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Anyone want to tell us
what Danse Russe means in English?
!Russian dance!
Someone else. . .
But, I just said it: Russian dance. . . .
Someone, anyone?
But I already said it, H.K.!
He already said it!! the chorus of co-
eds chanted in unison
They never answer.
They don’t know anything.
They don’t want to know anything.
They haven’t any interest.
And what precisely is your interest in poetry, Mr. Regent?
You want that I should just sit there
and say nothing—in that palpitating
verbal impotence?—They know nothing, Henry!
They don’t even read! This land
was made for you and me, H.K.
This is Poetry!
About your interest? What—?
—It is to tell the world. . .Yes?
. . . why poets are so discontented.
Poets? Or you, Regent?
They—we—are the same, H.K.
How will you earn a living then? Teach?
Oh, no, sir. I can’t speak in front of people.
That’s a big window you have, H.K. I thought
I’d just write poetry.
I see. Well. Yes. I see. Here’s, here’s
a program I created, then; it might help.
A floppy disk?
Prosody. That’s the nuts and bolts of poetry.
I don’t have a computer, Henry. We’ve never
had one in the house.
The AV lab here at the college has several.
I don’t know how.

Regent’s Poem
My study is annihilating sense;
all those words I excavated
poring over lexicons,
the practice of memorization. . .
The facts are jumbles, my faults bespoken.
I precede myself everywhere I go
and follow in my own wake.
I mistake for praise the patronage
people slide me under the table;
cajoling, humoring me, as they will a child—tired
of his anxieties—a drunk cousin or a dog;
coaxing them to go on doing something, anything,
to keep out from under their feet.
I’m cagey.
My grammar goes off half-cocked,
hackneyed, difficult to follow,
a polished pig it were better to let wallow.
My mind and emotions do well
to wear a coat of mud
to keep off the horseflies,
worry and regret.
My poem. Uh.
It pretends to be classical; it
is as my day-to-day sentiments,
confused, indifferent, baffled,
going first this way, then that;
unable to decide anything;
unlettered, but prepared
to dive in deep anyway,
with what varieties of style
it memorized last night,
and to interpose a dream when
needed to interrupt the tedium. . .

out on the lawn
keen interest felt
keen interest shown
she knelt near and questioned
she knelt close and inquired
she modulated her timbres to fit her desires
he got nervous and smiled
he plucked an ant from the bark
of a giant oak
and swallowed,
but his acquaintance,
who lamented how into him
she had been,
were not astonished, well
it was finished then

Thoughts from the Grail Castle
I failed. The grail is still out there somewhere.
But I am not
the man I think I am. To journey
a thousand days, no more than forty-some summers pass,
it all passes like a dream.
I seem to have forgotten.
The guerdon I seek did not fall
through a hole into a chasm
or get stuck in a deep seam
between two lives
On the sea it is with me on land
it is under my feet
in the air I breathe between
the infinitesimal combustible bits
of fiery atoms of matter
and between the smaller parts of these
The salamander stuff you attend
has its elliptical function in the scheme
as one does, dear flower, but never
the self one may think of. A token of affection,
or more often an imprint of shame . . . .
Out of the sky, in the land, over seas come rains
and make one forget.


After that semester, during which he’d stopped attending lectures, after the summer beach trip, before fall registration at the new northern university—he still had a girlfriend then—he had transferred already, and she followed; which is the actual tragedy of his career as a poet and a man—he wrote a letter to the dean of the department, who had preferred him as the recipient of a small but prestigious award of several thousand dollars for the next year, and explained that all was changed; nothing could ever be the same: He’d seen a thing he had not imagined possible in a mirror in a hotel room in the middle of the night during a violent rainstorm, after first hearing the knocking on the door and the turning of a lock, and he was frightened. He had prayed the Hail Mary—he did not even know what it was or that it was Catholic—he had read a fragment in a poem—and hid his head under the sheet and intoned until sleep came and the chimeras or whatever they were had gone; and now he did not know where he was or where going, but things would never be like before. He hoped the dean would understand; he must try his best to explain.

He wished the dean was not still upset with him: It was just something he’d had to do—changing schools. His dad wouldn’t pay anymore. He had taken tuition loans and loans for books and board and bed, but declined every penny over needs. He hoped that deed would atone some day, despite what people might say. It saved his property (and his face in his head)—until he drank it away—but made him no more respectable in the end; but by then he’d forgotten everything anyway.

The day he’d hailed her name, Mary got his ass out of stir, but he never summoned her again with the silver ray of prayer.

I knew him . . . He should have been a success. . . .
As Marlon Brando put it to Rod Steiger in the cab
in On the Waterfront, I coulda been a contender.
He coulda been one too. I mean to say he might have
been somebody. A terrible thing to say. Obviously!
You know, he spent all his time and energy blaming
somebody; or trying to get their sympathy.
He couldn't live his life like that. You might call
him a liar (sometimes he well knew it).
He told tales out of school as they used to put it.
Today they would say he talked alotta shit.
His life was forfeit. He thought of nothing but this,
the failings of others, another way of saying
he was selfish; he thought of nobody else.
Except, as I said, as a reflection . . .
He had a striking picture collection:
all of him. And he wrote some wonderful poems,
about him and his problems. The last thing he sent
was a photo attachment in an email:
it was no doubt he, naked, across the room, in a fractured
mirror, in some cheap hotel, a silhouette
of him anyway, but with no details.

he fought his critics, who were his family
he had no other, save
his friends; all complained
of his lack of empathy,
why should he write about anyone
else when his own life was so
richly and strangely tragic?
twenty-five years later he still
did not know whence had sprung
his interest in writing poems,
and had no ideas about poetry.
He did not know what poetry
was, or if it was even a thing;
he suspected his impetus
was something to do
with its being less work
than writing movies—
or doing anything else. He cultivated
an unaccountable relish
for the composition of critical texts
concerning religious culture
and the Church of England.
he never married
never held a job
almost died of drink
and suicide,
added drugs to spice his drink,
drink alone wasn’t enough he felt,
his guts hurt and
he but rarely cried;
it’s the price you pay for the writer’s life:
martyrdom, impecuniousness, more bypassed
than accepted chances, miracles of ruin!
although, he was not so dumb
as to believe his lies, he just
wouldn’t believe nothing but,
he was a wretch
and mean withal
and not even the poet he wanted,
though that’s all, if anything:
nothing fruited; once,
he had been visited
by something in the dark,
the Anti-muse he supposed it was,
and was thenceforth a haunted man,
himself a very ghost,
his ruin—his vocation;
he never wrote better again
than his first attempts at style,
and after a while
stopped expecting
anything on account, left off
expecting poetry to pan out
or anything at all

Write Life
I have been tempted
to experiment with art,
to commit vain repetitions,
as I were an avant gardist
loosely writing vers libre
in the heyday in Montparnasse
when there were new things to say
and new ways to say them;
before the swarms dispersed
to the monasteries of higher learning
to buy and sell MFAs,
loath to suffer the demands
of an itinerant muse, —this too an avid wish!
vanity swings both ways, —to roll dice
for an art unlikely to pay,
or for their souls, neither hot
nor cold; instead sitting chairs
on select committees and editing reviews;
for the artist’s life is impossibly lonely. 

that is called writing the ending before the end. . . .

Otherwise, he reads in darkened rooms,
watches TV and YouTube like me and you
feeds the cats when they mew outside
and waits the day of discovery
the reckoning of the jury
wondered who had died and when but
did not ask why
and didn’t care,
and was over fond of twilight and violet
and Live P.D. and feared cancer and drank cheap beer
and ate avocados and endives with baba ganouj
and salmon and capers non pareil
and felt revolted at the thought of blood
he brushed his teeth in the shower
and looked at flowers in guides
and went birding on a live stream
of Cornell Ornithology Lab feeders online
and avoided contact with people
who criticized him in his head
for his being generally down in the mouth
for his being from the accursed South
and envied and hated the idea of North
which was a special place, affluent, gorgeous,
big with affluence and readers galore, and
which spawned poets like mushroom spores,
there where everything that is has more worth
than anything below Fairfax county above the gulf.
—A fragment from Regent’s Diary
life without God is incomprehensible
and God is incomprehensible
we’re going to kill each other
and mother earth will be safe from us;
we will have done what must be done,
programmed to self-destruct
through our own mechanism
Poets should not have thick necks. OR if he must read from the podium
he should rather stand on a level with his audience.
It’s not a pain in the neck,
it’s not philosophy, it’s common sense to exhibit oneself
from the most complimentary vantage


Published by jungastein

Nothing about me. Nil desperandum. Lost in the labyrinth. Inside outside upside down. . .

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