Poetry Gives Off Smoke


Poetry gives off smoke
but it doesn’t die out.
It acts kind of crazy, flutteringly,
when it chooses us.
This fellow’s no fool,
sucking tranquillizers,
toting in a little briefcase
a boiled beet-root.
Right now he’d like a mousse
or baba au rhum,
but the Muse-
some kind of Muse! –
grabs him
by the scruff of the neck!
Thoughts drill a hole in his forehead,
and he’s mislaid the spoon-
and he’s a giant! Socrates, for the Lord’s sake…
in an Oblomov dust-jacket. O.K….
he’s no Apollo-
he’s puny and ugly,
skinny: he’s like a golden mushroom,
But suddenly some sort of whistling
is in his ears, and then…
a period!
And like a slugger’s hook
across the chops of the ages,
a line!
And there
an insane little bird
falls off its feet,
a crazy rag-picker,
a kind of society clown. But something gives her the word
like branches in winter,
God rings from within, and her eyelids turn
to marble.
And here’s a bum
a shaman,
from among the lunatics!
Pour him champagne,
bring him
women, not rum cakes!
Suddenly an order from within
will come through sternly, and he’s the instant
voice of the people, damned near

Poetry acts kind of strange, it flutters
when it chooses us.
And it has no mercy, either,
afterwards. It stamps ‘Pure Souls’
on us…but who’s the judge?
for the horse-blinkered multitudes we’re ‘decadents, ‘
but for ourselves, we ourselves are… are…
well, yes! Redemption!

Translated by James Dickey with Anthony Kahn

Rate this post
Previous articleAntedeluvian
Next articleMurder


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here