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Mitch Sisskind
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If I could push a button and write A new Kenneth Koch poem I would push a button and write That I could push a button so We are hitchhiking again near Vallauris and the sky is cloudy But who cares since we’re young And plain silly and when rain falls We keep on skylarking as they say In the army until we knock it off As they also say in the army and We make love and write poems And if we get old I push the button Again one hundred thousand times. Continue reading
Posted yesterday at The Best American Poetry
At Area and at Limelight, two silly Dance clubs of the bygone era, She threw up, and at Café des Artistes, The fine restaurant on 67th Street, Sometimes she threw up there as well. Once on the subway, a midnight train I now recall, she threw up but we Had the whole car to ourselves, Fortunately. It was quite late and She had mostly the dry heaves. How different was that time on the Ferry when she so copiously threw up That onlookers’ stunned silence Gave way to spontaneous applause Which, as she took a bow, intensified. Nothing affirmed her beauty like Her vomiting – the sunlight yellows And the deep forest greens of it, Calling to mind at once the colors Of Lombardi’s Green Bay teams And Rimbaud’s astonishing line, 'Mon triste cœur bave à la poupe.' Continue reading
Posted Jan 25, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Trapped on a long drive with an atheist I closed my eyes and sought refuge in My earliest erotic fantasies of capture By an Apache warrior maiden, cruel At first but then merely unpredictable. As the atheist droned on the scent of Formaldehyde characteristic of his Persuasion suffused the vehicle and Obligated me to explain this aroma To the warrior maiden who fiercely Demanded ‘What’s that awful smell?’ ‘Formaldehyde,’ I answered and With a shrill war-whoop she bared Her breasts and pounced on me. Continue reading
Posted Nov 15, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
My friend died and a few days later In a dream called me on my cell; ‘Hey how are you doing?’ he said. ‘I can’t complain,’ was my reply, ‘And you? How is it being dead?’ A brief silence and he declared, ‘Nobody has to do it, just use ‘Gorilla Glue, man.’ I took this in And asked. ‘But use Gorilla Glue For what, old friend? The sundry ‘Household tasks?’ His reply had Some heat: ‘Use Gorilla Glue, bro, ‘If you know what’s good for you! ‘Gorilla Glue!’ And he was gone. Continue reading
Posted Nov 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Black hour of your constellation In February, war still on, night Of terrifying Outer Drive toward University of Chicago environs. It could not have been easy. I condemn you to death by drowning! Continue reading
Posted Nov 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Hello, I am immune to misfortune. Virtue is sufficient for my happiness. Passion is not my purview nor is Crying over spilled milk or laughing Like a horse my habitude. I guess You’d call me a stoic and I admit That the Enchiridion by Epictetus Is one of my all-time favorite books. So picture me in your mind’s eye. Do you see an old man struggling Up a hill or a beautiful young girl Brushing her hair? Well, whatever You see is a function your own Hangups, not mine or anyone else’s. Continue reading
Posted Nov 7, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
The seeming impossibility of the Great Pyramid Engendered in him such contempt for people That he chose isolation lest he start screaming How petty and foolish were their vainglorious Accomplishments compared to even a single Miraculous fact about the Great Pyramid. Every inch of his shitty room was choked with Handwritten manuscripts, drawings, website Images downloaded over the years, and books On aspects of Egyptology. To make ends meet He worked as a gofer in a real estate law firm Filing eviction papers in the city hall’s stale air While distancing himself from that wage slavery With thoughts of the Great Pyramid’s mysteries. Then one day a young paralegal came to work At the firm. Observing her at the copying machine He was so flabbergasted by her perfect proportions And symmetries that a vast new area of research Opened for him that night in which he learned how Many of the ancient world’s first investigations of Ratio and design were attempts to identify the Ideal proportions of feminine beauty. Consequently The bust of Queen Nefertiti created by the sculptor Thutmose in approximately 1350 BC became his New infatuation whereby he conceived of Nefertiti As an anthropomorphic culmination of principles Materialized centuries earlier in the Great Pyramid. There came a day, again at the copying machine, When he sought to explain his recondite investigations To the young paralegal: how the secrets of insight and Achievement by the ancients lay first in empirically Deriving laws of womanly allure, then expressing Those discoveries in the Great Pyramid and finally Rendering them in flesh and blood so to speak as the Bust of Nefertiti. ‘The proof of the pudding,’ he said Excitedly, desperately, with everything riding on this, “The proof of the pudding,” he gasped as he shot her A raised-eyebrow glance connoting some vision of An impossible intimacy, “The proof of the pudding is In what the name Nefertiti literally means -- which is -- Which is – um – um -- the beautiful one has arrived!” Continue reading
Posted Nov 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
One class of problems – Math people will attest to this – can be clearly Articulated whereupon It only remains for an Answer to be found Or never to be found But finding the answer Is of small significance And even of sad banality Relative to the problem’s Articulated clarity which Inherently demotes it to A purgatory of minor interest. Another class of problem Ghostly and insinuating Can’t be rendered in words Or symbols but you definitely Know it’s there, you feel it As something very wrong With you but what? What? You try to find words for it Or to create a mental image For this problem in intimate Conversations or before sleep And if it occurs to you that You might not awaken -- Or is that the problem at last? Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
As feminine beauty such as that Of Annabella Sciorra, for instance, In the 1990s irrefutably testifies to Celestial virtue, does contrarywise Harvey Weinstein’s graying flesh Express nature’s malevolent side, So that Harvey abusively ejaculating On Annabella’s leg allegorizes the Paradoxical dualism of light and dark, Love and hate, or for that matter Life and death which, mysterious As they are, seem to be how it is? I haven’t the answer but I do suspect His masturbation has some meaning.. Continue reading
Posted Oct 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
I hope this will be a book of 500 pages
I've got one: When I was five or six I had a subscription to "Jack and Jill" magazine. I especially loved the monthly stories about Baba Yaga the Russian witch. I begged my parents to take me to Russia. Finally they agreed. This was in Chicago. One Saturday we went to the station and boarded a train. I remember being in the dining car, excited to be on the way to Russia. Finally we arrived. I jumped off the train and started running down the platform. Then I saw a sign. It said "Milwaukee." I went to my father and told him, "The sign says Milwaukee." He nodded. "That's right. Milwaukee, Russia." I was again overjoyed.
This is the female form. --Whitman. Poking around the secessionist corpses After a sharp engagement one of the boys Whistled and said, ‘What have we here?’ A fine-looking dead rebel lass it was whose Dishevelment teased out such crudity In the boys that our captain, a puffed-up College man, said, ‘This coarse ridicule ‘Of the female form and, what’s more, ‘Indifference to the tragedy of the girl’s ‘Death I hope is consequence of the war ‘And not some deep-seated inherent flaw ‘In your natures like half-wittedness or ‘Whatever shamefully cruel propensity. ‘Inter her with full ceremonial rites!’ Continue reading
Posted Sep 12, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
After a very bad summer, Hollywood is looking to IT for a bailout. IT might work, we'll see. IT is a horror movie version of Steven Spielberg-style romanticism: we meet children -- pre-pubescent children -- who are naturally good and even wise. These dear beings are confronted by various "monsters," including real monsters, older bully adolescents, or adults, all of whom have been transformed by something (time + sex) into malevolent grotesques. IT can be understood as a commercialized and creatively compromised depiction of tweens painfully starting to engage what Michel Leiris in his powerful book "Manhood" describes as the brutal hell of adult sexuality. This is by no means a new story line. It's an extremely well-trod path. What's less well-trod -- and what IT called to mind for me -- is what new IT must be faced when we come out the other end of Leiris's sexual inferno. Entering that "hell" was hard and scary. Leaving it might be all too easy and for that reason even scarier. Well, as Hemingway wrote in one of his own coming-of-age stories, "better not think about it." Or IT. Oy. Continue reading
Posted Sep 10, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
I believe the original quote or close to it from Fats Waller is, "I can play some piano but God is in the Panther Room tonight." Another good one is, "Go ask Alice what the dormouse said." And from Kenneth Koch, "It's very difficult to criticize my French since I speak perfectly."
This is a wonderful find and it's delightful to hear JA and Bruce in their youth "of bricks. Who built it?" In parsing "These Lacustrine Cities," the first poem in his great book "Rivers and Mountains," JA goes immediately into his "who, me?" crouch which I find disappointing and hardly illuminating about a poem that evinces and perhaps coyly parodies a kind of Cold War spy novel sinister paranoia in lines like "we have all-inclusive plans for you" and "you will be happy here" that recall "1984" and O'Brien's insidious patter while torturing Winston Smith. But no problema, or poco problema. This tape is an inspiring artifact. Oh, do not ask,'What is it?' Let us go and make our visit.
Smig, drinking at the Timber Lanes bar, Makes a feeble dumbshow of his face Toward whomever – myself and others, For Smig is well loved there – he makes A feeble dumbshow if anybody inquires What his problem is or why does he look So very sad just now as if his best friend Died or he got laid off that day from his Union plumbing job until at last Anika, The female bartender, also well-loved, Asks with a wary compassionate mien, ‘Has the cat got your tongue tonight Or something?' and Smigelski answers 'I bowled like shit! Goddamn it! Fuck!' Continue reading
Posted Sep 8, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
I dislike or wait not really dislike It makes me sick to my stomach How on Sunday mornings you get Stinky vibe from her when you say I love you and she looks up from The goddamn newspaper and says The jury is still out or that’s a horse Of a different color or take a breather As if them were lines from Ashbery Poems not the jejune platitudes. Continue reading
Posted Sep 6, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
You do change into an insect but, Pshaw, you knew it would end this way. It ain’t even half bad. Most folks don’t Notice and them few that fears you Aren’t who you want to know anyhow So fuck ‘em. But first, before anything Can happen, you got to live long enough Or maybe too long like some folks say. Harumpf! I thoroughly enjoyed myself Aviating up toward colored light bulbs, Then circling all lazy-like till dawn when Birds ate me. But it ain’t no never mind. Listen, if history teaches us anything It’s just a feeling that comes over you. Continue reading
Posted Sep 4, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
George Allen Morningside College (1948–1950) Whittier College (1951–1956) Los Angeles Rams (asst.) (1957) Chicago Bears (asst.) (1958–1965) Los Angeles Rams (1966–1970) Washington Redskins (1971–1977) Chicago Blitz (1983) Arizona Wranglers (1984) Long Beach State (1990) The players used to kid me about My favorite foods which were Jello, Ice cream, small curd cottage cheese With crackers in it, or peanut butter. I ate those things to save time. You don’t have to chew Jello Which saves time. How much time? The amount doesn’t matter. Once There was one second left until halftime In a game and we scored a touchdown. I got up at four-thirty in the morning When I was with the Bears to take George Halas out to breakfast and Talk football. I ate Jello, orange or red, With cream poured on it sometimes. What I eat or don’t eat, where I eat, How much I eat, what you eat, what That guy over there eats, who cares? Games are won by offense, defense, And surprisingly often by special teams. Continue reading
Posted Apr 5, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Frank Leahy Boston College, 1939-1940 Notre Dame, 1941-1943 Notre Dame, 1946-1953 To a room in the Palmer House George Halas Brought Bulldog Turner, Sid Luckman and me For me to teach the t-formation to them. We pushed the bed aside and George Halas Sang Sid Luckman’s praises, the Jew who threw The shit out of the ball and ran with it also. Sid Luckman practiced reverse pivots, handoffs, Pitch-outs, bootleg plays, and he threw a little Buttonhook pass to George Halas across the room. There was a knock on the door and Ed Sprinkle Appeared, a defensive end of about 210 pounds. Solly Sherman was with him, another Jew. Bulldog Turner, the always-smiling Texas boy Who played center, had discovered fellow Hardin-Simmons alum Ed Sprinkle for the Bears. Bulldog Turner observed that the Bears now Had two Jew quarterbacks. Solly Sherman had Also played the position at the University of Chicago. Before long a bottle of bourbon came out. Ed Sprinkle said, ‘We call George Connor Moose ‘But a less likely Moose there ain’t never been.’ ‘Moose weighed only three pounds at birth ‘So his mother, a nurse, fed Moose every hour ‘With an eye dropper for his whole first year.’ George Halas chimed in. He said, ‘Well, it’s 1947 Now and Moose could play every damn position On the team, which is why we call him Moose.’ Sid Luckman became thoughtful and said After his playing days he was going to join A cellophane company called Cel-U-Craft. Solly Sherman nodded wisely and predicted A big future in the postwar era for companies In the packaging industry, like Cel-U-Craft. Bulldog Turner and Ed Sprinkle predicted that They would go into coaching. George Halas Stated that he would die on a football field. It then occurred to me that I could write a book About the t-formation. I could and I should and I would, and I did, when I retired from Notre Dame. Ed Sprinkle Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
That day now lost in antiquity When I heard the Kingston Trio Sing the Ballad of Tom Dooley On the radio for the first time: So different, so new, and I saw How big this was going to be, How the girls who now strutted And slinked down Halsted Street In red or black satin club jackets Monogrammed with their initials Would soon have waist-length hair Straight and shining and how the Hard look presently in their eyes Was going to magically transform Into a furtive expression which, Done right, was softly seductive But also alluringly dangerous To those who paid close attention. This was the future coming down The tracks so the question was What to do about it. I was twelve With no talent for the guitar nor Was I much of a dancer, slow or fast, But wait, I had a sort of carelessness Or recklessness about my body And once when I ran into a tree I looked pretty bad but it didn’t Really bother me that much. All right then, this was the plan. I would become a high school football star which would be Attractive to the new breed of Dark and intense folk singing girls. What was I thinking, for Christ’s sake? Continue reading
Posted Feb 14, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
In the Golden Age gods walked among us Until Olympus levitated beyond sight and, Hopeless of looking up, we began looking Down into quantum realms of tiny or Even theoretical particles whose reality, So to speak, is neither here nor there. But to God there is no zero, as we learn At the end of The Incredible Shrinking Man, A film in which a guy keeps getting smaller Because of a mysterious radioactive cloud. A poignant allegory of our shared destiny Is that cloud! Plus the guy has battles with A cat and a spider but finally he’s so small That he’s okay with getting even smaller. Continue reading
Posted Feb 13, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Cleopatra affected history because She was beautiful. It’s that simple. Was she perfect? Was she beyond All reproach? Probably not -- but She had a power, she had a gift That the Miss Universe Pageant Which I owned for several years Was all about. Cybill Shepherd Told Oprah that her beauty was like Shaquille O’Neal being seven feet tall: “So I decided to play basketball!” Melania is also a beautiful woman But more like Michael Jordan than A Shaq or a LeBron James type. Continue reading
Posted Feb 3, 2017 at The Best American Poetry