Poems for 27 1/2+

The Camel (James Tate)

I recieved the strangest thing in the mail
today. It’s a photograph of me riding a camel
in the desert. And yet I have never ridden a
camel, or even been in a desert. I am wearing
a jellaba and a keffiyeh and I’m waving a rifle.
I have examined the photo with a magnifying
glass and it is definitely me. I can’t stop
looking at the photo. I have never even dreamed
of riding a camel in the desert. The ferocity
in my eyes suggests I am fighting some kind of
holy war, that I have no fear of death. I must
hide this photo from my wife and children. They
must not know who I really am. I must not know.

bukowskiNo Title (Bukowski)

all theories
like cliches
shot to hell,
all those small faces
looking up
beautiful and believing;
I wish to weep
but sorrow is
I wish to believe
but belief is a
we have narrowed it down to
the butcherknife and the
wish us


Never forget (Kobayashi Issa)

Never forget:
we walk on hell,
gazing at flowers.

Suicide Song (Tony Hoagland) [excerpt]

Killing yourself is wasteful, like spilling oil

At sea or not recycling all the kisses you’ve been given,
And anyway, who has clothes nice enough to be caught dead in?

Not me. You stay alive you stupid asshole
Because you haven’t been excused,

You haven’t finished though it takes a mulish stubbornness
To chew this food.

It is a stone, it is an inconvenience, it is an innocence,
And I turn against it like a record

Turns against the needle
That makes it play.

For the Young Who Want To (Marge Piercy)

Talent is what they say
you have after the novel
is published and favorably
reviewed. Beforehand what
you have is a tedious
delusion, a hobby like knitting.

Work is what you have done
after the play is produced
and the audience claps.
Before that friends keep asking
when you are planning to go
out and get a job.

Genius is what they know you
had after the third volume
of remarkable poems. Earlier
they accuse you of withdrawing,
ask why you don’t have a baby,
call you a bum.

The reason people want M.F.A.’s,
take workshops with fancy names
when all you can really
learn is a few techniques,
typing instructions and some-
body else’s mannerisms

is that every artist lacks
a license to hang on the wall
like your optician, your vet
proving you may be a clumsy sadist
whose fillings fall into the stew
but you’re certified a dentist.

The real writer is one
who really writes. Talent
is an invention like phlogiston
after the fact of fire.
Work is its own cure. You have to
like it better than being loved.


Fall in Love (attributed to Fr. Pedro Arrupe)

Nothing is more practical than
finding God, than
falling in Love
in a quite absolute, final way.
What you are in love with,
what seizes your imagination, will affect everything.
It will decide
what will get you out of bed in the morning,
what you do with your evenings,
how you spend your weekends,
what you read, whom you know,
what breaks your heart,
and what amazes you with joy and gratitude.
Fall in Love, stay in love,
and it will decide everything

she reads

Lament (Randy Roark)

Nothing is ever
what it seems so I
just go blindly into it-

that has always somehow
seemed important-
to just go blindly into it.


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