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About this Poem 

"This is an old poem, circa 1980, written when I was a young man. It's very much a young man's poem, and an old song indeed. It was never quite where it needed to be and left me me uneasy as I reread it over time. So, really quite recently, I decided to haul it back into the shop and and have a look underneath the hood. I do this sort of thing. Forgive me . . ." —August Kleinzahler

As You Never Bothered to Return My Call

August Kleinzahler

What I had wanted was to be chaste,
sober and uncomfortable
for a sprawling episode on a beach somewhere
dirty, perennially out of fashion;
let the smell of cocoa butter drive deep memory wild
as the sun went down, a parti-colored blur,
examined through a bottle of pop
some kid gave up on only half-way through
and left to go warm in the sand.

The train ride would be long and hot,
and you, you’ve had it with men.
Me . . .
        I’m sickened by the pronoun.
Tenderness seems as far away as Sioux City
and besides, it would have cost too much.
But you should have called,

if only since a preposterous little episode like this
is just the stuff to scare off extra friends,
like soaking their laps with corrosive fizz.
And us . . .
              What an impertinence, us.
We could have played gin rummy and taken a stroll
into town or along the boardwalk, maybe,
                                      with dear old Godzilla,
the first one, the best one, the 1954 one,
reprising his role this one last time, raising himself up
over the horizon at dusk,
and hurrying us to a place we never would have
dreamt of

Copyright © 2013 by August Kleinzahler. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on October 1, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

August Kleinzahler

August Kleinzahler

August Kleinzahler was born in Jersey City, New Jersey, in 1949, and

by this poet

How much meat moves
Into the city each night
The decks of its bridges tremble
In the liquefaction of sodium light
And the moon a chemical orange

Semitrailers strain their axles
Shivering as they take the long curve
Over warehouses and lofts
The wilderness of streets below
The mesh of it
With Joe on the front


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Green first thing each day sees waves—
the chair, armoire, overhead fixtures, you name it,
waves—which, you might say, things really are,
but Green just lies there awhile breathing
long slow breaths, in and out, through his mouth
like he was maybe seasick, until in an hour or so
the waves simmer down and then