Lines From 7 More Poets: In Honor of Big February Love Holiday (2 of 2)


In honor of that big romantic day– that cardboard heart hurtling toward us all– I’ve selected lines from a total of 14 poets (7 in this post).  Yes, this is Part Two of my Valentine’s Day double-header lacy-edged extravaganza.  Each post may be taken a la carte.

Coincidence:  Two days ago, a man carrying a musical instrument on his back– too small for a cello, yet too large for a guitar– looked hard at my face and then asked if I was a writer.  “Yes,” I said, surprised.  “What kind of writing?”  When I hesitated, he said, “Poetry?  Tortured?”  “Uhh…” I said.  I need to smile more.

1) “I found a group/ of inappropriately dressed/ women inside// a hollowed-out tree./They all had hidden agendas./ When I asked Marlene// her name, she told me Madeline./”  (Zachary Schomburg, What I Found in the Forest).  The cover of his chapbook, “The Man Suit”, features a tranquil night with a coffin floating above the treetops.

2) “A lavish sunset soaks Brooklyn/ With excruciating love.//”  (Gilbert Sorrentino, Orange Sonnet)  The rejection letters that preface his novel “Mulligan’s Stew” are wonderful.

3) ‘”Franz,” screamed the woman, “take the corpse outside;/ It’s impossible to think in here.”// “Yes, ma’am,” said the hunchback. When she was alone/ She undid the top two buttons/ Of her blouse, crossed the room and played/ The upright in the corner there./’  (Mark Strand, Grotesques)  I find this incredibly erotic but could be just me.

4) “She pats my head all smiles and coming nigher/ We bill and coo like turtles in the shade.” (Villon, The Testaments of Francois Villon)  I love the picture of billing and cooing reptiles.  A shame if other translations say “dove”.  Translator is John Heron Lepper.  Villon was betrayed a lot by so-called “ladies” but had a real soft spot for prostitutes.

5) “My breath/ sticks to your neck like graffiti.//”  (Jeffrey McDaniel, The Jerk)  And this “I like girls with big problems, juicy problems./ I can’t live without you problems. Oh my god,// she’s out of her mind problems. Damn, she set/ the house on fire problems. Please, lord, don’t// let her kill me problems.” (Problems)  He is a gifted performer.  One of those lucky few Poetry Slammers whose work resonates on the page.

6) “A black biplane crashes through the window/ of the luncheonette. The pilot climbs down,/ removing his leather hood./ He hands me my grandmother’s jade ring./ No, it is two robin’s eggs and/ a telephone number: yours./” (Gregory Orr, Love Poem. This is the entire poem.)  Romantic gem.  His wife probably would’ve married him anyway but…  This didn’t hurt.  That said, the tone of this poem is a bit of a departure. Orr’s poems that concern his childhood trauma are devastating, unforgettable and indescribably great.  Seek them out.

7) “On one of the grubbiest days ever seen anywhere an/ underheeled youth named Wendell Skurppy was slupping along/ a grayish weakfishlane in a certain dasmell clump of stloumo/ brickbushes,when he suddenly rungintoaplumpforeheaded, buck-/ tousled Sassiety Belle. Pleased no lard by her frostily expensive/ frigidaire manner then by the cadillacical way she carried herself,/ he was at flust cluck dumb, but sloob ladaged callowly to swike/ up the thousand haller-Bill! which had fallen so cloyly from/ one of her biliousing adorsal shoulder blubs.//” (Kenneth Patchen, What’s Sauce For The Tomato) My unpoetical computer put red swiggles under just about everything here.  Patchen called sea and sky “that watching blueness– which always disconcerts/ the more it reassures//.” (Poemscape)  One of the all-time best.

Wish I could find the terrific Gwendolyn Brooks’ line about a certain man’s touch being “perforating.”  Googling “Gwendolyn Brooks, perforating” doesn’t do the trick.  Maybe if I owned a Mac.  Also, still searching for Amy Gerstler’s chapbook “The True Bride” and Maxine Chernoff’s “New Faces of 1952” so I don’t have to keep taking them out of the library.  They are awesome books now out-of-print.  Why doesn’t some enterprising publisher re-publish them?

So there it is.  Happy red-letter holidays. Thank you for stopping by. Please comment with your own favorite poets and/or lines.


Unrelated Addendum:  Below, a good-bye from Bill Knott, titled appropriately, “Good-bye.”

If you are still alive when you read this,

close your eyes.  I am

under their lids, growing black.


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