I am a poet
paying attention to those winds,
those tides,
and all those other clichés that poets and statesmen use
to move the people to embrace one cause or another.
I am a writer of propaganda,
and here are some lines of my poetry:
Beware, the images of the future are crouching
in the shadows of grief,
welcome to the next century,
the tide is turning,
you are not the elected sovereign of the world,
you are not the king of freedom,
we will defend our rights to be citizens of the world,
you can't take that away,
you can't take that away.
Oh, no.


Kirstin Prevallet

for Debunker Mentality,
for Boog City and
the 17th annual New Year's Day Marathon Reading, 2002
St. Mark's Church
2nd Avenue
New York City

Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
George Oppen, 1908 - 1984
Truth also is the pursuit of it: 
Like happiness, and it will not stand. 

Even the verse begins to eat away 
In the acid. Pursuit, pursuit; 

A wind moves a little, 
Moving in a circle, very cold. 

How shall we say? 
In ordinary discourse—
We must talk now. I am no longer sure of the words, 
The clockwork of the world. What is inexplicable 

Is the 'preponderance of objects,' The sky lights 
Daily with that predominance 

And we have become the present. 

We must talk now. Fear 
Is fear. But we abandon one another. 
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005
As I was walking
  I came upon
chance walking
  the same road upon.

As I sat down
  by chance to move
  if and as I might,

light the wood was,
  light and green,
and what I saw
  before I had not seen.

It was a lady
by goat men
  leading her.

Her hair held earth.
  Her eyes were dark.
A double flute
  made her move.

"O love,
  where are you
  me now?"
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
A Wicker Basket
Robert Creeley, 1926 - 2005
Comes the time when it's later
and onto your table the headwaiter
puts the bill, and very soon after
rings out the sound of lively laughter--

Picking up change, hands like a walrus,
and a face like a barndoor's,
and a head without any apparent size,
nothing but two eyes--

So that's you, man,
or me. I make it as I can,
I pick up, I go
faster than they know--

Out the door, the street like a night,
any night, and no one in sight,
but then, well, there she is,
old friend Liz--

And she opens the door of her cadillac,
I step in back,
and we're gone.
She turns me on--

There are very huge stars, man, in the sky,
and from somewhere very far off someone hands
   me a slice of apple pie,
with a gob of white, white ice cream on top of it,
and I eat it--

Slowly. And while certainly
they are laughing at me, and all around me is racket
of these cats not making it, I make it

in my wicker basket.
Mein Gedankengang durch Gedichte 223
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
E. E. Cummings, 1894 - 1962
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me,i and
my life will shut very beautifully,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the colour of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands