Most of the work I’ve done is scholarly. I wrote The Ordeal of Robert Frost (Illinois, 1997), a book about the poet, and have done, or am working on, a number of editions of Frost’s writings. All are available via the link John Dougill kindly provides along the right margin of the homepage for Writers in Kyoto. This summer, with Donald Sheehy, Robert Bernard Hass, and Henry Atmore, I’ll be finishing up the typescript of The Letters of Robert Frost, Volume II: 1920-1928 (due out next year from Harvard). I’ve also been writing poems. The two below are for a book I’m working on with Mark Scott, “Poems of Two Friends,” from which we’ll read at the Gael on June 21 (courtesy Writers in Kyoto and Michael Jackson). Mark is the author of two books of poetry, Tactile Values (New Issues, 2000) and A Bedroom Occupation (Lumen Books, 2007). He lives in Nara. Our friendship dates to 1985 and central New Jersey. We take the title for the book we now hope to complete from William Dean Howells and John Piatt, whose Poems of Two Friends was published in 1860 by Follet, Foster and Company, in Columbus, Ohio.
How Is Your Day
A conviction overcame me,
Without sentence or delight;
We must be somewhere at nine;
I cannot say where or why.
So we drive back to the house,
Into the bedroom, into the bed,
And park, fumbling up to the brink.
I have a feeling. The drugs
I got from India begin to kick in.
Something steel is in my mouth.
The man at the liquor store
Cards me. The photo in my passport
Is a moth, which disembarks.
Back at that cafe with the others,
Down by the lake, I can’t remember
My name; I ask the woman in white
What the lake is named instead.
She replies in French.
I ask again. She takes my hand
And writes: “It’s Exit Lake,
Where the children go to drown.”
Amicus Curiae for My iPhone 5
A Beethoven string quartet
(William James said someone said)
Is the scraping of a horse’s tail on the bowels of a cat––
And may be vacated as such in Texas
By the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals,
Ruth Bader Ginsburg dissenting.
Analyses of the world yield formulas,
Most of them consistent with the facts;
James said that, too. Well so the nearest
Fact to hand right now’s my iPhone 5.
What is it? The agony and ecstasy of Mike Daisy;
The strange afterlife of pancreatic cancer;
Ancillae debunking in Shenzhen Province;
Every girning debater’s lifeline;
A portrait of the cosmos as a young machine;
A thing to go out on an update with; a cat in a bathtub;
A superbly designed impertinent yoke.
(That last line’s a cat’s bowel purring twice.)
George Will––he’s another fact. And a baseball fan.
George Will is central Illinois in a bow-tie
And no air conditioning. I can see George Will
On my iPhone 5. What’s so weird about that?
George Will is an island off South Carolina
Eyeballing hurricanes on Benadryl, and
A dubiously resilient icecap. George Will’s
A mid-term election sneeze, a viral hemorrhagic fever
That used to be a head talking to Peggy Noonan’s head.
And now (oh, Christ) George Will’s a talking point memo
In a poem clearing its throat to speak of love.
Love is a lie two people believe in, but not always it isn’t;
Love is an unmade bed at tea, a trick of fancy,
Alley-cats pissing the floor in Surakarta,
A tête-à-tête in the beet garden, an hour
Of facile indecision, two penguins out shopping,
The tittle est Amen of horsing around,
Lithium-ion warm; and the nearest thing
To touch-screen and say “Sleep tight” to.