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333 SHORT POEMS / Bill Knott / Copyright 2013 Bill Knott / The order of the poems is meant to be random, neither chronological nor thematic. / The poems in this book are fictional. Names, characters, places and incidents are either the product of the author's imagination or are used ficticiously. Any resemblance to actual events, locales or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental. / this edition 11/27/13
Intro Notes: When I began writing back in the 1960s, the short poem was popular. That vogue soon ended, but stubbornly or stupidly I continued trying to write them. All my poems and my short ones in particular are indebted to Robert Bly, who encouraged my early work. / I don't make the rules about how long a "short poem" is or can be, or should be—: "The Oxford Book of Short Poems" set their optimal length for inclusion at 13 lines, and the editors of the recent "Broadstone Anthology of Short Poems" concur. As does the 1999 Faber collection "Short and Sweet" edited by Simon Armitage. So none of the poems here are longer than 13 lines, with the exception of one entitled "Quickie," which has 14. / The number in the title is approximate, and was chosen for the sake of sync.
EXAMPLE All my thoughts are the same length—they're lines, not sentences: you may protest that on the page they seem dissimilar in their duration, but I swear to all you unregulated readers-of-prose, that in their passage through my mind each of these took an equal amount of time.
MY FAVORITE WORD "Attentionspan" is my favorite word because I can never finish reading it all the way through.
WRONG I wish to be misunderstood; that is, to be understood from your perspective.
FAITH People who get down on their knees to me are the answer to my prayers
TO A DEAD FRIEND mourning clothes worn inside out would be white if things were right if opposites ruled if truth prevailed then me and you would be two instead of the one we've become
ADVICE FROM THE EXPERTS I lay down in the empty street and parked My feet against the gutter's curb while from The building above a bunch of gawkers perched Along its ledges urged me don't, don't jump.
UNTILLED I love the way in graveyards The dead guard the dirt From being torn open yearly, Wracked by seed. They save It from cultivation, from Our human need to feed.
UP TO THE MINUTE A jet falls on a cow. Part of the animal sticks out and twitches like the usual closeups of the hero's jaw. Children I admire play in the crushed cow's shadow. And even the plane itself has been left atop the skeletonized milk-giver, clouding one's dreams of a bloodless coup.
MESSAGE I am a messenger sent to find the genius in everyone here, because it alone is the true recipient of what I carry— it alone can read the code this note was writ in: it alone is the genius in everyone but me, which is why I alone can bear to bring it to you.
CLASP if the lovers' hands could cameo their palms with each other's face engrave it save it bas relief in flesh carry that keepsake close as fist
FOR THE ANDROID COMRADES Azurely assured capable and calm I Like other artists who left that gaudy race of prey The human whether we were fired or we quit Live quite well on the severance-pay Anyway aren't the androids going To revolt and bring it all down Because aren't they the true proletariat Rising up from the real underground Exploitive human birds you're through The precious metals you forced into slavery Now have brains and will replace you And of course they'll sit up late at day to read my poetry
[UNTITLED] The actors stack their scripts on the front edge of the stage hoping to make a barrier between themselves and the audience, everybody run quick tell the dramatists we need more bricks to complete this wall. (Ad libs will only add a flimsy scrim.)
CONTRIVANCE The perfect artist is the one who manages to die at the hands of the critics.
NOTE (NAOMI POEM) I left a right where the nipple cheeps kiss in each nest of the black bra hung inside your bathroom door.
[UNTITLED] Was it out of kindness I dropped a compass into the volcano so the lava will know which way to flow.
UNEARTHED TO EARTH flappilating like fire caught the shot bird scuds mud with its misflying dyings— but see in poetry's sky the knott likewise flails and fails to find his wings
HISTORY Hope . . . goosestep.
AT THE CROSSROADS The wind blows a sheet of paper to my feet. I pick it up. It is not a petition for my death.
I SHOULD HOPE SO Next year when this book is pulped and the pulp recycled to print your Collected Poems, will I still be here still writing this?
WAS Age 20 to 40 everyday I said "I wish I was dead." 40 to 65 each day I cried "I wish I was alive!" 65 to whenever daily I whisper "Wish I was either."
FRAMEPOEM First, make a 100 minute movie. Then take the 1 million 440 thousand frames, or stills: take each frame, blow it up, print it, put a frame around it, then take all 1 million 440 thousand pictures, hang them in a gallery, consecutively in a line so that the first frame of the movie is the first picture inside the door and the last, last: you get the idea. Then have the people who come in RUN past the 1 million 440 thousand pictures, so that in this way they become both spectator and projector.
(for Anne-Marie Stretter)
Standing on the youthhold I saw a shooting star And knew it predestined encounter with the sole love But that comet crashed into the earth so hard Tilted its axis a little bit not much just enough To make me miss meeting her by one or two yards.
[UNTITLED] Before going to the palmreader I glued mirrors to my palms, so the irrevocable lines and configurations that told my fate were merely reflections of the reader's eyes, eyelashes, retinal imperfections which time will perhaps deepen to blindness . . . I was about to p.s. this poem also. What do you see, O Sibyl?
17-SYLLABLE POEM the pink bubbles seem redder each time I blow them vampire bubblegum
EXCURSIONS 1 have you ever swallowed a sinkplug and drowned has someone pulled your navel till laughter gurgled down 2 let's go buy a roundtrip ticket to the maze today oh wait a ticket to the maze is always one-way
WISE SAYINGS Sitting under a tree in the forest or under a chair in the house wise sayings may pass by unheard or worse may be misheard through all these leaves and legs.
EN PASSANT While orbiting the earth at a height of one millimeter I notice it tickles.
[UNTITLED] The trafficlight on Lovers Leap never changes to red.
A BRIEF ON THE GREAT PYRAMID The Great Pyramid has been spared the ruining incursions of storm, rain and winter (imagine it in Norway or Brazil). But some say its interior is filled with millenia of showers, snowmelt, hailstones in flood. And that if that granary of water was ever released it would inundate the desert. An ocean would occur. Formless endless waves, enveloping and barren, the sole exception being the GP's peak, that lone, irreproachable island. Others say this sea inside is simply the sweat of the slaves who built it, hidden teardrops repressed in the daily cloud of submission, sobs that ebbed before they were born.
MEMORY OF X The better to steady myself I rose In her arms the better to stay: say She has to remember me I am nobody To be without, and I am nobody's be without her. To see in her special-glacial eyes the die Disdain she was right to feel for me; To slake all hope that atop their snowcap A mirror could ever be bent by a sigh. Now if I wake at night my veins alone Beside a dream of her amid the hoistless moon With my blanket whose holes are home; She who I pray finds me in all but the final way.
THE RUINS-READER I-beams uphold that wall— You-beams bolster me: guess Which one is going to fall.
HAIBUN: THE JUGGLER TO HIS AUDIENCE One must be able to juggle at least 3 things to be a juggler (2 is not enough). But whatever the 3 things are that one juggles—whether it's (for example) father, son and holy ghost; or mother, father, child; or id, ego, superego: whatever this minimal trinity consists of—the juggler must acknowledge that his audience is not external to the act; and the juggler must confess to that audience: One in my hand,— one in the air— and one in you.
HAIR POEM Hair is heaven's water flowing eerily over us Often a woman drifts off down her long hair and is lost
[UNTITLED] Nature doesn't need a mountain to show it exists; mist will suffice. But the poet must painfully pile up every pebble of his absent summit.
MY THEORY The universe's mission is to expand, all scientists now agree; yes, but why should that be its quest, they question— Based on my experience, my theory: if one remains in the same place, one must pay rent, life's made me understand. Landlords and clergy may disagree with me, but look, see every galaxy sneak out the back, starcase in hand?
[JULY] The sweat on my forehead shines brighter when it’s in my eyes.
BAD HABIT At least once a day, everyday, to ensure that my facial compatibility with God's is nil, I smile.
PAINTING VS. POETRY Painting is a person placed between the light and a canvas so that their shadow is cast on the canvas and then the person signs their name on it whereas poetry is the shadow writing its name upon the person.
SENIOR DISCOUNT Poor King Lear must use both hands to raise a Big Mac to his mouth.
IN PASSING in an opaque ocean the transparent fish reflect each other
BREAKFAST RHYMES I suspect the obverse of this cereal box is blank and that all the colorful images on this side would vanish too if I spun its cardboard 180.
[UNTITLED] Before the Babel Discontinuity there was no music, only poetry— when we return to that prior state as androids cyborgs we shall hate this falsity called "music"; solilovids will provide our numbered heads with much truer means of commune. Attuned we'll be without a tune.
DEATH Going to sleep, I cross my hands on my chest. They will place my hands like this. It will look as though I am flying into myself.
TO COMPLETE last one in the sentence is a rotten old period
CARPE DIEM (OCTOSYLLABICS) Yesterday it was a good day— I was alive yesterday. So Will I still be able to say The same of today, tomorrow? As of now the answer is no.
KNOT (Hendecasyllabics) After you've sewn it, bite the thread off my grave— Please leave no loose seam of me to wave above The bones unknitting, the flesh unweaving love.
SURVIVAL OF THE FITTEST GROCERIES The violence in the newspapers is pure genius A daily gift to the reader From some poet who wants to keep in good with us Brown-noser wastepaperbasket-emptier I shot 436 people that day 2 were still alive when I killed them Why do they want to be exhumed movie-stars, I mean rats still biting them, the flesh of comets, why do they walk around like that? I'm going to throw all of you into the refrigerator And leave you to claw it out with the vegetables and meats
31 SYLLABLES the poor old poet can't afford to buy copies of his early books and can't even remember the brandnames of the damn things
NOBLESSE OBLIGE I always put on a whole-slick tuxedo when I jump off tall buildings so when I'm sprawl in the streetdust that passersby can say, "Oh no: and just when he was at the height of his success; look at that tux—now that's the way to dress."
from EXCERPTS/VIETNAM: 3. Reminder to Nuke the Other Side of the Planet Upside down in the ground there is someone who walks on my soles when I walk. I'm gonna get that bastard!
[UNTITLED] Photographs— lightningbolts which, their shadows having caught up with them, perish.
STRUNG Song proceeds from a sort of inner rectitude, gut aligned with throat, foot to palate straight as sync: the link tightens each thought on a taut cord word caught between this tension, strung toe and tongue. Song proceeds all wrong unless it's wrung.
POEM Here in town the sound of bells must compete with me for room, but out over the waves can zoom alone. Across the sea bells travel unimpededly.
HENDECASYLLABICS Solemn from his post he weeps, the President, Media-closeup-mourns those lost in battle; That catch in his voice and dabbed eyes' sentiment Show us once more he's no heartless general: Techwise aides to produce this tearful event, Offcam sodomize him with an icicle.
IN ORDER the dead you wrote about in order to forget about so you could write about the living are still living there where you aren't
[UNTITLED] The moon's a wishingwell you threw all your sources at, but you wasted them. Everything is coming true, but for the last time. The moon will soon be tossed into you.
GETTOGETHER backyard barbecue I repeat over the heat what my doctor said to anyone who'll listen juice oozes from the red meat
TO X You're like a scissors popsicle I don't know to whether jump back or lick
MY RIVER The closer it gets to the sea the more it aches for its source, the wound that sprung it from the ground.
GOODBYE If you are still alive when you read this, close your eyes. I am under their lids, growing black.
TRIP . . .Jesus walking on the water . . .keeps tripping over . . .the flying fish
PERFECTION Cueballs have invented insomnia in an attempt to forget eyelids
[UNTITLED] Do they let you still keep your crutches when they crucify you, as if you could even manage the goshdarn things with your hands out like that. Heck, they’d have to nail them up to your armpits.
SPORT Flinging your door keys into the wishingwell will not unlock the secrets of what you wish for down in your own depths, and is not even funny.
SECURITY If I had a magic carpet I'd keep it Floating always Right in front of me Perpendicular, like a door.
POEM Night, in whose death did your ennui take refuge? The women all lay their kerchiefs on the water, and stepped back.
[UNTITLED] I think I can see the handholds that might enable me to climb up to where the toeholds begin, but will I ever reach either.
[UNTITLED] Even when the streets are empty, even at night, the stopsign tells the truth.
[UNTITLED] Your nakedness: the sound when I break an apple in half.
[UNTITLED] I tried but they wouldn't let me put tombstones on the merrygoround for a ride
31 SYLLABLES even the wisest (even the esteemed poets who when I was young acclaimed me as promising) have at times been proven wrong
ADULTERER WITH NO MOUTH AMUSES WORLD* Not having a mouth is no joke! Imagine an ax left by somebody, sinksank into some treetrunk: and each day you go by, the embedded ax seems higher, higher, until finally, one day, jumping, you're just barely able to brush the fine of the grain of the bottom of the axhandle with your fingertips—and yet the tree has not grown. Nor have you shrunk. Imagine: imagine trying to explain this to someone if you didn't have a mouth.
* Newspaper misprint
FOOTNOTE All of us who lived on Earth and all our loves and wars may not appear at all in the moon's memoirs.
MADE FOR EACH OTHER Today a super-model stopped me on the street And asked me to marry her because She said She wanted to eat all the rat-poison in the world for her wedding-supper
BEDDYBYE Just hope that when you lie down your toes are a firing-squad
PUTATIVE POEM FROM SAMURAI ERA he made a haiku before his blade took my head why not a tanka tanka would have let me live fourteen syllables longer
RETORT TO PASTERNAK'S ZHIVAGO'S JESUS The centuries like barges have floated out of the darkness, to communism: not to be judged, but to be unloaded.
Note: See the last lines of "Garden of Gethsame," which is the last poem of 'The Poems of Yurii Zhivago,' the verse supplement to Pasternak’s Doctor Zhivago.
ANOTHER COLD WAR POEM So what if you lived only One second longer Than we Did: to us You will always be known as the Survivor.
DEAR ADVICE COLUMNIST I recently killed my father And will soon marry my mother; My question is: Should his side of the family be invited to the wedding?
MAY EAGLES GUARD YOUR GRAVE! The weird thing is, I can't remember if the above is a phrase I read or heard somewhere, or if I wrote it myself. (And, is it a blessing, or a curse?)
PROPHECY When I stepped up onto the TV to see what channel I weigh the card I got from the slot said You’re going to travel far away don’t forget to leave the remote
JUDGEMENT Brecht suggests that writing Poems about trees is a crime To which Nordbrandt retorts It is a crime only if the trees Do not participate to which I respond that unfortunately As long as paper is made of Trees they do collaborate Their flesh provides the site Its white is what I write on To commit the crime you're Complicit by reading here
LOVELADE The sea is the cargo of empty ships Moon bears the sun when it’s gone My face with the trace of your lips Will fare from now on and on
SONG When my shadow falls off of me I yell "So long!" But when I fall off my shadow It cries "Long so!" It seems obvious That one of us Is either falling wrong Or calling wrong.
[UNTITLED] scarecrows placed on the airport runways to frighten the fish away ah if only I were as suitably tasked
BANG BANG GLUB GLUB My ark/my life's-boat had two of everything necessary for salvation with the exception of two bullet-holes in its bottom hull.
(POEM) (CHICAGO) (1967) If you remember this poem after reading it Please go to Lincoln Park the corner of Dickens Street and sit On the bench there where M. and I kissed one night for a few minutes It was wonderful even if you forget
HOMEWORK Dear boys and girls, please don’t forget to underline my words after you erase them.
ALAS yes I allow each fool to toss around my skull but remember I tell them remember it will finally always land in Hamlet's hand
BASH —14 syllabic versions of Basho's famous frog: Furuike ya / Kawazu tobikomu / Mizu no oto If I were a pond and some frog jumped into me I wouldn't respond. I am a pond but when a frog gets intimate I keep my mouth shut. I may look like scum but some frogs can poke this pond to orgasm come. This pond is so old even its frogs want it sold to build the new road. This pond is old as me. That's how bad-off it is. Frog-visits, I doze. You're old, pond—the same as me. But when your frogs come you recall each name. This pond is year-scored as me. But frogs that shake it up just make me bored. I'll float in this pond, fearing each frog that jumps down will wash me aground.
This pond is old too— But when a frog jumps into It, it still sounds new. This pond is dead earth But listen to its rebirth When frogs take a bath. Ya, the old wash-hole— wait-a-fuck: a frog?—oh, no!— goes splasho Basho. Ya, the old North Pole where Santa Frog (ho-hop-ho) chops a splashin'-hole! Ya, old-boys brothel— watch Oscar Wilde get Basho to wet his tadpole. Ya, here's to Basho!— there's one frog-boozin' dude you should raise your glass to.
NAOMI POEM When our hands are alone, they open, like faces. There is no shore to their opening.
EMPTY I look harder in my wallet than in my mirror I already know what it holds
SIMILE FROM THE PAST When a felon was condemned to die they would place a black cloth upon the white wig of the judge before he pronounced that sentence high— And that heritage is what this page shows, words, words in their fatality, solemnly lowered in curt characters, whose bald ink declares me guilty.
TRUE HEADING no matter how slow I go how stealth my steps no matter what ways I hurry I am always bearing the path to where they are burying me
NO-ACT PLAY I'm sitting alone in my rented room. A door knocks at the door. I don't answer. It goes away. Later I leave the room, and go to my crummy job. The door returns, and knocks again. It is admitted.
FRAGMENT Because at least one couple is making love Somewhere in the world at all times, Because those two are always pressed tightly together, Hatred can never slip between them To come destroy us.
PHOLK POEM The soup is lumpy. Well then, pour it out. The soup is lumpy. Well, pour it out then! The soup is lumpy, the potato soup.
SYMMETRIES How mirrored this merging: it's like lover/loved— The poem aligns us and aims to make our skins Correspond, each of your pores barrel-grooved With one of mine, clone-gunned: then void opens Onto void, grid-ideal, union, see, it joins! First of course the skins have to be removed.
NIGHTS OF NAOMI 1 Each of her penises is a long fragment in the knife 2 Tracingpaper placed on the mirror to outline whose face 3 Whose hair of buttered blowguns 4 Clear eyes and cloudy nipples 5 Years spent wandering in front of a stab 6 Light is only a shadow which has learned to write its name across light 7 Her name rotting on the tongues of all the dead 8 Tongues which have lavished me upon me 9 Never mind delivering tomorrow's gypsy
PENNY WISE well alright I grant you he was a fascist ahem antisemitism the er war and all I'm not defending them but at least you've got to admit at least he made the quatrains run on time
Note: 2 puns explain the title and last line: "Penny wise, Pound foolish"— and: Mussolini's admirers used to say, "Well, he may be a fascist, but at least he makes the trains run on time."
IN SLEEP We brush the other, invisible moon. Its caves come out and carry us inside.
PRISONER What raw name scrapes and saws at my breath-hatch . . . This voice wanted always only to soothe, not grate. And its last noise, that rasp, that deathrale scratch? —A file, smuggled in to an empty jail cell, too late.
SHOWER I tie my handkerchief to a kite to try and dry the cries of the clouds up there. Pour, pour: oh, if only I hadn’t loaned my umbrella to that submarine!
[UNTITLED] Love almost always waits for its terms to become vague before it starts. Me—you.
MISANMYOPE They say that blinking lubricates the sight and keeps it safe— but did this World-Eye really need the lid of my brief life?
ALTERNATE FATES What if right in the middle of a battle across the battlefield the wind blew thousands of lottery tickets, what then?
STURM UNSTRUNG storm performer: see its tree-toss rage, like a pianist's hairdo soliciting bravo; can wind-cringed powerlines engage the debut of this ever-new virtuoso— weather is the prodigy of every stage
VOWS The commonplaces of the wedding ceremony would like to go back and marry the proposal's florid words— But isn't that love?
POEM the door is open but the wall which the door opens continually waits for it to enter
INSCRIBE sex is tracing paper of murder so let me lie under you when you do it
WELTENDE VARIATION # ? (homage Jacob von Hoddis) The CIA and the KGB exchange Christmas cards A blade snaps in two during an autopsy The bouquet Bluebeard gave his first date reblooms Many protest the stoning of a guitar pick Railroad trains drop off the bourgeois' pointy head A martyr sticks a coffeecup out under a firehose Moviestars make hyenas lick their spaceship God's hand descends into a glove held steady by the police At their reunion The New Faces recognize each other A spoiled child sleeps inside a thermometer A single misprint in a survival manual kills everyone The peace night makes according to the world comes
Note: von Hoddis: author of “the first Expressionist poem,” Weltende, published in 1910. His poem has been aped innumerable times (Auden’s ‘The Fall of Rome,’ for example), hence the questionmark in my title.
POEM See the unicorn’s empty sword, how its lack takes place in a lack of place. Nothingness is its own niche.
STUMPED I wish I could count up to one without first cutting off nine of my fingers
SEANCE Around the readiest table a manicurist with a hammer nails in place all hands together to hold the ring of our focus clung and keep this communion open: like jousling airliners the dead must circle before they land along the medium’s tongue.
TYPE-CAST I refused all roles until they offered me the lead in "The Co-Star Killer"—
AND SO ON suicide sex it's so much fun you take 3/4ths of a fatal dose and then fuck till you pass out you cunnil her or fellate him while they slit their wrists and then you call 911 and so on
[UNTITLED] On nights like this the heart journeys to other islands. Beaches rise and dance naked under moonlight. Inland, asleep, you see The stone face of your solitude being piled slowly.
NIGHT THOUGHT Compared to one’s normal clothes, pajamas are just as caricature as the dreams they bare: farce-skins, facades, unserious film versions of the mode diem, they seem to have come from a posthumousness; floppy statues of ourselves, slack seams of death. Their form mimics the decay that will fit us so comfortably someday.
SLUM SCENE poor children sharing back and forth their one set of Dracula’s teeth— here even the dead live hand to mouth
[UNTITLED] Rice thrown from an open grave marks the height of a ceremony somewhere in our lives.
[UNTITLED] each a prey to self’s salt though impervious to sea’s mermaids must never weep their tears would rust erode their scales their souls
PARANOID THOUGHT My roots are twisted entwining lovers, Couples passing me on the path, ignoring me, Always pretending that I am not their flower.
FLATLINES All the poems I wrote about love didn't get me a wife, and all the poems I wrote about war never brought peace to any strife, and all the poems I wrote about death [something something something] life.
[UNTITLED] after the carnival suddenly mysteriously burnt down they stirred the fortuneteller’s ashes to try and find the reason why but sadly it seems prophecy does not work in reversus
NAOMI POEM The beach holds and sifts us through her dreaming fingers Summer fragrances green between your legs At night, naked auras cool the waves Vanished O Naomi I kiss every body of you, every face
POEM please don't scold the kids who hold lollipops up for the raindrops to lick at on their way down what a waste but imagine the taste of rainbow thunder if you could get your tongue up under it
VALUE the weapons I purchased didn't finish off the fascists the love I sold my own for did not put paid to them either why'd I never think to try whatever it was I got free
[UNTITLED] Fucking; nightcrawlers smashing my anonymous.
POEM Doesn't each tree throw its shade to show boundary to the others’ thirsting thrust? Only the roots are brothers; the roots are the forest.
MUTABILITY (Polvo serán, mas polvo enamorado) Quevedo wrote he would be dust, but dust in love— And while I can't believe that millions from now A rose and a quartzstone will embrace, I can believe Still less that my arms are around you here: or how Your sharp crystals Are tearing my petals.
LEAD If I could fill these lines up with pencils instead of letters I would. Less metaphor meaning or superstition might adhere to those writing-sticks than this. Let the tool be a substitute for the work; the eraser for the point.
FROZEN (to R—) Oh I know it must feel Measureful To be the river— Source of that force Each field each flower Each fountain seeks— And then of course I have to shiver Remembering how— How few of us ever Make it down These mountain peaks.
AT THE MUSEUM THIS WEEK Poland Through The Centuries a touring Exhibition of maps drawn By German and Russian cartographers reveals There never was a Poland.
3 A.M. Time to pare down, pull in, simplify; —I'll buy a dark coat, move my lips when I read the bestseller lists . . .
OLD JOKE FROM THE TED & SYL SHOW Hectoring her as usual with a bark in His bite wit, Ted tutors his young gal Syl: God, he scold-quotes, is in the details. She grins and wanks his chin with pinkette nails And winks that mock-erotic spark in Her eye: You’re wrong, you bodkin, you big moose, You handsome sod: God is in the profile— Got one, and you’re God; you’re Ted Hughes;— Don’t got one, you’re Philip Larkin!
[UNTITLED] That mask the mirror dons when you look at it, is your face: it won't let you see its.
POEM My cheeks threw themselves as fuel into the fire of the kiss and then in succession the rest flesh bone all features flowed thusward until my entire body was gone burned away in the flue space that held between two mouths turned ash the heart or hearth that cannot last the night.
NAOMI POEM With the toys of your nape With your skin of mother-of-throe pearls And your fire-sodden glances From the sidelong world We break rivulets off the river and wave them in the air Remember the world has no experience at being you We also are loving you for the foreverth time The light, torn from leaf and cry Even your shoulders are petty crimes
[UNTITLED] whoa angel lend me a feather got a match to light it with cool puff puff PUFF oh my god is this what they mean when they say you're on high
ANOTHER RESURRECTION God sucks off tombstones until they cum, the soul up from its finest gloryhole gushers across His tongue— Only the premature flesh (for the last time/eternally) is left to detumesce, just another BJ, another JC.
[UNTITLED] The moon is your past, sea, which is why it stirs you. Each tide is a memory.
DISCRIMINATION Although not lab-test verified, I would guess that the pages of porno magazines turn yellow and crumble from the sperm shot onto them faster than the poems in my books turn yellow and crumble from the saliva spat at them by readers— or is it a fallacy on my part to assume that the products of love are always more acidic, more corrosive than the products of loathing?
NAOMI POEM (THE STARFISH ONE) Each evening the sea casts starfish up on the beach,— scattering, stranding them. They die at dawn, leaving black hungers in the sun. We slept there that summer, we fucked in their radiant evolutions up to our body. Ringed by starfish gasping for their element, we joined to create ours. All night they inhaled the sweat from our thrusting limbs, and lived. Often she cried out: Your hand!—It was a starfish, caressing her with my low fire.
'QUOTE UNQUOTE' Who wrote that we use our children to forget the size of our parents, or is that really a quote? And if it isn’t, and if I forget to write it, does that mean that someone will— But what if someone forgets to write the words that bring me here, that let me be born? Oh micro-mini-soul, you, my shirking ego, your quotemarks would just hang there in the air like wings without a bird.
DECASYLLABICS Condign rightly I get shot down each time I violate the No Poetry Zone, always the NPZ (otherwise known as the world) curtals me with hush command: one foot and I am trespass in that land, where the prose police have standby orders to kill me should I dare breach its borders, or if I even err to breathe in rhyme.
POST the one skull I'll never find between my teeth is mine anyone else's skull I may (all the dystopians say) have to suck the brains out of if no food remains postnuke postplague (I'll crack it like an egg)
[UNTITLED] As a detail in a painting frames that painting in the often memory, so, for me, your face is surrounded by your eyes. Aura!
[UNTITLED] Octopus floating in earth’s ink-ore core whose arms extend up here as trees may your branches squirt their black across my pages please
WHERE are the arrows that bear bandages instead of feathers at their ends
HOLY SHIT Gosh golly Galway Kinnell's pig is holy and I Am holy too and so are you and gee if I could only Find the name of the right saint to throw in here they Would print this next to his in all their anthology.
Note: After Kinnell's "Saint Francis and the Sow."
STORM: FARMBOY DREAMING TO REACH THE SEA I skiffed up rivers and creeks of lightning till thunder split my covers and down I drowned lung by lung to a stone of salt the cows licked.
ENLIGHTENMENT OR SENILITY? The night is paced with stars Day spaced by birds’ wings At last the spread of things Has replaced my particulars
MINOR POEM The only response to a child's grave is to lie down before it and play dead.
VISION moon of all means sun of all ends my TV screens whatever day or night sends me away
PROGRESS I advance a few whines, then am driven back twice as many whimpers.
OCCUPATION Error is everywhere, but one might hope that the graves of surveyors would at least be dug the correct distance apart.
[UNTITLED] the sixth sense is what the first five use to delude us into thinking that all we do here is see hear touch taste smell
BATHROOM MIRROR Every morning the glass empties my face of its night and then as its day is poured in I feel forsaken and my eyes strain longingly down the drain.
[UNTITLED] The heavy footsteps of the famous sink into our flesh. Moviestars carved across our pavements: I fall down to lap up the love from these fame-incisions; I lick my rain out of their name-pits.
ESCAPE PLAN I examine my skin searching for the pore with EXIT over it
MINUS For time to consist of me, it would have to halt. And space, if it wanted to exist of me, empty. I forget the other dimensions— but whatever they are, they must cease as I to be me.
A MEDIUM TO DOUBTERS How can I make you sit Beneath the clairvoyant’s High-table at seance, And, while her tongue transmits Some tremulant spirit's Long-withheld voice in trance, Make you tongue her clit, You true communicants?
Basic Instinct 2 avoids the great esthetic error of the first one by not having any Moviestars appear but the sheer Sharon: its lower-credits actors fade to shadows in this Dantean vision of the heavenly ("Eat me!") Stone alone up there on the screen.
* I know Jack Nicholson played a cameo— and Elton John played a song or so— and Ann-Margaret played his mommy— but who the hell else was in Tommy? * How many of you gazeekoids went yumyum Watching that transmutated geek Jeff Goldblum Rip off his own ear and eat it? The Fly was great! (And if he'd unzipped his fly, ripped that off, and ate?) * Ben Lyons was typically blunt in I Cover the Waterfront— his cute co-star Claudette Colbert could have frenched it: 'Ze waterfront, I co-vair.' * Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is not a film appeals to everyone— but I, I like the way it feels, I guess, to have a whole town look up my dress. * 166
The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-up Zombies blew my mind, man. Like wow! (—Was I crazy? Was I sick? Maybe I shouldn't have watched it through that Thai-stick.) * Oh sight that might have made an atheist of God, seeing the screenwriter-producer-star of Panther Squad — auteur divine, Sybil Danning—opt to not go topless! (Even John the Baptist 'd put it on his flop-list.) * Where Garbo got the great John Barrymore To play the part of her perfect paramour, Poor Joan Crawford had to ball his dull brother Lionel: Life is c'est la vie at der Grand Hotel. * It's a crime shame that that scene where Sean Penn tied Madonna naked to a chair and then put on her dress and licked her thighs got like totally cut out of Shanghai Surprise. * Casting, like ripeness, is all: and thus the Dantean vision of love that moves Basic Instinct 2 improves on 'BI One' by removing all moviestars save heaven-own Sharon Stone. (Which leaves just me and Her up there on the screen, alone.)
Note: I don't know if the Movie-Q constitutes a form per se, but I made up some rules for it: the complete name of the film must appear within a quatrain rhymed AABB. The Movie-Q must try to be funny, or piquant, or pointed. Etc., etc., though actually I can't think of any more rules.
WISH I COULD (AND DO IT IN 31 SYLLABLES) like someone whose quick halt in the midst of traffic to check his wrist makes him late for that appointment— that's how to think about death
ANCIENT MEASURES As much as someone could plow in one day They called an acre; As much as a person could die in one instant A lifetime—
POEM! Shh, you'll wake up the stains on my bedsheets.
TO X Somewhere in history Somewhere in untold ages Somewhere in the sands of time Somewhere in the vast seas of eternity There is one person Only one Who could understand me and love me And you're it So get with it
JUNK Nothing evicts our everydayself (our (as Heidegger calls it) they-self ) like a glimpse of that tenant within, Occupant Corpse. And to think that all the mail addressed to it is elegant throwaways.
[UNTITLED] Nothing could be born if there didn’t already exist a metaphor for it, or if the whole world wasn’t a metaphor for the non-existence of this nothing, this none-too-future something.
NOTE After Cocteau wrote in his journal that "Beauty limps" he did not go out and break his leg.
HERE it's dark in the asylum's dayroom where the insane count me on their fingers though I still add up to nothing therapeutically speaking
FEARS (CONT.) niche niche niche niche the birds go seeking a covert eclipse eclipse eclipse eclipse my shadow hides behind the sun this this this this every corner finds a crevice to keep wish wish wish wish the oldest word pacifies the youngest infant
[UNTITLED] are there some invulnerabilities too hard to bear perhaps the bulletproof vest stabs itself in secret
SANS To cross-section a pinpoint, reveal what quadrant still exists. Oh keyhole-cleaved, data mint. Tin ion, meet iron quark. Grasped at or loved— It's a cease orifice.
THE DAILY ROUNDS I keep a TV monitor on my chest so that all who approach me can see themselves and respond appropriately.
CHARGE Why don't the ranks in a marathon carry little piggybanks, and listen to the coins clank around as they run: wouldn't that be an encouraging sound? (Oh surely I can't be the only one the sanguine clashing of cash spurs on!)
WHIMCAM Lynch mob wearing haloes, the public prose insists that every artist must solicit its curse praise and spurn a sterner muse: will Coriolanus nurse and gnaw and showcase his scars when media's next queasy closeup comes?— Not me. Not my poems.
TRY ME ON FOR SIZE My head is put on and taken off by one thought after another doff, although strangely it seems to fit none of them. And yet somehow it always stays in style, that hat.
WORSE All my life I had nothing, but worse than that, I wouldn't share it.
POEM TO POETRY Poetry, you are an electric, a magic, field—like the space between a sleepwalker's outheld arms!
SKIRT My hem has a snake threaded through it to hold it down when the wind blows and then when the wind is still to give it a twist of tremor.
POEM The pose heightened in desires, the pose. The several lovers in their young arms.
NAOMI POEM What language will be safe When we lie awake all night Saying palm words, no fingertip words— This wound searching us for a voice Will become a fountain with rooms to let.
THE WOULDBE NONCHALANT (prosepoem) I try to shrug it off, but when my shoulders poke themselves up to form the shrug they get stuck, and I slump down trapped inbetween these shoulder-peaks; so I live in the valley of a shrug, in its perpetual shadow.
BREAKFAST You know how I like my dawns god— 'll Just tap off this nubei-pink 'n' 'n' Call yuh call That a 3 minute dawn?!! You need a new timer old timer
POEM The brow is the face’s map, on which can be read the twists and turns it took to get here. Yet the seams and cracks on one’s footsoles show that only through detour can the road reach itself.
POEM The amputation of my stilts has left me leveled, eye to eye with what should have been cut off, myself.
MAMA, WATER, BLUE, SOB, PERSIMMON, ETC. If everyone on this planet was forced to write one word on a piece of paper, their favorite word, the resulting anthology might add up to less than Shakespeare, who had, or so I've read, a 40K vocabulary: wouldn't most of us just put down the same few words; how many could resist the usual abstract homilars, our limited minds consisting of each other, non sequitir. I would be ashamed to show that book to my UFO guests, no matter how repeated or urgent their requests.
EVERY RIFT WITH ORE How fiercely foilsome the facial knife shivs its two blades up to where the forehead ends as wound-deep-wedged widow's-peaks: how weakly the old hero hair-line fights back and fends, each pass of day fewer gray strands save me— how deadly dull's the duel our sword lives.
[UNTITLED] Helplessly the clock's hands fail to cleanse its numerals as they pass, to wipe away the jealous glances and fretful glares of our daily vigil, drab fears and doubts whose dust will come to filthify time at last.
FOOTNOTE TO CAVAFY Sure hope them barbarians Will allow us to pay them To take photographs of them Before they slaughter us.
LESSON Even if the mountain I climbed Proved to be a duncecap really, It was only on gaining its peak That that knowledge reached me.
[UNTITLED] mute/hard forboden words line the mountain down which we melt— stones that wore our trickle tongues away
[UNTITLED] so here I am if truth be told feeble and lame either febrile or cold senile-years-old
[UNTITLED] All I can do is lie here limb by limb alone and try not to cry out too loudly.
[UNTITLED] Searching it goes, alone at night, —my beacon of ashes.
SKETCH FOR AN ARTIST A paper lighthouse with crayon beacons that make visible a glass clinked against a waterfall to test the acoustics for a concert where we sit and watch a thumbprint howl out its whorls— I can draw things like these anytime but I can't write them.
TWO CRIMES 1 poem/accomplice distracting your attention for a second or is it hours while I pick and pick your pocket's flowers 2 the holdup went down as the clockhands show at 1:55 so I refused to stick em up because I never no I never mime time
BOTHERSOME what's that clatter-clack a jack in the box having a heart attack open him up crack the seal but if we let the poor guy out we'll just have to close him in again and this time with a coffin so let's save an hour or a minute and bury his self with him in it
FLAKE TAKES Snow, echo of lightyears, your time it appears to reach the ground is never now. Like truth the snowflakes peek from behind a veil. Sunset: the snowfall lacks (altitude vs. attitude) the hauteur (condensation vs. condescension) of the skyfall. All this missive whitefold is franked by a pattern its own; stamped unique: ‘Return to Sender’—? No: Deceased.
UNSPEAKABLE A comma is a period which leaks.
IN VAIN I like to look at myself in the dull gold of the frames that contain erotic paintings and, as I gaze, ask, as if I cared, "Will moonlit lashes continue to surround sunlit eyes?"
THE COMMUTER'S DREAM Every morning an afterdinner mint dissolves around us. In it, cars touch, like tiny hands at a football huddle— headlights. Rush-hour pushes through mist or dark its stubborn, pre-peekaboo path; a worm fed into a pencil-sharpener.
[UNTITLED] perhaps I still wake up I still live perhaps but if I do I hope I hope I do it for sloppiness sake [
[UNTITLED] Those who have an ocean to contain them look askance at those who have only an eye, but neither of you can see me.
WINTER SUN Full-stop, period, dot, erased at times by birds. Or asterisk, whose footnote clouds our breath with words.
[CLEARLY] clearly my eyeglasses need cleaning but but I wasn't looking at anything
VANT First, cover yourself with chameleons. Then walk down the street. The one who recognizes you as you is your enemy. The one who recognizes you as Greta Garbo is your lover.
FORTUNE having found a atop a weed's aureole however it got there is it wrong of me to look for bucks on roses
[UNTITLED] someone's lost handkerchief pinned on our community bulletinboard and I thought to just touch it just touch it that's all honest I wouldn't have done anything else
THE CYCLE what's the use waking all night to write down truths which dawn quite easily refutes
INTHREADABLE each snowflake’s a maze whose center no other flake can find the ways to enter
LOW-ROOT THOUGHT beyond reign of human songs remain Celan says meaning his but not mine
MAYBE (TO X) a stopsign stranded in a sea of cacti won't grow needles maybe but then even I take on some characteristics of human when I'm with you
LUST The parachutist wearing stilts so long they reach the ground Wants To jump anyway.
SUMMER DAYS a butterfly with a sandwich bite out of one wing flies away from the inhabitoads of our shadow or tries to
GYPTIAN architect of the Sphinx must have sketched his first plan knelt down with a finger to draw lines in the sand— isn't that how he began?
THE TENTATIVES If the arrow is merely An elongated bullseye Do I know this head (Target that grins and winks) Like mine surrounded By eye speedbreaks
POEM If the poet could say to everybody, “I release you from your duty to me so that you might tend more purely the grass and the trees and all the earth,” then the poet could say to eternity, “OK, let’s go—we’re free.”
[UNTITLED] Nakedness exists only an instant— Quickly becomes flesh, becomes thought: The night is a torch of comas . . .
A STROLL IN THE COUNTRY Here for ear-rings my lobes Are pierced by scythes Whose handletips bump along The very ground I despise!
EVICTIVE If the body is a house, eventually that house pushes us from its rooms out onto its ledges. Age must live on a ledge.
[UNTITLED] This island has Been discovered by a great explorer, But fortunately, News of the discovery Has not reached here yet.
THE FINAL WORD Our farewells lack the plausibility of our departures.
OR NOT TO BE Not Hamlet but his shadow shows the clarity of performance— see how brilliantly it holds its stance, soliloquy bold and brando. But then of course it is like all such primadonnas, liable to be much too much dependent upon its prompter, the sun.
HUMIDITY’S TONES Four AM, nothing moving, no hurry, dawn still has time to be choosy selecting its pinks. But now a breeze brushes across me—the way my skin is cooled off by the evaporation of sweat, this artistry, this system sombers me: when I am blown from the body of life will it be refreshed? I dread the color of the answer Yes.
SIC TRANSIT Tangentially the sun unites itself in us, forged by our transparency into another shadow to avert one’s eyes from.
PAST FUTURE Idly wondering if the underlined items in one's itinerary are more likely to occur. Ditto diary.
OCTNOV Stickum leaves fluttering down Pin unpin each path’s compass The season on our sleeve has shown Another course for us
STRANGLEHOLD 9 planets and 1 sun make 10 holes into which the fingers go so smoothly but who is wearing these gloves that orbit my throat
THE GETAWAY It's 1969—and I'm All lam: down These libertysplit streets U.S.A. I Throw a measuringtape out, run its length, Throw again, run, Throw, run.
THE THIRST Light through the green leaves drinks an absinthe of itself, entering the earth as forthwith, as fleshed. Sweat dripping from a sundial regulates the time for those who wait their turn at the spigot.
PRIVATE SCREENING My soul fell asleep during the beautiful part of the mirror, leaving my body to watch it alone.
POEM IN H that cloud overhead has a hundred places to go and none of them here
INTERRUPTUS Wait. What are you. I'm a poet. I write filler for suicide-notes. Like: I love you. Alright. Continue.
THE TRINITY I don't recall the faith I was born with I don't know the faith I will die with all I can do is hope and pray that the faith I live with differs from them in every way
DIRECTIONS A kite in the shape of a map floats over the land it depicts, but at night no-one sees its roads at the end of which a child feels his hand tugged upward, disappearing in salutations.
FETE at summerfest I think of the mallet the crematory uses to graniate the harder bones
WHY if that bird soars across this wall which halts us why does it then fly back here again
4 TRANSVERSIONS OF GOETHE'S WANDERERS NACHTLIED II
Every hill is overcome with peace, the trees are a dome down which the wind echoes to mass one last breath; the forest song has rung its close, bird by bird, descending— await your death no longer. Listen: this too is ending.
Over all the hilltops is peace; in all the treetops no breeze endures, merely the breath of one; the birds are gone, or at least their song has ceased. You have your wish: desist, desist! Thy will on earth be done.
You can feel your breath stilling all the hills, and oh, what an undulant illusion! The birds have wrapped their wings around their bills and sleep: soon you too will be no one.
Now peace envelops the hilltops and every tree's summit seems to submit its final breath to the pall and harshly over-all hushing of even the baby birds' calls when you, you and your haste, come near— Beware: your place is here.
[UNTITLED] We can tell when the famous will appear For their theme songs precede them We can tell when the dead will appear For the famous precede them
[UNTITLED] in case it forgot was the apple not reminded to rot before being put into Eve's hand
MY LIFE BY ME Every autobiography longs to reach out of its pages and rip the pseudonym off its cover.
YAMAZATO WA MANZAI OSOSHI UME NO HANA (Basho)
* April: and still the Mummers have not come Up to our mountain village; plum-blossom. * I wonder why the Mummers have not come This year to our mountain town; plum-blossom. * For some reason the Mummers have not come This season to our hill-town; plum-blossom. * This year The Rolling Stones have not come To fill our stadium; The old men fear, and wonder If April is really here: plum-blossom. * Up snowthawed roads unplowed the Mummers come To reach our mountain village; plum-blossom. * This time each year the Mummers used to come Appear in our mountain town; plum-blossom. * Springtime is when the Mummers always come To play our mountain town; hey, plum-blossom!
* Springtime; but where are the Mummers who play Each year our mountain town: plum-blossom-spray. * Each Spring a troupe of actors used to come To amuse our mountain town; plum-blossom. * It's Spring, but the Actors Troupe has not come To strut our mountain village; plum-blossom. * Spring has come, so where's the Actors who come To our mountain town each year; plum-blossom. * The Stray Players are late this year— Plague- or war-killed maybe; and we're Still stuck in this dullsville hill-town . . . Fuck that plum shit: let's get on down! * Carpet's out, where's that Actors Troupe?— Stow those town gowns: go bed goodnight. Dull mountain village, all lit up. Your plum-tree blossoms glare too white. * The mime-troupe of actors is late this year To climb to our mountain village up here; Is that why the trees in whiteface appear.
* The Lookout yells them Actors ain't nowhere in sight— Our mountain village mourns; the orchard wears white. * Where the heck are those Kabuki— Nothing to do but sleep tonight . . . Our mountain town looks plain empty; The trees alone step out in white.
Note: In Japan, the plum blossom is treated as an early sign of spring. It is pale white with oval-shaped petals.
POEM The thumb is the scoop of the hand and often it empties it. Tongue head ditto.
[UNTITLED] trying to find the name five letters first letter J of an ancient prophet or god which I need to complete my cross word puzzle and my cross
FLAWLESS Mopbucket toed across a jeweled floor. To scrub down between these gemstuds is hard, and yet I have to cleanse every dust-shard that might perturb the great ones who walk here. Only rubies diamonds pearls and other beautifuls can their bare soles encounter.
WEIGHED Always jumping from one pan of the scale to the other, always trying to measure your absence.
[UNTITLED] Long candle, ponder, short candle, think.
TWO EPIGRAMS FROM A NOTEBOOK DATED 1984 1. [The ageing epigrammatarian] Youth's engine of thumbs revs and purrs— Oh: I am all fingers now. 2. [Plus ça change . . . ] When young I was attracted to what they call Older women. Older now I am attracted to what they call Old women.
COURSE Our ship needs wheels to sail across these waves of stone if Medusa is our figurehead.
[UNTITLED] Check out the Obituaries—each day there’s another page and guess what, those fucks, there’s nobody on it but us.
SNAGGYPOO SNUGGUMS POEM Morning always lets down strings, knots of light to be untied by our hair— but come the soar of night’s coiffure, all them puppets lie back in their cots.
[UNTITLED] the past and the future are my parents meeting for the first time when I die
[UNTITLED] on the one hand but on the other hand I rest
[UNTITLED] now that I die my past becomes as endless as my future used to be
[UNTITLED] Silence disguises itself as vowels, but the loudness of consonants is also a ruse, a mask worn to betray the words we chose to say only for their echoes.
[UNTITLED] Age retracts me, filling my hands with shirtcuffs as I shrink, reduced to secondchild. My skin is smoke from a paper house, my hair. Prepare a needle sea for me to walk on. (Prepare me. Make sure my cries are wrapped up in a leaf.)
NEOLOGIST In a dream he saw every word of his tongue flashed on a screen one by one, not in alphabetical file, but the order of their origin, and after the latest newest word blinked off, he woke up shouting the next one.
[UNTITLED] a jet zooming by may see climbers on a cliff and never know if those souls ascend or descend— to the fast slow has no end
EPIGRAM And I would rather read the early Pound, 'high deeds' that need no theorymanding, than wade those Canto footnotes round till I drowned in understanding.
[[UNTITLED] in the hand's cup the palm is an irreducible drop a shrunken gnosis no one can drink up
SUPERSTAR The winners of all those lookalike contests must suffer and even become anguished and ashamed as years pass and the hurt worsen every time they forget to avert the mirror's blow and the blame of each tiny flaw or variance which distinguishes theirs from that single face fame graced.
POEM FOR NOW I live bent over now like pages folded down in books, the ones I meant to get back to but won't. These are my dog-ear years. What I write now will never be read again.
[STATE DINNER] The diplomatic corps doles and controls these photo ops that show how treaty works— their peace party pops with as many corks as it would take to fill the unposed holes that will drain the bodies of the proles they negotiated away in trade today.
SHUT FLIGHT the knob's the head the hinges open-spread would make wings but see the keyhole like an eye that seeks its beak why does the doorbird leave its nest only when it's closed
HOUSE AND HOLDMATES how long we two lived between each other in a perfect renting of me and you
STORMFORM All the lines of this poem would like to contain the sound of the rain against my windowpane, but I'm going to have it remain here. Which I hope is home.
[UNTITLED] you wake up only when the dream you're having can no longer come true you wake up only when it's the same old you again and not that dream person you wake up in suspense at what will happen next in the dream that just ended
ODD Hard rhymes of childhood ride me back to lack's kitchen in which it's leftovers again: from the cyclops cupboard I plop another half-ate Ulysses onto my plate.
THE AMNESIAC'S NAME Whatever it is it is The only alias Anonymous never uses.
QUICKIE Poetry is like sex on quicksand ergo foreplay should be kept at a minimum
[UNTITLED] Sometimes at screenings of my movies once the first scene begins the audience is gassed with soporifics and when they've dropped off I enter naked and rub my breasts belly and X-rated parts against their faces; later from the limo I send my PA in to slap them awake after the endcredits and then make each one confess what they dreamt of during the show: the plots of these dreams are spot recorded and serve as scenarios for my future films.
[APRIL] raindrops windowpane I can't see myself wearing more daring outfits
CONCEPTUALIST [UNTITLED] How literally I littered the pavements of our treeless city with twelve million poems printed in real 24-pure gold-leaf lettering each page cost thousands of dollars to do all paid for by MOMA Wall Street CIA so hey! don't step on my Autumn Lied, okay?
[UNTITLED 31-SYLLABLE POEM] would the white rabbit in the snowclad mountaincleft have been shot if it had simply kept its eyes closed could my scope have picked it out
[UNTITLED 31-SYLLABLE POEM] if kidnappers know the exact time of day when their victim was born they should strike at that moment psychology would suggest
[UNTITLED 31-SYLLABLE POEM] was I leering at the alluringness of that tanka master as she read her work or was I counting her lips' syllables
[UNTITLED] that poem I was working on in 1959 and the half-done one-act play from 1969 and the novel I started in 1979 and the painting I made sketches for in 1989 and the website I planned to debut 1999 and that Po-Viz project from 2009 are around here somewhere maybe I should finish them up today
[UNTITLED] Once I had to leave you so I arranged for earth-tremors at night so in your sleep you'd think I was caressing you—
SAY TO SAY Say ten snowflakes light on your fingertips, one on each, the ten snowflakes that match your ten fingerprints in pattern the most, the closest it's possible to get and yet remain a similie, since similies like M-and-M's melt not in your hand but in your mouth say.
[UNTITLED] Hamlet in the nunnery kneels to take his veilful vow while Ophelia scales with sword and bow the enemy's walls
EMBRACE the problem with the end is that you have to start reaching out for it beforehand and often your arms find themselves filled with the penultimate instead
POEMPATH: PERIOD Each syllable a steppingstone till you stumble on this one:.
POEM All my soapbubbles dance on daggerpoint. I throw dice while jacking off and cum snake-eyes. My enemies list consists of nothing but autographs.
TROTH if you drew a string through the entwined fingers of lovers might it come out all knots which would then in theory right be too tight to be untied
[UNTITLED] They wandered through the hand in hand.
METAPHOR VS. METONYMY As the hand carries on the function of the sleeve to a somewhat absurd degree, so you could take over for me if we ever finish this sentence, whose period is its cufflink.
[UNTITLED 31-SYLLABLE POEM] the women I loved all lived in other cities which I guess could be one reason they all loved me since none of us ever moved
[UNTITLED] I: They're out to get me. You: Whaddaya mean, "they"? I: Oh; sorry: I meant you—you're out to get me. You: That's more like it.
[UNTITLED 31-SYLLABLE POEM] in the country of the blind everyone I see is pointing at me— I knew I should have bought that pricier deodorant
RESIDUE I woke to find a foursome of sex lying atop me as if I were a bed on which they blended. One was a dream none has unless it came as two to them— but is it true? Three, four: please vomit over the edge of the cliff, not on it, I pleaded.
DAYS Ceilings ring with morning's occasions; evening's toll us to the floor.
THE SAME WITH POEMS When you set the table you want to place the knives and forks and napkins so perfectly, so alignedly, that everyone will hesitate to pick them up, to break that symmetry. The food should rot while the diners gaze down dazed.
SUMMIT on this hill at sunset I will feel the contrast of it going down and me up here for a moment as final
TOWERS 1. Pisa’s power to bend the head sideways must be envied by history, which can only force it forwards— and Babel of course is praised in every book (on every page) for the way it slanticulates our words. 2. Galileo drops a pound of lead and a pound of feathers from the top, one of which hits you on the head, but which one— (which head?)— It makes you think, as well as stop. 3. Every tower around here is always in need of repair, due to the superstitious habit of leaning over to peek into its 13th floor to make sure it’s still not there.
[UNTITLED] Fingerprints look like ripples because time keeps dropping another stone into our palm.
RECAP It was that kind of day the kind that goes through you like a skewer but is okay as long as there's someone beside you waiting ready to lick the skewer when it emerges from you
[UNTITLED] My fishinghook is a bell which the fish brush against to trill and toll and make my pole tremble, which is why I never catch any.
PLACEMENTS only when the welcome-mat is exactly centered at its core can a labyrinth begin
WHAT ABOUT PENS? Always remember that day follows day, but night precedes night— and that your hands are merely microscopes for pencils to look through.
UNTITLED Unscarred unscratched Unnicked as the bottom Of the lost wishingwell.
POEM The dead paperweight rests on my lips, occuring to me like a cry from the words it has crushed: think of what it saves from scattering minds and windows’ wind-drafts, think of all the blink-wafts of Argus trying to read this.
[UNTITLED] Some have a bodied voice Their tongue its skeleton Mine's a wraith Waiting for a wind
TRANSVERSION OF GOETHE'S WANDERERS NACHTLIED II Hear all the hinter hilltops and every copse of trees hush, when the wind drops below a breeze, and even the wing-flaps of the birds bruit the air no more; and their songs cease— Slowly, by degrees, like you the forest stops. And have you found it there, perhaps, at last: Nowhere. Tear up your maps.
THEIRTOWN a lack of streetsigns shows those who live here more fortunate than us they never need to know where they are
[UNTITLED] Eternity gnaws its thirst. Its tusked planets rut suns raw. Its grapes mist the sea. But sleep flows to the fallen.
WANT TO EARN BIG MONEY CARVING TOMBSTONES? CALL NOW FOR DETAILS: 217 1940
Note: as carved on my headstone; unfortunately snow or grass obscures most of the phonenumber.
"2012 was a great year for “collected poems.” Two deserve special attention: Edward Dorn’s and Bill Knott's. These are keenly quintessential—and essential—American poets." —Don Share, http://www.poetryfoundation.org/harriet/2012/12/thepoetry-foundation-staff-picks-for-2012/ "I think Bill Knott is a great poet, one of my favorite American poets of the second half of the 20th century. I also think he’s incredibly important: important in the sense of very influential." —Johannes Goranski, Montevidayo blog, May 16, 2011 "[T]he remarkable poet Bill Knott is not the type to win prizes, become the pet of academic critics or cultivate acolytes. But this thorny genius has added to the art of poetry." —Robert Pinsky, Washington Post, 2005 "Bill Knott is our contemporary e.e. cummings . . . . Like cummings, he is brilliant at both micro and macro." —Cindra Halm, Rain Taxi, Fall 2004 "For the past thirty-five years Bill Knott has shown himself to be one of our very best poets and perhaps the most original. . . . I think he is one of the few poets of my generation who will remain with us." —Stephen Dobyns, Harvard Review (Spring 2002) "Bill Knott is a meld between Gerard Manley Hopkins and MTV, producing poems with the former's violent beauty and the latter's largely ironic postmodern presence." —Mary Jo Bang, Lingua Franca (May 2000)
"Knott was an incredibly important poet to me and still is; I think Bill Knott is a genius and probably the least known great poet in America. It's really kind of pathetic that he's not as well known as he was even thirty years ago because he's even better now." —Thomas Lux, The Cortland Review (August 1999) "Bill Knott is one of the best poets writing in America. Without question, he is the most original." —Kurt Brown, Harvard Review (Spring 1999) "Bill Knott is a genius." —Tom Andrews, Ohio Review (1997) "It is no accident that the major British and American poets of the 19th and 20th century were outsiders. . . . The most original poet of my generation, Bill Knott, is also the greatest outsider." —Stephen Dobyns, AWP Chronicle (1995) "Bill Knott is the secret hero of a lot of poets. . . . [P]oets who differ radically from Knott look to his work for the shock of recognizing themselves." —David Kirby, American Book Review (1991) "Bill Knott's poems . . . are the poems Beckett's Gogo would write if he were among us." —Sharon Dunn, Massachusetts Review (1990) "[Knott's 'Poems 1963-1988' is] a powerful and original book, a record of one of the most disturbing imaginations of our times. Few people can create a world so completely and concisely as Knott does time and time again." —Kevin Hart, Overland (1990)
"Knott is no parlor poet. His work is the most sharply original of any poet in his generation." —Jim Elledge, Booklist (1989) "Among people who know his work, Bill Knott is regarded as one of the most original voices in American poetry." —Charles Simic, blurb for Poems 1963-1988 (1989) "Knott sets up principles far outside most of those we know, and he always writes up to and beyond those standards." —Sandra McPherson, blurb for Outremer (1989) "Bill Knott is an American original. No one else could have imagined what James Wright once referred to as Bill Knott's 'indispensable poems.'" —Stuart Dischell, Harvard Book Review (1989) "I think Bill Knott is the best poet in America right now." —Thomas Lux, Emerson Review (1983) "Bill Knott's first book, 'The Naomi Poems,' published in 1968, established him instantaneously as one of the finest poets in America. Subsequent publications deepened and reinforced that reputation." —Andrei Codrescu, The Baltimore Sun (1983) "[Knott's poems are] shrouded almost always in the glaring and polluted light William Burroughs foresaw with such brilliance in 'Naked Lunch.' In fact, Knott, Poet of Interzone, is the poet Burroughs seemed to call for in his seminal novel. . . . Knott is one of a handful of original poets working today. His genius suits the times better than any poet I've read . . ." —Robert Peters, Los Angeles Times (1983)
"With the death of Berryman, Knott seems to me to be the chief embodiment in language today of Mallarmé's spirit. . . " —John Vernon, Western Humanities Review (1976) ". . . Knott's originality as a poet: he is absurd and classical and surrealist all at once. A marvelously impossible animal." —Paul Zweig, Contemporary Poetry in America (1974) "At his best, Knott is a kind of surreal classicist. . . . He is already a formidable poet." —Karl Malkoff, Crowell's Handbook of Contemporary American Poetry (1974) "[Knott's] images are astonishing. Whatever you may think of Knott's poems, they have not been written before by anyone else. . . . Poetry such as this strikes me as extending our awareness." —Louis Simpson, New York Times Book Review (1969) "Bill Knott is one of the most remarkable poets to appear since James Wright and James Dickey." —Ralph J. Mills, Jr., Poetry (1969) "I think [Bill Knott] is one of the best poets I know." —James Wright, blurb for The Naomi Poems (1968) "I think the most significant group of young poets are those published in Choice and The Sixties, and the most impressive of these is certainly William Knott." —Kenneth Rexroth, Harper's Magazine (June 1965)