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.