June 19, 2003

Three Poems by James Tate, from his 1976 collection, "Viper Jazz."

Village 104

The architecture, sleepy Mexican
is afraid to go out.
Young couples go there to settle down
and not raise a family.
Retired people open shops
and refuse to sell anything.
It is an easy place to like
without really liking it.
You can get to know
without really knowing it.
It's the invisible that is ruthless.
Somebody is going to grow up
and kill it, make a killing,
so you'll never seem so lonesome.

Disease

We were just a couple of drifters
on this planet of
some odd billion customers
open all night. She was always
loving and attentive
but made
what I considered
an abnormal number of morbid references,
so that at times I felt like a fungus.
Meanwhile, we drank and smoked
and listened to country music.
She died in her room
and I died in mine.

Rich Friends, Poor Friends

Humans slaughtered by gossip
and the Cokes were far, far away.
How's one to live? Can't
wander forever inspired by
tasty dinners: "Is my seatbelt
fastened, Gloria?"
He pummels the countryside
with tiny vodka empties,
thinking: "With a wife
like mine, fuck ecology."
Met Hedy Lamarr drunk.
No bananas, she announced.
Blah fuck my dog blah
rover over with a lawnmower.
Things get handed down
and nothing changes but death
and taxes. I made a deal
with my son: If I'd let my hair
grow down to my shoulders,
he'd get a crewcut.
Can you name the highest mountain
in Virginia? If he' promise
not to kill me, I'd
teach him how to murder.

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