Day nine brings us two poems from David Biespiel, “The Ex Lovers Close Down the Hawthorne Boulevard Bars on the 1000th Night of the War,” and “Mississippi God Damn,” both from his latest collection, The Book of Men and Women (© 2009, University of Washington Press). “Mississippi God Damn” previously appeared in Poetry.
THOUGHTS ABOUT THE POEMS
The Book of Men and Women hinges on the power, frailties, musings and failings of relationships, whether man’s relationship with himself, the comings and goings of a couple, or how we relate with the infinite. The fight-or-flight mentality of a given situation — the tug and push between people and energies — is on display in “The Ex-Lovers,” and the poem’s cadence and music balances against the actors’ wanderings. Meanwhile, “Mississippi God Damn” reads like the quick whip of heartbreak and lost chance as told by a drifter who takes off through a series of back pages.
The Ex Lovers Close Down the Hawthorne Boulevard Bars on the 1000th Night of the War
In this city of puddles they smirk and roam, boast and weep. Their
gobbledy-gook is as good as code,
Their names retrofitted with fear, their condition all headache.
There are parables for this behavior, a proper blab, and none more
rapacious, none more true
Than the teary king, his picture hanging from the billboards and
bridges. The teary king,
Divine, jacked-off, peevish, unharmed, like a hideous garden heavy
Most nights they’re livid. They’re lifters. They pilfer and dance with
stern faces, cagey
With their suckled scat, unshaken by the drill, until the cask goes
That’s when they go starkly through the streets and play their dark
bodies like cards
And frighten themselves — he with his mopey joy, she with her long
Their lappets dragging in the gutters, as they dart in the alleys like
botched and dreamy punks.
Mississippi God Damn
Here in this strumming light which the generations can’t downshift
And with the land gushing its courtesies of iron, and the shallow
Caustic or strangely gussied up like dogs with dark collars, I lose
And what druthers I had are just trouble now, unconditional, all
in the air.
What’s got me upset are the dead. They go too slow. They’re
Just plain rotten — even a beating heart hardly tingles.
The crimes, the land, the lost second sight, the prayers—
None of these are picking the cotton out of the lies.
And no banter between the roots and the tombs.
And no thoughts boycotting the feelings. The old rooms,
The shadow towns, the rebel yelling, the Confederate daughters,
And the themes of homesteads get hushed in the months-long heat.
I’ve gotten too damn lazy to pluck a duplicate heart,
Unearth a body, a song, an I-just-don’t-know-what kind of fly.
That’s just the trouble — the genie’s not gentle, the stomach
Can’t stomach the risk of being right, good, unknown, me.
And if I race to the dry river where the bodies are pushing through,
The bones peering like children from behind a curtain of dirt, then
Shall judge the living? And if that’s a test what frown is needed,
What game face does everybody know to put on? What hoof? What
A Poet a Day is a month-long celebration of poets and poetry, in honor of National Poetry Month. Writers reserve all rights to their work, and all work appears with their permission.