February 15, 2008

Don't let the sun go down on your grievances
Respect love of the heart over lust of the flesh

Ruth Channing, I Am Beautiful

Jacks With Creeley
-- by Dennis Mahagin

A sweaty lanyard strap
held his eye patch fast. "For you, a handicap,"
Bob laughed, tossing 10 Flintstones Chewables
on the tarmac; then four full vitamin bottles spilled
from his knapsack like perfectly cylindrical knobs
of stallion spoor.

"Supplements," said
Creeley, and with the ball in the air
he deftly popped two-- a purple Dino, and Barney
all Robin’s Egg blue. When it was my turn to roll,

I ended up with only one Wilma in
my rhino plastic nostril hole, and the ball
was as a sliver of Lava soap in a tub
full of dun suds. Creeley's one eye, watering
with mirth, winked at me; then of a sudden
he was ripping off two, three,

four, five,
six pills at a clip, vitamins were vibrating
on the tips of his lips like veritable Neal
Cassaday Jumping Beans… … .. . .. ...

"OK, I give! - I give! - I give! - I
give!" I said, picking up a shell-speckled
Betty Rubble, desperately licking her little
will-o'-the-wisp head, which flared
candy apple red.

"You just weren't
ready for me," said Robert
Creeley, "and I doubt you
ever will be!"

Then he spit out
all those fucking pills
like hurricane hailstones
on the frozen Bering Sea.

"Maybe," I said reverently, "but you're still
the sickest hipster who ever sucked some
Centrum Silver from a bleach cap..."

"Aye, boy," replied Bob, yanking off
that redundant black patch, "AYE."

-- by Richard Brautigan

she tries to get things
out of men
that she can't get
because she's not
15% prettier

From the Death Cell
-- by André Chénier (1762-94)

translated by Tom Paulin

We live – dishonoured, in the shit. So what? It had to be.
This is the pits and yet we feed and sleep.
Even here – penned in, watered and waiting for the chop
(just place your bets) – affairs take off,
there’s gossip, bitching and a pecking-order.
Songs, jokes, card-school: she lifts her skirts; someone
bops a tight balloon against the windowpanes.
It’s like the speeches of those seven hundred eejits
(Barrère’s the shiftiest of the lot) – a comic fart
we whoop and cheer and then forget.
One jumps, another skips; that greasy pack
of gut and gullet politicians raps and hoots
until, dead quick, the door scrakes open
and our tiger-master’s wee pimp struts in.
Who’s getting it today? We freeze and listen,
then all but one of us knows it isn’t him . . .

André Chénier was arrested on suspicion of "crimes against the state" in France on March 7, 1794, and guillotined on July 25 on the orders of Robespierre. The poet would indeed have been sitting in the shit when he wrote the poem, as hygiene in the prisons of the 1700s must have been rudimentary. And they surely wouldn’t have wasted water. Chénier’s poems – which he now had ample time to work on because there’s nothing like a little incarceration to focus the mind – were smuggled out of the prison and given to his family by a jailer who could be bribed.

-- additional background.


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