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Mitch Sisskind
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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
“I happen to feel that it does work, torture or waterboarding or however you want to define it.” -- Donald Trump Fine! I will torture him! At his stupid ceremonies I will look very bored and Order sex toys from Amazon Delivered to the White House Because torture works and I will parade around wearing Next to nothing and tweet Dirty jokes about him in Italian And Slovenian and refer to him As Donald Duck in my texts To Putin and when I am asked About his penis size I will have An uncontrollable laughing fit. Continue reading
Posted Feb 2, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
What boots it Melania to resist My White House invitation -- A husband’s heartfelt call To reside beside him there Or, if need it be, a President’s Sharp command: Goddamn it, You’re not in Ljubijana now, Melania! You belong in DC With me, doll, not lazing around the Tower, little lunches, spa, And of course Barron this and Barron that. Look at Ivanka. We’re close but I don’t worship Every square inch of her body. Continue reading
Posted Feb 1, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Donald, when I thought of you In a gold bathtub I worried About losing my mind because I’ve never seen you in a bathtub But when you left me standing Lump-on-a-log-like with my gift For Michelle on Inauguration Day I thought of you in a gold bathtub, The fleece that covers you floating And your phallus also floating -- Oh God, I felt trapped thinking Of you watching a wall-mounted Television set in a gold bathtub And now I can’t stop thinking it. Continue reading
Posted Jan 31, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Beauties married to beasts often long for experience of culture and respond powerfully to poems about themselves. To attract Melania's attention and help her realize how she's being emotionally starved to death and get her thinking that there might be a way out, I've composed five sonnets. This is the first: Melania 1 From what dull dream have you awakened, Old boy, to a morning in Barstow, Needles, Or another hot as hell desert truck stop Whose Burger Kings, Taco Bells, and Arby’s You have chosen out of mere perversity As your semi-final resting place? Semi-final Because you’ll not die here, you just thought You might and half-wanted to since the Drive into Los Angeles seemed too long. But there a better dream awaits you: Melania Trump in an old Civic pulls up Beside you on La Brea Ave and asks To borrow your Visa card and you say Yes, Melania! Here it is, here is my card! Continue reading
Posted Jan 30, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Polykarp Kusch (Physics Nobel Prize, 1955) She loved his brain but his body Came with it. He could morph A precise yet poetic Improvisation On waves, clouds, or the wind Into the most incredibly deep Insights on nutrition, for example, But then he would start taking His clothes off and hers too. He had this adolescent fixation On her ass upon which he would Expatiate while strutting around Scrawny chicken naked until One day she literally screamed, Tell me about Polykarp Kusch! Continue reading
Posted Jan 17, 2017 at The Best American Poetry
Of a whorehouse in Odessa Isaac Babel wrote That sometimes groans of pleasure lifted The whole building six inches off the ground. So too it was at the Commonwealth Hotel On the corner of Pine Grove and Diversey Where as kids we caused such commotion In the coffee shop that once a bookmaker Leaned from a phone booth and exclaimed, ‘This is a place of business!’ We laughed And mocked him but in that same hour As the hotel began to levitate we sought His explanation – he was known as Mister Zah – and he described fucking As best he could but it was still a mystery. Continue reading
Posted Oct 17, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Everything about this album cover was so exquisitely congruent with the historical moment! I recall seeing it for the first time: the slush, the girl, her boots, and most especially the VW van. Bob as a specific identity in the picture was almost irrelevant. It could have been anybody (except me.) But the way he's looking down...the bulge...his look of pleasant surprise. Yes, he's getting a boner, or already has one. As well he might! Keep it up, Bob! "One more cup of coffee before I go....." Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Your indifference to it all, Decades-long obliviousness To everything around here: Dust motes, the microwave -- What thought have you given To them? Very little, or none. Be not surprised therefore When a picture stays blithely In its frame as your teeth Fall out and the stoical toilet Gives not a shit on that fatal Morning or blazing afternoon That Achilles predicts for us In Book XVI of Homer’s Iliad. Continue reading
Posted Oct 2, 2016 at The Best American Poetry
Mitch the sad old poet stared into the void. He had read in Genesis 2:18 that "it was not good for the man to be alone" but the man was alone. What then was the use of it all? He thought of Billie Jean King. An accomplished woman but neither she nor any of her ilk held the slightest interest for Mitch. None -- and he was sure the feeling was mutual. Then Rachel suddenly appeared. She was a real shot in the arm. Here's a picture of a jackass with a hot young woman. The jackass is "on cloud nine." Here's a picture of Mitch and Rachel. Rachel had done some drawings over the years. Many of them were sexual in a peculiar way. Two of Mitch's favorite exclamations were "fuckbirds" and "fuck a duck." Rachel adapted these as a drawing of ducks having sexual intercourse. Rachel started doing drawings of Mitch with a penis for his nose. When Mitch was watching the world cup soccer game Rachel did a drawing that continued the nose/penis idea. Mitch was rooting for Paraguay which she misspelled in the drawing. Rachel had a fondness for word play. In another nose/penis drawing she referred to post-nasal dick. ​Fascinated and energized by Rachel, Mitch started a sort of beatnik biker look. He told Rachel they might have to live under a bridge and without batting an eyelash she said, "Let's live under a bridge then." ​ Mitch showed Rachel a picture of a rabbi with a possum which she found very inspiring. Possums started appearing in the drawings as a sexual symbol. Also Jewish stuff, ​The possum became a regular character in drawings whose meaning could be obscure. But nothing lasts forever: "Let be be finale of seem. The only emperor is the emperor of ice-cream." Ha, ha hee, full well is me, For I am now at liberty. -- Sir Thomas Wyatt, the elder Continue reading
Posted Jul 5, 2016 at The Best American Poetry