Friday, January 28, 2011

Agape, Aghast, A-Gasp

Art Car, Crocker Art Museum, Fall 2010
—Photo by Michelle Kunert, Sacramento

—Tom Goff, Carmichael

If I could write a poem today, Walt Whitman,
it would sing to thee or of thee, ancient gray poetic
father, or spring forth as did your freshest green poems
of lusty and pronounced American sexuality, bonding,
and rugged character,

but alas, I am just one lonely
man sipping a plain honest workman’s java
at Starbucks. My sandwich lies limpsey and bland
before me, yet it boasts wholesome naked
slivers of turkey, slices of Swiss, with two simple
plastic unopen’d packets, one mustard, one mayo
(and are not we all unopen’d packets?)
sufficient to bookmark any of your leaves.

Presently I thumb through “Song of Myself”
and a packet bursts open; O mustard, you
are now truly a bookmark, asprawl across
the smeared page. I feel a rube, a sneak, and a boob,
to have left my felon thumbprint a bookmark
pressed upon your crispy page. Yet thus would
I sacralize your truths a recuerdo in my mind,
camerado, as with a solemn sign and stain of mustard.

Next me the track-suited or sandalled young women
loiter sipping their hoity-toity coffees, they gab
about their day gigs with expressions of That sucks,
or Shut up! as in You’re kidding/You’re not kidding,

while I, smiling at these ejaculations, dawdle over
the finely stained Walt Whitman book,
with my languid turkey and Swiss sandwich
and plain honest workman’s java, my good simple
mustard and mayo for bookmark,
under the Starbucks lamp both bright and dim.


—Tom Goff

The California Romantics…included Ambrose Bierce, George Sterling…and Clark Ashton Smith, among other figures…
—Donald Sidney-Fryer, from The Outer Gate: The Collected Poems of Nora May French

Some males, as movie trends inform us, want
a buddy to love more deeply than a girl,
trend set by “The Wedding Crashers,” which unfurls,
or is it disrobes, unravels—fast—its scant
chemise of a plot, the repartee all taunt?
Add pratfall, vomit, leers in snarky lip-curls…
Vaughn/Wilson woo each other, albeit whirl,
piling up femmes like ninepins. How it flaunts
itself, the comic genre tagged Bromance.

Spare me the studly grossout buddy-buddy;
Cuddle me with a man-poet nice to study
—Bierce? CAS? Or Sterling? Sidney-Fryer? O trance,
to touch the skins of poet friends, no jackanapes or antics:
Give me my California Romantics—or Bromantics?


—Christian Morgenstern, 1871-1914

Korf receives one day from the coppers
one of those B-9 forms, so-called because they aren't:
Who? Where? How? Why? And other such stumpers and stoppers.

Married? Single? Divorced? Separated? Other?
(Supply all relevant and requisite documentation
to support these claims.) And the Maiden Name of your Mother?

Visa? Permit de sejour? Papieren? Pass?
Credit rating? Or bluntly and plainly, are you a legitimate person
or are you perhaps nothing? A no-one? A member even of the torturable class?

Failure to fill out the form will subject the subject
to penalties only some of which are specified hereinunder—
forfeitures, fines, confinement, etc. Signed, Oberuntergruppenfüher Hecht.

Clearing his throat, with a discreet, "Korf!" he replies, "I insist,
on my right, notwithstanding any covenants and codicils to the contrary,
and as the party of the first part, to deny that I officially exist."

Agape, aghast, a-gasp, the deputy superintendant clutches in what could be a coronary.

(translated from the German by David R. Slavitt)


—Christian Morgenstern

Korf, whom worry easily attacks,
Can already see the skies
Filled by balloons of every size,
So all day he prepares whole stacks
Of draughts for bylaws and statutes
Of a society for resolute
Maintenance of a zone designed
To deep balloon-egress confined.

Yet even now he can smell doom:
His club already falls behind;
The air, it seems to him, goes blind,
All the landscape turns gloom and tomb.
Therefore he puts down his pen,
Turns on the light (they all will, then!)
And goes at once to Palmstrom's place;
They sit together, face to face.

After four long hours, finally,
This nightmare is overcome.
First to break the spell is Palmstrom:
"Be a man now, Korf;" says he,
"You've got hold of the wrong era;
A yet, this is a vain chimera
That tricks your intellect away,
Bobbing over your head today."

Korf recovers his own clear sight—
No one is flying in the golden light!
He snuffs his candle, silently;
And speaks: "If not today, sometime!
One day you will no longer shine,
At least for us—it makes one's teeth
Chatter—the masses underneath!..."

Thereafter, von Korf once again
Sits in his room and takes his pen
Drawing up a vast design
For the protection of sunshine.

(translated from the German by W.D. Snodgrass)


—Christian Morgenstern

A river called the Snake,
unhappy about the lack of any sane ecological policy,
takes itself in hand one fine day
and ups and leaves.

A man called Tony,
watching it mosey along across the prairie,
whips his shooting iron out of his fancy holster
and ups and kills it.

The critter called the Snake
is ashamed of itself and of what has not happened,
but too late, too late—the entire territory
ups and parches.

The man called Tony,
blowing the smoke from the end of his barrel,
hasn't the foggiest notion of what he has made happen.
Oops, it's dreadful!

The man called Tony,
unrepentant but nevertheless to some degree atoning
(the environment, after all, is all around us)
ups and croaks.

(translated from the German by David R. Slavitt)


Today's LittleNip: 

He thinks his erect prick articulates the winning side of an argument.

—Stephen Dobyns



Art Car, Crocker Art Museum, Fall 2010
—Photo by Michelle Kunert