Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stevie Says

Stevie is my heroine.
Stevie loves a song.
Stevie loves sad people
who get life wrong.

Stevie wants to blame God
if there is one to blame.
Stevie thinks there's no one left
who goes by the name.

Stevie wonders what to do with sin
and with redemption too.
She can't keep returning panties,
pretending they are new.

for Stevie Smith

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Daily Lunch Specials at Sin City Cabaret

Seen on a billboard just outside Manhattan

I ride the train into the city’s Monday
Madness, the live show during my short lunch
break from the office. The hour is special.
Loving it feels like an eighth deadly sin.
O, towers topless in the sun. My city,
my come-hither gentleman’s cabaret.

The city is a strip of cabaret.
(O, how I love my Two-for-One Tuesday!)
Girls strolling arm-in-arm throughout the city
are sizzling lesbian acts. My hotdog lunch
eaten, I hear Miss Vermont, Wisconsin,
North Carolina, and the special

Miss Oregon request the special
In Flag and Lamb. Bargirl Jane, brown beret
on carrot hair, and uglier than sin,
wears mascara and Wonderbra on Wednesday
Wet ‘N’ Wild when I take my liquid lunch.
Everything looks so fine in Champagne City.

Everyone looks so foreign in the city.
Cleo, Karisma and Love speak special
tongues as I wander past their talk, and lunch
on crystal buns. A diverse cabaret.
The Chinatown shops on Exotic Thursday
are friction booths where you can buy your sin.

Walking in Central Park, around the basin
of reservoir, I wash away the city.
The wind fingers my hair on Fantasy Friday.
To spy the red-tailed hawks, a special
peepshow, my hand whips out my cabaret
glasses. The father feeds his babies lunch.

But on weekends, the suburban penance: lunch
with my sullen kids, sex with my more-sinned-
against-than-sinning wife (it’s no cabaret),
house mortgage, phone, plumbing, electricity
bills, church attendance, TV special,
weddings and funerals. O for the weekday,

for lonely lunches in my slinky city,
where sin excites like something special,
lap-dancing cabaret. Bring me off, Monday!

Saturday, January 27, 2007

Penang Hill

for my mother

As the train crawled up the green girth
of the hill, you watched a sepia dream
turn Technicolor. The peak was ecstasy
when we imagined ourselves birds

till Sunday-dressed crowds plucked us
from our perch, to wind a driveway
to an aviary where real birds moped
outside a hotel moulting in the sun.

Nearby, Hindus chanted over coals
in an aluminium trough small enough
for barbecue. A garish-gold mosque
raised a mute loudspeaker to the sky.

On the next concrete contour, ringed
by scraggy bougainvillea in clay pots,
a Chinese coffeeshop squatted and spat
the fag ends of old men’s laughter.

Outside the shop was set up like a studio.
You wanted a photo: you holding a tendril
drooping from a wooden trellis, you posing
demurely like some film star in the fifties.

Why I did not ask afterwards, whether
you closed your eyes for a moment’s
commemoration or a blinding flash
of recognition that this visit was reward

for years of longing (granddad’s stories,
black family albums, wavy-edged
postcards)--to arrive in Paradise curling
at its edges--I don’t pretend to know.

Readers' Responses to "Beautiful Suspect": Some Thoughts

Some readers posted thought-provoking comments on my poem, "Beautiful Suspect." I am posting here my thoughts on their comments. My reply may make more sense if you read their comments first.

Thank you, Anonymous, Greg, monkey and Larry for your thoughtful responses to the poem and to each other. I only wish the "poem," not even a draft but a jotting down of ideas and phrases, deserve such deliberations. The discussion is important, of course, because of the issues raised by the "poem."

I frame these interrelated issues thus:
(1) What is the relationship between the speaker and the author of a poem? What is at stake when we conflate the two, as we so easily and commonly do?

(2) Should an author treat subject matter of a dubious morality, in a manner that that is not condemnatory nor ironic? This assumes that the author, in his real person, thinks of the subject as immoral in the first place.

My thinking on the first question:
The basic relationship between the author and the speaker is one of creator and creature. The creature may be made in the image of the creator (possessing some of the creator's autobiography, attitudes, intelligence, and what have you) but the creature is not the creator. But some creatures are more like the creator than others. In the Christian account, man is more like God than a platypus is. So some speakers are more like their authors than some other authors' creatures. Even within the same species, some men, and most women, are, arguably, more like God than others. So within a single poet's work, some of his speakers are more like him than others.

Monkey reminds us of the useful concept of "implied author." The concept is useful not only because it emphasizes the differences between speaker, implied author and actual author, and how those differences play out differently in different texts, but the concept is also useful because "implied" reminds us that our ideas of that author is an act of interpretation. So Larry read the implied author as a mock confessional portrait of a young gay man wanting to make it but frightened by the terrors of the city, while the first Anon read the author as a self-hating Foley. Also, "implied author" is a critical (i.e. readerly concept). As a writer, I think of the speaker and him as both creations.

If we have read much and well, we know all this, and yet we so often conflate speaker and author. Why? One reason could be that we read poems to confirm our own understanding of the world. So we read something in a poem that triggers a response in us, and we want to praise or condemn it.

Praise, almost always, means the poem says something we agree with; condemnation means the opposite. But both come from the same source. We become literalists when we praise or condemn a poem's content. What is the alternative attitude? Keats's negative capability, with which we hold the mind open to ambiguities, nuances and possibilities, with which we resist reducing a poem to a message, whether Satan's or Gabriel's.

Does that mean the author can get away with saying anything? Perhaps. At the very least, a poem grants the privileges of a careful hearing and of a suspension of judgment. For me, that is the fun of reading and writing poems. That is why literature, in the ocean of texts and media, is so vital.

I find myself at the second question. I think of monkey's response to Kundera's "The Hitchhiking Game," and I bless his soul. If it were up to the woman friend who read the same story, she would have burned the book, abetted by the male friend who was swayed by her view. My "poem" is no masterpiece like Kundera's, but the principle is the same. The only relevant judgment is whether the literary work is psychologically simplistic or complex, aesthetically ugly or beautiful. (And I think that kind of judgment is inapplicable to a poem that is not even a first draft. Thanks, Larry, for the aesthetic suggestions for the poem.)

But I think monkey hesitates over some of the implications of his intuition. He is disturbed, like Larry, by the apparently flippant tone of "The Poem as Autobiography." But, in terms of appropriacy for literary treatment, what essential difference lies between flippancy towards child abuse and denigration of women? Is child abuse more prevalent? More damaging? Is flippancy more dangerous than hatred? More simplistic? Answers to that question quickly run into trouble. This probably signals my limitation, but I sincerely cannot see any difference.

Larry provides a clue to the disturbance felt. He described child abuse as a taboo. It is a strong taboo in this historical moment, one reason why writers want to write about it. In so many poems, child abuse gives the abused speaker's voice authority and sympathy, qualities so alluring to a poet marginalized within the wider culture. That allure is one reason why I exploit, and question, that topic in my poem. So in my mind, both Larry's and monkey's responses to the poem justify my choice of the topic. Of course, what you are reading here is self-justification after the fact.

Eagleton defines a poem, in part, as "a fictional moral statement." However much we want a poem to give us unmediated access to the writer's mind, a poem is a fiction, or, in my terms, a creation. I am beginning to see the moral "statement" my poems make: my poems give me permission to say anything I want in any manner I wish. To put it in an unattractively self-aggrandizing manner, it is a moral vision that values every thought and feeling the human is capable of thinking and feeling.

I want to thank you again for giving me your thoughts on these issues. Your opinions have made me think, and will continue to do so.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007


Pedro Almodovar's "Volver" has a melodramatic plot, melodramatic characters and melodramatic atmospherics. Yet, it does not end up as melodramatic in effect, at least not in the negative sense. Its depiction of the bond between mothers and daughters is genuinely poignant. This unexpected result can also be found in John Irving's novels. I am thinking of "The World According to Garp" and "A Prayer for Owen Meany" here. What makes the film and the novels more than the sum of its elements seems to me to be their spirit of invention. Bad melodramatic is garish in its use of stock of situations, characters and images. I find the wit and imagination in the film and novels technicolored instead.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The poem pretends

The poem pretends that on the linebreak hang


Guess rhymes function
as time's unction.


Desire and doubt, desire and doubt.
One comes in, one goes out.

Monday, January 22, 2007

Beautiful Suspect

The beginning of a poem:

The first lesson about picking up a trick
is to remember everyone is a terrorist.
They carry strapped to their body herpes
or that STD with a pretty flower name,
or HIV, or else depression or diabetes.

They are not mules; they know what they carry,
but still yearn to breed death. Terrorists,
in short. I should add here, "like you and me,"
but that is not how I think of them, not
like you, love, and certainly not like me.

What I say applies only to big cities, of course.
In a small town, everyone knows everyone,
and so when you marry Cousin Dick, you
know what you are getting. The risks
are incalculable when you go tricking.

The Poem as Autobiography

If I say my father made me stroke his dick
when I was five, would you believe me? If I say
he didn't make me stroke and suck his dick, would you
believe me then? And if I say I wished he did,
would you applaud my honesty, or condemn it,
though I've said nothing while saying something of it?

Friday, January 19, 2007

Manhattan Winter

For enduring the cold, we are rewarded with snow.

Why Does

I hear the train conductor shout,
"Seven Express! Express! Express!"
The train doors close. The woman next
to me springs up but the train moves out,
passing Bliss Street and other stops.
She can get off where I get off,
and take the local back. Why does
she mind so much the ten minutes more
and which way she approaches Bliss,
why mind so much that she knocks
and knocks her head against the door,
if she is not thinking of love?

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Sherrod Santos' "Greek Lyrics"

Before reading Santos' translation, I thought I preferred more literal translations of poetry, the unexamined assumption being that a more literal translation gets at the original's intention better. Santos has quite changed my mind on this. He calls his translations "collaborations" between him and the writer, a concept that not only permits freer translation, but also acknowledges the "collaborative" aspect of all translation work, the joint work of the living and the dead. Santos takes advantage of this freedom to create translations that truly sing. I find myself reading the translations as poems, and not as curious historical records or, worse, archaelogical digs.

Here is a collaboration between Santos and Leonidas of Tarentum (3rd century B.C.).


If it weren’t for the fact that you gnaw and scratch
At the latch of my hollow meal bin, I’d think
(for there’s pretty thin picking within this shack)
you skittering creatures must feed on dark.

An old man is content with two barley cakes
And some sea salt, the sum my father figured
Was our lot in life. So why keep me awake
All night then leave me to sweep your turds?

You’ll never find a smidgen on my bare floor.
Wouldn’t a rich man offer you better fare?

Is this or is this not a vivid metaphor for the lust of an old man?

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Beer and Wine

Good beer will give a clean finish.
Love does not give the same.
A wine may leave an aftertaste.
Love comes, then came.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

"From El Greco to Picasso," the Spanish art exhibition at the Guggenheim, was organized according to subjects: religious portraits, still life (or bodegón, ‘things from the pantry”), landscapes, childhood, secular portraits. This thematic organization facilitated the comparison of different artistic approaches and the tracing of artistic influence. It became strikingly clear, for example, how much Picasso owed to his Spanish predecessors, notably Goya in the still life paintings, for his subjects, his vision and his innovation.

I particularly liked “Still Life with Cardoon and Parsnips,” painted in 1604 by Juan Sanchez Cotan (1560-1621). The cardoon was painted with such close attention to detail. The fibrous threads along each segment of the vegetable were short spikes nearer the base, hairs further along the segment, and then feathers near the tip. The segments were delicately ridged, their mottled texture conveyed by the brushstrokes. The curve of the cardoon was continued dramatically by a parsnip that extended itself into the black background, giving the illusion of perspective to the composition. Cardoon and parsnips rested on a window ledge that provided an internal frame. The painting was extraordinary. I can't find the image on the net, and so here's another Cotan (the cardoon is in the bottom left corner).

The other painting that held me a long time was “The Streetwalkers,” painted between 1915-17 by Jose Gutierrez Solana (1886-1945). In the foreground, a group of five women, waiting for custom, depicted the lifecycle of a prostitute. The youngest, with a defiant look in her face, bared her bosom with confidence. The older the streetwalker, the more covered up she was. The oldest, all covered up in black clothes, bent her head. On the left of the painting, in the middle ground, was another group of women solicited by two men. The men looked ordinary: they were not predators nor exploiters; they were buying a service, as they would in a gas station. Behind this group rose a tenement building. Its windows were dabs of dirty beige. The whole back alley scene spoke of sordidness, but strangely without condescension or outrage. A darkness, unrelieved by a rectangle of late sun on the street, and one on the side of the tenement, pervaded the side street in which these men and women found themselves.

Monday, January 15, 2007

How to make a lyric

How to make a lyric
(My name is Jee Leong Koh.)
O! Hello!

Really Hard

You love the feel of leather, thin
rubbery sheath your chest and hips breathe in.
It makes me really hard to think
that is your kink. Mine is the smell of ink.

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Sporcl plays Dvorak and Tchaikovsky

I finally bought a CD player, from Circuit City, and now can play the music gathering dust in my desk drawer. From my meager collection, I found a CD I love: Pavel Sporcl playing Dvorak's Concerto in A minor for Violin and Orchestra, and Tchaikovsky's Concerto in D major. The playing is unabashedly Romantic, without becoming sentimental or melodramatic.

I thought about how ephemeral music is, how it lives and dies in time. What I was hearing was a recording, which, by definition, is a copy. A performance cannot be possessed in the same way as a painting can be collected.

A poem is both performance and object. It is performance when it is read (by the poet in his head or in public, or by the reader). As performance, it is painfully transient; a recording of Auden reading "In Praise of Limestone" is just that, a recording, a copy of a performance. On another day, he might have read it differently. A poem, however, is also an object: a text is a poem in a more literal sense compared to the relationship between a score and a performance. One aspect of the poem's materiality, its visual look, can be likened to painting. As an object, the poem looks as if it is built to last.

Listening to the violin playing against and with the orchestra, I also thought about how the spirit of an age finds its expression through its own forms of art. (Hmmm, that sentence sounds too Hegelian.) Romanticism, with its exaltation of the individual over society, exults in the voice of the solo instrument, a voice that can only be understood in its orchestral environment.

What is the postmodern spirit? Is the direction further smashing of the idols? Has the fragmentation gone far enough? Is there a sea-change taking place invisibly, but surely, like global warming? What kind of poetry tunes in to that spirit? Is it in meter? Does it rhyme? Is a Chinese gay Singaporean (and what have you) man writing in meter conservative, radically conservative, or subversive? Does it matter? What is the right question? Why do I ask that last question?

Friday, January 12, 2007

Not Two

"I tell you, someone will remember us, even in another time." -Sappho

Sappho, Sappho, if I am one,
will my name be remembered too?

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Best of the Net 2006

Poems published online and judged by Paul Guest to be Best of the Net 2006.


Too cold, this country is too cold
for writing love poetry.
Wear your thickest coat when you hold
my hips, and move inside of me.

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Poem in Shit

My poem, "If the Fire Is in Your Apartment," has just been published by "The Shit Creek Review," issue two. The review is a bi-monthly ezine of poetry, prose, criticism and art. Do check it out.

Monday, January 08, 2007

A fragment of a poem

I am reading Greek Lyric Poetry, translated by Sherod Santos, and so will attempt a poetic fragment.

Donate your gently-used coats to the dead.
They are so cold they burn
raised stripes across their arms and head,
the newest stripes are red,
by sleeping against heaters. They don't learn

Sunday, January 07, 2007

King Lear Act One Scene Three

This short scene between Kent and one of Lear’s knights precedes Lear’s storm scenes. In response to Kent’s practical, and existential, question, “Where’s the King?” Shakespeare gives the Knight this marvelous speech:

Contending with the fretful elements;
Bids the wind blow the earth into the sea,
Or swell the curled waters ‘bove the main,
That things might change or cease; tears his white hair,
Which the impetuous blasts with eyeless rage
Catch in their fury and make nothing of,
Strives in his little world of man to outscorn
The to and fro conflicting wind and rain;
This night wherein the cub-drawn bear would couch,
The lion and the belly-pinched wolf
Keep their fur dry, unbonneted he runs,
And bids what will take all.

A lesser playwright would have been happy to give such poetry to his protagonist but Shakespeare gives it to a character too insignificant to bear a name, confident of his powers to imagine something even greater for Lear. The speech makes dramatic sense too. It reports Lear’s emotional turmoil so that when we hear him utter those same emotions later, we have a sense of their duration, and thus of Lear’s suffering and endurance.

The speech also directs our sympathy well precisely because the Knight is nameless. To the extent that he is a Knight, he is an authority on physical contention. To the extent that he is nameless, he is the objective reporter moved by what he reports. The Knight’s speech is powerful but Shakespeare cunningly holds something in reserve. Wind, earth and sea fret in this speech, but fire singes and spits in the Lear’s speeches, completing the dissonant quartet of elements.

How does this speech move our deep sympathy for Lear? The Knight describes Lear’s actions without repeating “he.” Not only does this device achieve compression, it makes the verbs appear like imperatives: “bid(s),” “tear(s),” “strive(s),” and “bid(s)” again. I am reminded of Lear’s first word in the play, a command to Gloucester to “attend.” In this speech, Lear is a shadow of his kingly self, a fool who gives commands to the storm.

The busy conflict in the first three lines is matched by their hardworking sounds: the assonance in “contending,” “fretful,” “elements” and “swell”; the plosives; the consonance of “l” and “w.” Unfortunately, all that hard work achieves nothing, the same result as Lear’s command to the wind. We get a strong sense of the futility of all that expended energy. The world does not change or cease for Lear. What changes is merely the tearing of Lear’s hair, juxtaposed ironically on the same line with his wish for apocalypse.

The characteristics of the storm, “impetuous,” full of “rage” and “fury” (“Come not between the dragon and his rage.”), reminds me of Lear’s fault in disowning Cordelia. That dreadful echo of “nothing”! Not only of Cordelia’s principled, if stubborn, no, but also of Lear’s own words, here tossed back into his face by the storm and by a vassal, “Nothing will come of nothing.” The effect of the speech, however, is not satisfaction at seeing the tyrannical ruler-father get his come-uppance. The effect is one of terror for ourselves: who among us has not been impetuous, full of rage and fury, in disowning our Cordelias? When the storm comes, for come it must, a storm without an eye, a storm that makes nothing of us, as if it is a Decreator, how shall we face it? Here Lear’s pathetic grandeur lies in his trying vainly to outface the storm.

Outface, or in Shakespeare’s striking neologism, “outscorn.” An ironic reminder of being shut out by his daughters, “out” in “outscorn” also plays against “in” in “Strives in his little world of man.” The wordplay stresses the limits of Lear’s “little world” but it also marks the entry of Lear into self-awareness, and thus of potential self-knowledge. Lear is “little” in comparison to the storm, but his dimensions are lit up by each flash of lightning, sounded by each roll of thunder, tested by air and water. “The to and fro conflicting wind and rain” masterfully combines chaos and pattern by pivoting the parallel structures of “to and fro” and “wind and rain” on “conflicting,” a participle that works almost as a verb.

The animal images are presented as the first two items of a threefold repetition: (1) the bear would couch, (2) the lion and the wolf would keep their fur dry, climaxing in (3) unbonneted Lear runs. The first two items are linked by alliteration in their main verb but are differentiated by the number of their grammatical subjects. Whereas the first animal takes up one line of verse, the next two takes up one and a half lines, adding to the rhythmic swell which climaxes in the compressed half-line, “unbonneted he runs.” Whereas the bear is “cub-drawn,” the wolf is “belly-pinched.” The parallel between the hyphenated adjectives suggests that the wolf is not just pinched in the belly, but is pinched by the belly. An added nuance that may be applied to Lear’s suffering too. The animals’ dry fur contrasts with Lear’s wet white hair, the humanness of the hair uncovered in the word “unbonneted.” The phrase “unbonneted he runs,” with its unobtrusive internal rhyme and consonance, has a subtle music while the alliteration of “b” in “unbonneted” and “bids” reminds us that Lear has given away his crown and his command.

Friday, January 05, 2007

I wish someone would love my body

I wish someone would love my body
more than my soul.
To love my soul is to love nothing
more than the whole
sensational thing that is my body;

it is to love the memories
my body has of
autumn, winter, spring and summer
in a first love.
The mercy of memories!

Yes, my body will grow older.
will totter, will fail
the test of cold infinity
but let me feel
its affinity for growing colder.

Thursday, January 04, 2007

Durs Grunbein: The Poem and Its Secret

In Poetry, January 2007 issue, Grunbein writes in the last section of his essay:

Poems can be so variegated, so heterogeneous in their texture and style, yet the good ones stand out because of a certain something that can never be entirely unraveled. Whether it is a matter of special verbal humor, the magic of syllables, or mere technical or atmospheric hocus-pocus; whether the poem captivates us with a collection of unusual dream faces or seduces us as a painting created from singular fantasies--all that says little about its mysterious side. This emerges only as the surplus of the whole, as it were.`

(Skip a paragraph)

Personally, I believe that what comes out in poems is the human devotion to the transcendental--with a simultaneous fidelity to this world's prodigious wealth of details. For me, what makes up the consistency of poetry's secret is twofold: a mix of love of this world with curiosity about metaphysics. The proof? Only among the poets does one come across them, those moments of reconciliation of something purely ideal with its unexpectedly concrete manifestations, less often among theologians, and almost never among philosophers.

And the final rhetorical flourish:

Imagine that there was a thinking that only occurs in certain otherwise quite hard-to-reach places, like dental floss between the wisdom teeth or an endoscope in the stomach. For the first time, it will make certain places visible, individual branches of the anything-but-straightforward psychic cave system that runs through the bodies of all humans and can only be discovered by a resourceful imagination audaciously pushing forward into still unsecured galleries. This thinking is poetic thinking, and it is not the domain of the poets and writers but more the method of many small search parties who have set out from several starting points without knowing of each other, an army of phenomenologists working on expanding the world of the imagination common to all of us.

(Translated from the German by Andrew Shields}

Grunbein's bio given in Poetry: born in Dresden in 1962 and lives in Berlin. An English-language selection of his poetry, translated by Michael Hofmann, was published in 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

A revision from "Payday Loans"

I've revised a sonnet so much that I'm not sure whether any of my intentions is getting through. The context: gay speaker who is graduating from a Creative Writing MFA and looking for a job. Yeah, he resembles me, two years ago.

I dreamed of you last night, my class voodoo-
practicing, commie, vegan, white dyke said.
I dreamed you were lying stark naked in bed,
stroking the leg without a foot.

Had she confused me with one we both know,
J who graduated last year and treads
heavily on his prosthesis? He’s married
and writing full-time. Publishing his first book.
What does the dream mean? Is it an omen?
A curse? A prayer? My wish-fulfillment vibes?
For I’ve wished, once or twice, to be my friend,
a member of a secret, stoic tribe
that cuts up boys to turn them into men.
And then a woman came in, licking a rib.

Cezanne to Picasso: Ambroise Vollard, patron of the avant-garde

Patrick McCaughey, in his TLS review, inveighed against the Met for enshrining in an exhibition an art dealer who was, in McCaughey’s words, “the reverse of the patron: he was the exploiter of the avant-garde.” When I saw the exhibition yesterday, I read in at least two curator’s notes that Vollard sold the paintings for ten times the meager sum he had paid the artists. The notes made me wonder if the exhibition’s title was not intended as somewhat ironic. Such titles, emblazoned on a huge banner in front of the Met, are not usually ironic but this one might serve the dual purpose of promotion and criticism. I thought the exhibition highlighted the exchange of monies behind these familiar masterpieces.

Looking at Cezanne’s “A Basket of Apples,” I was struck by how all the apples had different shapes and colors. Each apple was also presented differently from the others: one showed more stalk; one more tilted; one half-wrapped by the cloth; one almost hidden by the basket. The effect is one of careful arrangement, not of a spontaneous event. The visible brushstrokes also pointed to the ‘paintedness’ of the apples. These luscious apples do not try to imitate real apples; instead, they seem to reveal that real apples look like painted ones in a certain light, that the perception of the lusciousness of real apples is a perception of form. We see beauty in things when we attend to their form, not when we are occupied with eating them.

Overheard while looking at Matisse’s “Still Life with a Blue Pot”: “I’ve been going for a pap smear every year for years. My doctor told me I can stop when I reach 70.” “70? My doctor says 65.”

Smelled when looking at Picasso’s blue-period “The Old Guitarist”: someone’s fart. Was the man who moved away the guilty one? Would I look guilty if I moved away? Would I be held responsible if I didn’t? Such agonies as I noted the guitarist’s left shoulder was pulled higher than his bent head, contributing to his pathos.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

New Year Resolution

I will not be afraid of loneliness.
Loneliness makes one do things one regrets
the morning after, like the man last night
who flailed in mock enjoyment, danced to get
my interest. He was old and didn’t want
to sleep through the first night of the new year
alone, and so, like a scarecrow, he danced,
and, when I kindly tried to be sincere
by not looking at him, he came so close
I smelled the alcohol, fermented straw,
and danced away. To another younger man
he turned, and then another on the floor.
I know that hurricane. It starts as breath
one grows aware of breathing, then it blows
one all over the landscape till one pierces
something that holds, a tree, say, while it blows
itself out. Blown like that, I hung to you
too long, mistaking loneliness for love.
That’s why I turned you down last night. You’re kind,
your friends sincere and good-looking, sort of,
but loneliness needs to be treated lightly
like making resolutions for the year
to dance with body to the dance beat nightly,
to look into the eyes and smile at fear.