October 6, 2003

Two Poems by James Tate:

The Private Intrigue of Melancholy

Hotels, hospitals, jails
are homes in yourself you return to
as some do to Garbo movies.

Cities become personal,
particular buildings and addresses:
fallen down every staircase
someone lies dead.

Then the music from windows
writes a lovenote-summons on the air.
And you're infested with angels.


When I drink
I am the only man
in New York City.
There are no lights,
but I am used to that.
There are staircases
that go forever upward
like twisted branches

of a cemetery willow.
No one has climbed them
since prohibition.
and the overturned automobiles
stripped to their skeletons,
chewed clean
by the darkness.

Then I see the ember of
a cigarette in an alley,
and I know that I am no longer
alone. One of us is still shaking.
And has led the other
into some huddle of extinction.


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