JOANNE IN EVERY STANZAfor Joanne Kyger
Joanne in a dream reads a slinky poem about shelves—
I want to build a set of my own
to those specifications.
“I’m here because I read too much,”
on Day One of a Zen Buddhist retreat.
From ten to twenty, Joanne practiced the violin.
In San Francisco she gamboled with poets
and that’s how the syllables settled.
Joanne in Japan was "whalloped" by Olson’s
Projective Verse. His kinetic line: “But breath is man’s
special qualification as animal.”
Joanne, Donald and I are talking
of writing, doing, not doing. “Do you also paint?”
“I only do words," I admit.
Now in a dream I’m building a bookcase à la Joanne—
nine adjustable pine shelves
for poems coming and going.
POET FROM FORT LEE
for August Kleinzahler
He sculpts the space around the stage with his visceral
purr, inducing frisson—vamp on a barstool
lacing silken legs.
Swinburne, jazz, bridges in fog, mobster or doggy
palaver—pile it on, it’s all
how you stack it.
He holds a choke of words in his throat benevolently,
like Shiva the Rescuer,
blue-faced with poison.
Tidal rhythms rinse and pull back,
as gratitude floods
the sheer shelves of continents.
As for heartbreak, eye-dropped into our sparkling vials,
this is how we recognize
animal warmth in others.
He's making a bluesy racket in the basement, raking
the bars of his cell with a spoon—
I’m innocent, damn it! Forgive me.
THE KING’S HAIRCUT
The king comes for a haircut wearing his royal robes.
May I remove them? He shrugs his assent
and sits on the stool in sleeveless tee-shirt,
unnervingly sexy, like Marlon Brando
in A Streetcar Named Desire.
He tells me he wants to leave his wife,
the stick-thin queen, for another woman.
Shaping curls to noble head, I advise him
in the hairdresser’s way, to take it easy,
follow his heart. I once knew a man
of power, I say, who made a similar switch
at his age; it was a train wreck
but in the end, everyone came out okay.
The queen keeps popping into the room to lob
an acerbic remark. Because he believes
it's his absolute right, he'll leave her
for someone who morphs into somebody else.
There may be more children. No one
involved will be happy, or exactly unhappy.
Bored by our antics, fate turns a blind eye.