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Eight poems and an interview. (A Special APR Supplement).

Eight poems and an interview

A Special APR Supplement


It is the springtime
of the year.

A small untidy artist
with an earnest

walks by, into

the fresh morning
to hear

the small birds sing
their song,

as on a dulcimer.

And on a park bench
an elderly couple

are talking: how bad
the business was

in those years and all
the petty incidents

that bedeviled them.
The Song of Years.

Eye to Eye

    with the missionary eye,

I meet you,
           eye to eye

at The Holocaust Memorial
           with the invective I:

Drop Dead!


Dimitry: Look at this headstone:

                  Joseph Addison

         b. Nov. 6, 1903, d. Sept. 12, 1989


Dimitry: This guy must have come from The
         Home for Comedians.

Gregory: Why do you say that?

Dimitry: For once I'd like to see one that reads:

                 Joseph Addison
             Here lies one who declares
               as God is his witness
          that he was an ordinary fellow
            with all his cash in bonds.

Gregory: That'll be the day!

Dimitry: Let's bury this poor bastard now.
         Another one will be coming along

Driving into Abilene, Texas,
April 17, 1947

The sun rose here at 6:07 a.m.
The weather, patchy fog,
mostly sunny later, Highs 69-75.

are kidding around, feeling chipper ...
         ... like having four aces,

The phone rings.
A voice at the other end says:
"I need a quote on a water pump."

"You need a quote?"
(from one of the aces)
"I'll give you a quote:
'To be or not to be,
that is the question'"
                     and hangs up!

A minute later
the phone rings back.
A perky voice replies:
"To sleep, perhaps to dream"
                            and hangs up!

In Abilene?

These guys have been
watching the moon too long.

In the First Circle of Limbo

Liberate me,
from this encirclement
            of categories.

Your themes
            are plein-air

Put some wit
            and compassion
into this pen!

Ode to the Commonplace

The day comes in
on its rock-bed
from nine to five
and each man

is at his work,
as if it were
his second nature
and Spring comes
with its dandelions
and its Sunday mornings
and all the neighbors

are out, mowing the lawn
and greeting each other:
(I did not know there were so many)

'long time no see'
familiar old faces, smiling.
Oh, the security in banter!

The young men are out too,
huddling in groups
sizing up each other, bonding,
for there is peace now.

But not for long.
On Monday they are out again
crying for facts, facts,
for each thing

to be true to its nature
for an honest leader
not too ambitious.

So bring on the odes
and drink, drink,
to the health of the commonplace,
the mountain of the Lord.

Cartoon Sketches: the president

sketch 1

I'm in Vermont
the Green Mountain State

to do some sketching.
The first white man

to show up here in 1659
was Samuel Champlain

with a war party of Algonquins.
That set the tone.

I'm in the country store
of John C. Coolidge,

the town marshal,
to sketch his young son,

Calvin, in the small town
of Plymouth.

The date is 1866.
Farmers from all around here

are in and out of the store
and stop to talk.

You'd think you were
at a town meeting.

When he's not waiting
on customers,

I draw him,
leaning on a counter

listening intently
to the conversation.

I draw the nose first:

possibly showing
the beginning of ambition

but not Roman,
definitely not Roman,

Vermont-Roman maybe.
The nostrils already prudent.

The mouth, long and tight,
turned down slighily

at the tips,
announcing: mission completed,

the face pretty much
like other farm boys

from around here,
maybe a bit more terse,

more private,
That's the look to catch.

sketch 2
In my next sketch
he's dimbing up

a low indine:
lawyer, councilman,

city solicitor,
county derk,

mayor, state senator,
Governor of Massachusetts.

The face has become
more terse,

his speech and
manner more decisive.

He has called out
the State Guard

to crush the walk-out
of the Boston police.

In the sketch
he's leading a charge

of three infantry regiments.
The presidency next!

sketch 3
Finally the President,
as I saw him,

the indomitable Yankee,
his lips sealed tighter

than an old man's scrotum
backing up from icy water,

eternally afraid
his careful nothings

would be misconstrued.
When he looked the nation

in the eye
and spoke in the dry voice

of New England
nobody had any question

that if cornered
he would not hesitate

to retreat.



in a roped-off alcove
a wooden chair

easy to take apart

and make a table
or a bookcase

the historic

a plaque reads:

as a machine

a chair
for the masses

for the new epoch
after the Cubists...

behind the chair
an immense Mondrian

black lines

on a white ground/

at right angles
in precise


rectangles in black
and white...

the eye
of the abstractionist

the purist

the unobservable

a high-wire act
in the annals

of presumption
of ideas

of time:
the avant-garde

conceives a chair
in which to situate

one's self
in the universe

Ah, that'll be the day!

a universal man
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Article Details
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Author:Rakosi, Carl
Publication:The American Poetry Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jul 1, 2003
Previous Article:Invisible Green IX. (A Column).
Next Article:An interview by Tom Devaney and Olivier Brossard.

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