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Mitch Sisskind
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When you really need a wimpy You get one. It was our mantra Those many nights awaiting Delivery of the Racing Form To the newsstand on Diversey Even as we called a longshot Like Greystone Park a whale Or how a consistent winner like Doctor Morrie Weiss was called A woolly mammoth with payoffs That could feed an entire village Albeit at even money or less. But a wimpy? You will get one When you need one. Period. * Very pleased that my Collected Poems is now available on Amazon >> Continue reading
Posted Jul 27, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
RABBI RABINOWITZ Julius Jaffe approached Rabbi Rabinowitz. He said, "I will marry Esther Tabachnik. I am 118 years old." Rabbi Rabinowitz said, "'Today I have begotten you.' (Psalms 2:7) On certain days -- every day, really, but also on certain days -- it is as if we are born anew. Our sins (feh) are not just forgotten but it is as if they never existed in the first place." He continued, "'Be fruitful and multiply.' (Bereshis 1:28) This is the first commandment in the Torah, which all these years you have not obeyed (feh.) He went on, "When we will stand before the Heavenly Tribunal we will be judged less for the sins we have done (feh) than for the mitzvot we failed to do. Most important of all, of course, are the mitzvot we have actually done." He continued, "Now, with your marriage to Esther Tabachnik and by your intimate embrace of her, you will replace your failure to enact Torah's premier commandment (feh) with the mitzvah of all mitzvot! Kinehora! Mazel tov!" NYPD BLUE Julius Jaffe and Herman Fishman watched NYPD Blue on television. Julius Jaffe said, "Sipowitz must complete his tikkun, from the sefirot of Gevurah to that of Chesed." Herman Fishman said, "This is the reverse of Abraham." Julius Jaffe continued, "When his tropical fish die, we can see struggle in the face of Sipowitz." Herman Fishman added, "Confucius said the most important thing in life is the expression on your face." Julius Jaffe added, "No matter what happened, Rav Zusha said, 'It is for the best.'" Herman Fishman added, "The younger brother of Rav Zusha was Rav Elimelech." "MY SIN IS ALWAYS BEFORE MY EYES" David spoke before YHVH, "Why is not a blessing concluded with my name, as it is with Abraham?" The Holy One answered, "I have already tested Abraham, and he stood erect before me." David said, "Test me then, O YHVH!" -- Zohar Julius Jaffe said, "Batsheva was the test and he failed that test." Herman Fishman said, "But Batsheva was his soulmate." Julius Jaffe replied, with a teaching of Rabbi Yishma'el, "'He ate her when she was unripe.' That is, she was still married to Uriah the Hittite." Herman Fishman said, "Oy." Julius Jaffe continued, "But he passed the more severe test of teshuvah, which is true repentance: As he wrote, 'My sin is always before my eyes' (Psalms 51:5) and further, 'Purge me with hyssop and I shall be clean; Wash me and I shall be whiter than snow' (Psalms 51:9), and still further, 'Create me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me.'" (Psalms 51:12) THE LIGHT AND THE VESSEL Julius Jaffe said, "Rav Ashlag, elaborating on teachings of Rav Isaac Luria, describes desire as existing in two forms: desire for the self alone (feh) and desire for the purpose of sharing." He continued, "YHVH has no desire for the self alone. The only thing he 'wants' or 'needs' is a Vessel with which... Continue reading
Posted May 22, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
JUDGMENT Seeing that Herman Fishman was about to step on an ant, Julius Jaffe urgently intervened to let the ant pass. He said, "When a judgment against a man has been rendered in the Upper World, he is always given the opportunity to soften that judgment through some seemingly insignificant action." Herman Fishman said, "Has a judgment been rendered against me in the Upper World?" Julius Jaffe replied, "Oy. Bite your tongue." RABBI RABINOWITZ As he was studying Torah late one night Lilith (feh) appeared in Julius Jaffe’s room in the Rienzi Hotel. After she appeared again the following night, Julius Jaffe met with Rabbi Rabinowitz. Rabbi Rabinowitz said, “Oy vey. Did any words come out of her mouth?” Julius Jaffe replied, “She cast her gaze around the room and with wicked laughter she said, ‘And the appearance of the vision that I saw was like the vision that I saw when I came to destroy the city.’” (Ezekiel 43:3) Then Rabbi Rabinowitz wept and quoted the Zohar: “We see that all the nations have risen, and Israel is lower than all of them. This is because the Above sent the Shekinah away from Him and took the slave woman Lilith in her place. Who is this slave woman? At first she sat behind the grinding mill, and now she has inherited the place of her mistress." Rabbi Rabinowitz explained, “As He consorts with Lilith above, the Shekinah consorts with Samael below, and so it will be until Moshiach.” He continued, “With Lilith He does not pour out his seed. But listen to this wonderful miracle. At Shabbat, when a righteous Jew and his soulmate intimately embrace, He and the Shekinah are reunited, whereupon He pours out his seed which pours down Light upon the world.” He went on, “However, when a Jew lives alone in a dark space Lilith arrives to seduce him and wickedly laughs in the lewd triumph of her usurping the place of the Jew’s soulmate in the Jew’s bed just as she has usurped the place of the Shekinah with God in the Upper World. Feh!” ESTHER TABACHNIK They were walking. Julius Jaffe said, "I will marry Esther Tabachnik." He continued, in the name of Rabbi Rabinowitz, "A man alone in a room, Lilith (feh) plagues him in the midnight hour. He went on, "But Esther Tabachnik, 'her price is above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.'" (Proverbs 31:10-12) Herman Fishman said, "Kinehora." JERRY CHAIMOVICH & RAV ASHLAG Herman Fishman asked, "Why are the wicked so strong? 'I saw under the sun, in the place of justice, that wickedness was there, and in the place of righteousness, that wickedness was there.'" (Eccl. 3:16) Julius Jaffe replied, "'The righteous and the wicked God will judge.'" (Eccl. 3:17) He explained, "No act of righteousness goes unnoticed by YHVH. Even Jerry Chaimovich once, perhaps, left a ten dollar tip... Continue reading
Posted May 8, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
EMUNAH When Herman Fishman asked Julius Jaffe to discourse on emunah, Julius Jaffe’s mouth twisted into a rictus as if he were trying to lift a huge weight. Finally Julius Jaffe said, "Fools and silly people who refer to emunah as faith or belief are like ignorant farm animals. When Moishe called out to God on the banks of the Red Sea, God said, "Why do you call out to me? Tell the people to go forward." He continued, "Then Nachshon walked into the Red Sea and the waves parted, but not until the water had reached Nachshon's neck. This was to test Nachshon's emunah, his certainty." He went on, "Such is my own emunah that on Shabbat I can turn the Rienzi Hotel into a blimp that travels back into the past or ahead into the future at my direction. But you must tell no one about this. Do you agree?" And Herman Fishman agreed. MOISHE AND THE ROCK As the sages instruct, Julius Jaffe studied Torah at three o'clock in the morning, when most of the demons are sleeping. One night, as he read Shemot Chapter 17 (“Moishe strikes the rock”) Julius Jaffe merited a startling insight that illuminated all of Torah. He was overjoyed and recited the Sh'ma. But a moment later he was saddened by the thought of jackasses and their televised bonehead preachments. FUN FOR THE FEEBLE They were walking. Herman Fishman said, "In English there's there's an expression, 'fun for the feeble.' How would one say that in Jewish?" Julius Jaffe replied, 'Shpas far die schwach.'" He continued, "God sees the end in the beginning. If I show an acorn to a fool, the fool thinks that only a fool would believe that the acorn contains an oak tree." He went on, "God sees not just the oak tree, but all the acorns yet to come, and all the trees yet to come." "Therefore," Herman Fishman asked, "did he know that Adam and Eve would eat the forbidden fruit?" Julius Jaffe said, "Yes. It was shpas far die schwach.": "THE TWO JAKES" He said, "My favorite movie is The Two Jakes." He said, "My favorite novel is From The Terrace." He said, "My favorite song is Moments to Remember, by The Four Lads." Herman Fishman asked, "What is your favorite food?" He said, "Chicken pot pie." TRUTH Harvey Gershman asked him, "How can I know truth?" Julius Jaffe replied, "By three attributes." He continued, "Truth is simple, but deceptively so. For example, 'Buy low and sell high' seems simple, but what is high? What is low? You see, it's not as simple as you thought." He went on, "Secondly, the opposite of truth may also be truth. For example, money is everything, and money is nothing." He continued, "Most importantly, truth is funny. Consider a definition of zero: a number A which when added to a number B results in a sum of B, which is funny." Then Herman Fishman said, "How about when... Continue reading
Posted Apr 17, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
FOUR ATTRIBUTES OF A TZADDIK Herman Fishman asked, "Was Shlomo Putchkis a tzaddik?" Julius Jaffe replied, "No, because Shlomo Putchkis did not possess the four attributes of a tzaddik." He continued, "A tzaddik must come from a lineage of tzaddikim, both in his generations and also in his connection with his teacher, and through his teacher in his connection with his teacher's teacher, and his teacher's teacher's teacher.." He went on, "A tzaddik must have traversed all ten of the sefirot, perhaps over the course of many lifetimes." He further stated, "A tzaddik must diligently learn Torah for its own sake. 'Those who seek Me will find Me.'" (Proverbs 8:17) He concluded, "As an exemplar of tikkun olam, a tzaddik must teach, inspire, and lead others in the correct path, and this work continues even after the revival of the dead." LILITH The companions were walking. Julius Jaffe said, "When Lilith was cast into the bottom of the ocean, Adam in his unhappiness consorted with demon women for 135 years." Sidney Plouse asked, "Did God ever consort with Lilith?" Julius Jaffe replied, "Yes. After the destruction of the Second Temple and the exile of the people, the Shekinah remained with the people while God separated himself from the people and consorted with Lilith." Herman Fishman asked, "How can a man know if his wife has been possessed by Lilith?" Julius Jaffe said, "A man and his wife must have a secret word. Also, if a wife refuses to lie beneath her husband, she has been possessed by Lilith. Feh. It was for this that Lilith was cast into the bottom of the ocean.." SINS OF THE MARRIAGE BED Julius Jaffe was walking with Herman Fishman. Julius Jaffe said, "Alike unto the dinner table, the marriage bed has many prohibitions. Wrongdoings can bring forth a child with two heads." Herman Fishman inquired, "Of all the prohibitions of the marriage bed, which one is the most dire to transgress?" To which Julius Jaffe replied, "When a man and wife are locked in intimate embrace, should one or both of them think lasciviously of another person, feh, no transgression is worse than this one. Their child will have webbed feet like a duck." As they walked on Herman Fishman said, "But what of Jacob who, at the moment of conjugal bliss, must surely have called out Rachel's name in the darkness, although his bedmate was Leah?" Julius Jaffe answered without hesitation, "Yes, but Jacob had been hoodwinked to believe he was with Rachel!" He continued, "Further, when Jacob realized the deception and upbraided Leah, she quite correctly answered in kind: 'Are you not my teacher and am I not your pupil? I learned from your fine example. When your father Isaac called you by Esau's name, you said, Here am I.'" And they continued on their way. EVEN BEFORE HE CREATED Julius Jaffe said, "Even before he undertook the creation of the world, even before he brought Adam into being, God revealed to... Continue reading
Posted Apr 3, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
OLD SONG Julius Jaffe sang an old song: 'Boys, boys, too much noise! Abie! Louie! Kum in hoyz!' CONCUPISCENCE Julius Jaffe said, "In Torah, the Land of Egypt is a metaphor for concupiscence." THE GODFATHER PART III Morrie Brier asked Julius Jaffe for his opinion of The Godfather Part III. Julius Jaffe said, "Feh! Feh!" BERNIE BERLOWITZ Julius Jaffe said, "By transgressing a single word of Torah -- 'yarbeh' -- King Solomon caused the splitting of the kingdom for his descendants. How much more so, then, for Bernie Berlowitz, who transgressed the whole book of Shemot!" FASTING AND FRESSING On Yom Kippur, Julius Jaffe attended services, and, as befits a Jew, he was fasting. But following the services he saw the Rabbi fressing on hard boiled eggs. In shock, Julius Jaffe exclaimed: "Rabbi, why are you fressing so?" The Rabbi smiled. "I am modest in my piety," he said. "When I fress, I hide from others that I am fasting." THE ANGEL OF DEATH Julius Jaffe was carrying a large box of bricks on his shoulders. The day was hot. Too weary to go on, Julius Jaffe dropped the box and called out to the Angel of Death. At that instant the Angel appeared and said, "Can I be of service to you?" Now trembling in fear, Julius Jaffe said, "Yes. Could you help me put this box of bricks back on my shoulders?" Continue reading
Posted Mar 25, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
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Virus: Good morning. I'll be glad to take a few questions. Reporter #1: What are you actually trying to accomplish? Virus: Well, there's a moment in The Possessed, the novel by Fyodor M. Dostoevsky, when the main character -- I believe his name was Strombolini -- says that since he's already made a mess of his life, he'll try to make as big a mess of it as possible. In other words, he'll transform destruction, or perhaps entropy is a better word, into creation by making it intentional. It's a bit like something Kenneth Koch used to say about writing poetry: if something isn't working, do it more. Reporter #2: So you're an intellectual. Have you read Susan Sontag's Illness as Metaphor?: Virus: Certainly not. But I've infected the University of Chicago. Did you know that Leo Strauss, the phlebotomist who for twenty years was the Robert Maynard Hutchins Distinguished Service Professor of political science at the University of Chicago, in private conversations used to worry about the schvartzes coming across Jackson Park? Well. he did. Reporter #2: Don't you mean phenomenologist rather than phlebotomist? Virus: Thank you. But rather than either phlebotomist or phenomenologist, I meant to say podiatrist. What used to be called a foot doctor. Reporter #3: Could you please be serious for a moment? Virus: I'll be serious if you'll be roebuck. It was a wonderful store at one time. People used to be able to order a whole house which would arrive disassembled in a railroad car, and then they'd put it together themselves. There were 31,000 parts. That was going on even at the time of the 1918 epidemic. There simply aren't people like that today, as Nestor says in Homer's Iliad, as translated by W.H.D. Rouse. Reporter #4: Can you please stop your infernal bookishness? Virus: All right. Reporter #4: What do you think of Donald Trump? Virus: (sighs) I knew someone would ask that. Listen, Trump is neither the hero nor the villain of this story. What's important is not Trump himself, but the response to Trump in you and you and you and you. In this sense, Trump is like the biblical Pharaoh. Some people hurried to leave Egypt when Pharaoh allowed it, and some people actually wanted to stay. Lindsey Graham would be somebody like that. Speaking of which, has it occurred to anyone that the name "Lindsey Graham" naturally suggests "Lindsey Graham Cracker," because Lindsey Graham would have been a segregationist in the old days, and "cracker" means a bigoted white person? You see, the universe is always sending coded messages like that, but you people need to be aware of them and understand them. Ahem. I myself am such a message. Reporter #4: Oh, for Christ's sake! Virus: Well, I'm getting a bit weary. But before I go, I'd like to ask you a question. Do you think I will be Time magazine's Person of the Year? Reporter #5: No, because you're not a person. Virus: (sighs) True... Continue reading
Posted Mar 20, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
Carlson Fenwick, Professor In our years-long correspondence concerning All things Shakespearian Alan Grosbeck and I Sometimes amused ourselves by concocting Hare-brained interpretations and pursuing Them to their risibly illogical conclusions. Aware for instance that in Elizabethan times ‘Nothing’ was a crude slang word for the Female genitalia, we searched past the oft-cited Double entendre of Much Ado About Nothing And discovered that "nothing" was possibly Shakespeare’s favorite word. In King Lear Nothing appears eighteen times in just Fourteen speeches including Cordelia’s First words to Lear – ‘Nothing, my lord’ -- And in Lear as a whole we found "nothing" Thirty-four times in twenty-nine speeches While in The Winter’s Tale "nothing" appears Thirty-four times in twenty-six speeches. There’s plenty of nothing in Hamlet too. So what was Shakespeare up to there? Possibly nothing. But plenty of nothing. We had some good laughs over it. I miss Alan, interred now at Mount Auburn, And he came to mind yesterday as I read Sonnet 73 and recalled how we used to Imagine all the possibilities of who is Speaking to whom in these fourteen lines. Oh, spare me the dull and obvious banality That it’s an old man addressing a younger. It could be an old woman and her cat or A young girl and her doll. Why the hell not? But then a rather novel interpretation came To me which I wholeheartedly welcomed. Was there really something new to say About one of the most commented-upon Poems in the English language? I hurried To my bookshelves and consulted Dryden, Johnson, Coleridge, the Marxists, Freudians, The New Critics, and even old Yeats whose Remark that Shakespeare is only a mass of Magnificent fragments expresses not at all a Denigration but instead suggests an analogy Between Shakespeare and the post-Newtonian Description of the whole far-flung Universe. But it seems that no scholar in any age has Proposed that the ‘speaker’ in Sonnet 73 Is actually the poem itself, nor that the subject Of the poem is the experience of reading it. ‘That time of year thou mayst in me behold’ -- A coy invitation: If you’ve got a moment to Engage your imagination, the poem says, These ink spots on a page can conjure up A windy fall day, some trees, and a ruined Church or monastery, perhaps one of those Closed by Henry VIII. And that’s only the Beginning of what I, the poem, can disclose If – and it’s a big if -- you have what it takes To see it. My coy invitation was also a challenge. You may ‘behold’ the images, or maybe not, But the final couplet will offer a congratulation On what ‘thou perceiv’st’ – with a reminder that Perception won’t last forever. “This’ in line 13 Refers to the inevitability of conclusion, which Has been universalized in the poem and is now Demonstrated by the end of the poem itself. Is there more? Yes, or maybe not. Oh dear God. Ed. note: "There’s plenty of nothing in... Continue reading
Posted Jan 28, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
Yesterday, introducing the impeachment managers, Nancy Pelosi invoked Longfellow. It was the first time I've heard poetry spoken by a politician since Bill Clinton in the 1980's quoted Emerson's baleful line about the future, "When our sons have gone to where our fathers are...." Speaking of baleful, here's a Longfellow poem perhaps appropriate for these dark times: Haunted Houses (1858) All houses wherein men have lived and died Are haunted houses. Through the open doors The harmless phantoms on their errands glide, With feet that make no sound upon the floors. We meet them at the doorway, on the stair, Along the passages they come and go, Impalpable impressions on the air, A sense of something moving to and fro. There are more guests at table, than the hosts Invited; the illuminated hall Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts, As silent as the pictures on the wall. The stranger at my fireside cannot see The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear; He but perceives what is; while unto me All that has been is visible and clear. We have no title-deeds to house or lands; Owners and occupants of earlier dates From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands, And hold in mortmain still their old estates. The spirit-world around this world of sense Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere Wafts through these earthly mists and vapors dense A vital breath of more ethereal air. Our little lives are kept in equipoise By opposite attractions and desires; The struggle of the instinct that enjoys, And the more noble instinct that aspires. These perturbations, this perpetual jar Of earthly wants and aspirations high, Come from the influence of an unseen star, An undiscovered planet in our sky. And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light, Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd Into the realm of mystery and night,– So from the world of spirits there descends A bridge of light, connecting it with this, O’er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends, Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss. Continue reading
Posted Jan 16, 2020 at The Best American Poetry
When she used the word bullnose to describe The blunt corner of a marble kitchen counter -- From that moment I was in love with Calliope, As I inferred a knowledge of carpentry which, Although I had been unaware of it, I do find Attractive in a woman whose slender arms Disguise wiry strength just as her vocabulary Unexpectedly includes a word like bullnose. Another turn-on for me is a sylph-like woman In a form-fitting wedding dress so with pleasure I anticipate browsing Modern Brides magazine With Calliope – notwithstanding how when I Looked up bullnose in the dictionary it was Defined as a disease of pigs. But no matter! Continue reading
Posted Dec 8, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Jared Korsauer, Student Every Sunday night a group of us Get together – a leftist lawyer, CU Students, a tough black guy Who got radicalized in the air force, Some chicks, a psychiatrist who Knows psychiatry is all bullshit -- Each with revolutionary intentions And with a revolutionary analysis Which doesn’t mean they’ve read Every word that Marx ever wrote Or all of Stalin’s letters to Molotov But they understand the dialectic And they’re action-oriented Leninist Bolsheviks in the context of 1967. * Carlson Fenwick, Professor Were we really to hear and Understand Lear’s words, ‘If you have poison for me “I will drink it,’ or Francesca Of Canto V, ‘Quel giorno più ‘Non vi leggemmo avante,’ ‘That day we read no farther,’ Or von Sternberg’s Blue Angel In which Jannings dies a tragic Cuckold and off the screen died An unrepentant Nazi in 1950 -- Were we to take all that to heart, Alas, in that case, I’m afraid We would just cry all the time. * James Rice, Student Pears are pear-shaped Jewish kids From Brooklyn most of whom Want to be doctors but they also Like Government which is called Political Science at a lot of schools. Pears hang out in the pear palace Which is the 24-hour study room Near the vending machines in Hartley Hall which are across the Way from the TV room where Pears are almost never found. Jocks who come here from Ohio Or Texas have never seen a pear And it hugely freaks them out. Continue reading
Posted Nov 19, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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On Veterans' Day let us remember the fallen, and honor them. It used to be Armistice Day. Now it is a three-day weekend. As King David would have said: How the mighty have fallen. But some things don't change even as all the fashions do so the old feel older in an orgy of planned obsolescence. I wondered: Who will inspire them to do the great things the Alte Kockers of the past revealed in prophecies? So I went to Mitch, my old friend, thinking: if anyone knows, he does, and he told me a very simple solution he had for the problem of inspiration, which Freud would have called the problem of anxiety. "When you need inspiration," Mitch said, "there's no need to look any further than Orson Welles' classic commercials for Paul Masson wine. Many of them can be seen on You-Tube. I saw a nice one the other day. I just wish it went on longer." Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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I sold a Miro painting for a rich guy That was basically a big number 68 And oddly enough it sold for about 68,000 so I got a nice finder’s fee But it would sell for even more now. My friend Dennis had this hot New babe Kaia who wanted the Finer things in life so he asked Me did I know anybody that was Selling a Picasso or whatnot. Dennis was the kind of guy that When we were at the race track And he went to pee he came back With ice cream cones for everybody And he did a lot of stuff like that. Many people carry guns but Dennis Was the only guy I’ve known who Carried a gun with a silencer but I never saw him actually take it out Nor did I see him lose his temper. We went every week to a bar by Grand Avenue to settle up our Sports bets and once we came in And a lowlife mope said to Dennis You bastard you owe me money. It was kind of a tense moment except Dennis handled it with great aplomb By asking the mope in a calm voice How much do I owe you and the mope Said 200 so Dennis just gave it to him. When we were outside the bar a guy Named Jimmy who was with us asked Why he gave money to the mope and Dennis said emphatically that it was Worth his 200 to be rid of the mope. He said how Joey The Clown Lombardo, Joey Aiuppa, John No Nose DiFronzo, Those guys owed him favors and with One phone call the mope would be in A trunk at O’Hare long-term parking. But he stated that he was not a thug So 200 to get rid of the mope was A small price which I attributed to The influence of Kaia who certainly Would disapprove of any violence. Meanwhile I happened to know a guy Who wanted to sell a Matisse drawing So Dennis and I went over to look at it, A big drawing of a woman in charcoal Or something hanging there on the wall. The guy had an impressive art collection But for some reason he wished to get rid Of the Matisse which actually looked like Something that could have been drawn By a six-year old. He wanted 35,000. Dennis handled it with great aplomb Except I knew he was thinking how A six-year old could have drawn it or He could even draw one himself and Who would be the wiser? But no. Down in the car we giggled about it. 35,000 just to fuck Kaia he laughed As much later I would laugh at myself When I didn’t know or care how much Krista took me for and she broke me. Continue reading
Posted Nov 9, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
In the old days working at Republic Steel We gathered nightly at Moose Cholak’s Calumet Inn on 99th Street and Ewing. It was when polyester double-knit pants Were coming in and one night this guy Said to me, 'No reason to worry about 'Pants anymore what with the way these 'Double-knit disco pants are coming in,' And I said, 'I agree with you completely,' And he went on, 'Pants are suddenly a 'Non-issue because of the double-knits,' And I said, 'You are correct,' and as he Wonderingly shook his head I insisted, 'Beyond any doubt, what you say is true.' Continue reading
Posted Nov 5, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Consider the lilies of the field, they toil not, neither do they spin, yet I say unto you that even Solomon in his glory was not arrayed as one of these. -- Matthew 6:28-29 I think Jesus Christ meant that If you look closely at something Like a lily you would see how It would cost a lot of money for A nice suit like that for a man Or a nice dress for a woman. But, and this is a big but: Jesus Might have been joking or being Sarcastic like if two rich men are Hanging out at the country club And one of them says sarcastically How money is only pieces of paper. Since nobody knows what Jesus Meant it can be one thing at one Minute and the opposite thing The next minute, or both at once, As John Ashbery said, ‘It had been ‘Raining but it had not been raining.’ So when Buddha heard what Jesus Said about the lily he said, ‘He is not far From Buddha-hood’ and when he read Some Trees by John Ashbery he said, ‘The most beautiful first book of poems ‘Since Wallace Stevens’ Harmonium.’ Continue reading
Posted Oct 27, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
It’s my birthday, I’m 147, I’m 741, I wake in darkness lying on my side And as I feel a very slight stirring Against my back I wonder might This be from the Cthulhu Mythos: Yig, or Olkoth, who enters the world Through glass eyes in the statues Of the Virgin Mary. Oh, you callow Undergraduates, I’m being serious Here and the windows tightly shut Though they may be hardly mitigate The I-10 freeway’s 4:30 AM roar From half a mile away. Are you 17, Honey? Are you 24? Moi, I am 812. Continue reading
Posted Oct 22, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
I traveled to Bojaxi Gezalem. I visited the marketplace. I said, “Nuk mos a mund majtas,” which means, “I have been tooting my horn.” I had meant to say, “Ndaloni a mund falamenderit,” which means, “Fruit is what I am eager to buy.” They laughed at me. In the hospital I said, “Desha pulla palko te plote,” which means, “This is the weight.” I had meant to say, “Mund ma trgoni pk vizat,” which means, “There is no need for you to make such a fuss about it.” They laughed at me. I was in the airport. I said, “Eshte per quind shkone,” which means, “I am looking for a loophole.” I had meant to say, “Eshte me didjde det bakine,” which means, “This is the window where one buys the funnies.” They laughed at me. I went to the brothel and said, “Mund a mund verit kanitier,” which means, “I need the tow truck.” I had meant to say, “Kifit mos vazo takoni,” which means, “From now on I will try to be spontaneous.” They laughed at me. I prayed and said, “Ora kur mur shesh bardha,” which means, “My sin is always before my eyes.” I had meant to say, “Ju duhet keni prisni lema thoma,” which means, “Lead me in the correct path.” No matter, God heard my prayer! Continue reading
Posted Oct 20, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Lyle Ross Crockett University Administrator “Chancellor of the University of Mississippi.” That those five words – or are there six? -- Would ever append themselves to my name, (Or is my name the modest appendage To those words?) – well sir, for a fellow Who grew up around hogs and cotton fields It is quite a bit to take in. I am not worthy. Worthy or not, however, I have a job to do Nor will I let my deeply-felt humility imply Any lack of confidence in my preparedness For the Chancellorship, lest that implication Appear to devalue the respect and gratitude I feel for my years at other great universities As an administrator and in classrooms as well. Like its sister schools across the South, The academic mission of Ole Miss exists Side by side with the school’s military, Athletic, and social responsibilities in ways That a Harvard or Yale couldn't understand. We’re an army, a professional football team, And a matchmaking service all at once. To be clear, when I call us an army I use that word in the broadest sense, Encompassing our infantry ROTC and Also our Navy and Air Force ROTC corps; “Army,” after all, derives from the Latin “Armata” as in armada, the maritime force That struck England in 1588, I think it was. As for football, just as the Tampa Tarpons Are fertile soil for seedlings of major league Baseball, our football team is professional Notwithstanding that our players are paid Later rather than paid now. Scant matter. Charley Conerly ’47 is the quarterback In New York, and look ye at Bruiser Kinard. Apropos Ole Miss as a matchmaking service -- But is marriage bureau gentler to the ear? -- When sons and daughters of the state’s Eminent families enroll here there is an Expectation that they’ll graduate with More than a sheepskin: a life’s partnership, That is, to prolong their patrician lineage. In my capacity as University chancellor, With that legal and even spiritual identity, I’ve been honored to join a number of These young couples in holy matrimony. Violet Beach became Mrs. Wilson Greenhill Under my auspices, and Floride Bondurrant Metamorphosed into Mrs. Reed Polifax. Yes, Hayes Bondurrant is a Ku Kluxer, And Old Man Greenhill is a horse’s ass. But might not the progeny of their progeny Sustain what has worth in antique traditions While also gestating a new generation of Hey, whoop, jamboree, as is our fond hope? I’ve done my part. You may kiss the bride. Continue reading
Posted Oct 16, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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A New York Times article full of negative insinuations linked Democrat candidate Tulsi Gabbard to white supremacist groups and Russian cyberbots. Throughout the article there’s puzzlement and a certain annoyance about Tulsi Gabbard: “What is she up to?” Whatever she may be up to, what’s most obvious about Tulsi Gabbard is never mentioned in the article. Yet it’s absolutely the first thing anyone notices about her. Tulsi Gabbard is a beautiful woman. If she were Black, if she were Muslim, even, perhaps, if she were fat, the New York Times might reference those attributes. What’s more, such references could confer on Tulsi Gabbard some of today’s requisite victim identity. The present article might at least have mentioned the fact that Tulsi Gabbard is Hindu. But the general animosity of the piece was such that no quarter would be given. I believe that the foundation of that animosity was the candidate’s physical attractiveness. Again, her beauty is the obvious thing about her, and for that very reason it can't even be mentioned. It's too horrible. I first noticed this tendency in the media following the death, in 1982, of the actress Grace Kelly. One of the TV networks aired a half-hour program featuring celebrities who had known her. Not one of them mentioned the fact that she was a beautiful woman. The irony was, if she hadn’t been a beautiful woman nobody would ever have heard of Grace Kelly. In the ancient world, in Northern Europe and also in South America, beautiful young girls were subjected to sacrifice. Whatever honor might have been ascribed to this, it was a good way of getting rid of a potentially disruptive character, and even of punishing her for being what she was. When the remains of a sacrificed girl were discovered in Peru, that dog Bill Clinton uncouthly stated, “There’s one good-looking mummy.” Impeach him! In a 1980s shampoo commercial, a model begged, “Don’t hate me because I’m beautiful.” It was a joke but she deserved to be hated. If she were any good, she’d be fat. https://www.nytimes.com/2019/10/12/us/politics/tulsi-gabbard.html?searchResultPosition=2 Continue reading
Posted Oct 13, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Everybody has a tragic story And I have one of those too. Would you like to hear it For a couple of hours on an Economy class flight to LA? Haha that’s what I thought! Or let’s talk about money. Just by looking at people It’s hard to tell how much Money they have. Do you Think I have a lot of money? Haha that’s what I thought! Or let’s talk about sex. Just by looking at people It’s hard to tell how much Sex they’re getting. Do you Think I’m getting a lot of sex? Haha that’s what I thought! Or let’s talk about death. Just looking at people It’s hard to tell whether They’re dead or alive but If you wait long enough You’ll be right eventually The way a stopped clock Is right twice a day or blind Pigs find truffles. Do you Think I’m alive or am I dead? Haha that’s what I thought! But haha what about now? Continue reading
Posted Oct 10, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Reed Polifax University Student In Mississippi the Polifax name commands Respect so I need to be careful about whom I marry and that is the reason I pledged Phi Delta Theta -- not that there was Ever any doubt I would pledge Phi Delt Since my daddy and his daddy before him Were also brothers of Phi Delta Theta. You get your pick of desirable women in The most prestigious sororities when you Are a brother in Phi Delta Theta particularly If your name is Polifax, just as the women In those sororities know they get their pick Of the most desirable men if they are sisters Of sororities like Tri Delt or Delta Gamma. On a typical football weekend before the game We will be drinking in the Grove with the girls There naturally gravitating to the Phi Delts And before the Vandy game there were lots of Delta Gammas there and I was being sociable But not revealing that my last name is Polifax Or of course they would instantly smell blood. However there was something about this one Delta Gamma who without batting her eyelashes Was unusually bewitching notwithstanding and As we began the usual barnyard mating dance I let it drop: “My name by the way is Reed Polifax” To which she replied, “Well, bless your heart, “Dear, my name is Floride Calhoun Bondurrant!” Washington Janes Groundskeeper At Parchman the assistant warden Took me under his wing and I learned To drive the tractors and fix them if Something went wrong with them. It was the best thing that ever happened To me because one day the boss man From Greenhill’s farm came and asked Could anybody at Parchman drive a tractor. I was under a life sentence you know But the assistant warden pointed at me And said I can drive so they let me go But money must have changed hands. I got along fine with the boss man at Greenhill’s farm except they paid me Just one dollar a day with some food And I lived in a converted chicken coop. One day the boss man said to me, “Is this a good tractor we got here?” I said, “Yes, the Deere Model 60 is “A good tractor, nothing wrong with it.” He said, “You seem to know a lot“ About tractors. Mister Greenhill Would like to speak with you. “He’ll come by your coop about six.” That evening Mister Greenhill said, “I’m closely associated with Ole Miss. “They’re putting in a whole new turf “For the Ole Miss football stadium. “They’ve got a P9600 lateral-move “Sprinkler rig on wheels so they need “Somebody to drive a tractor to pull “The rig to wet down the football field. “Recently I donated one of the new “Deere thirty-five horsepower tractors “That came out this year. You’ll need “To familiarize yourself with it, Wash.” I wasn’t sure quite what he meant But then he said, “In other words, “I want to get you a groundskeeping... Continue reading
Posted Oct 1, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Grey Squirrel Student To cozy up to the Beatnik Girl I joined The Folk Music Club. The meeting Consisted of singing to each other From mimeographed pages while A few of them played their guitars. No other males were present as The Beatnik Girl and the other girls Looked at me with pleasant enough Expressions on their faces as they Might look at a harmless bear cub. Unlike the hairsprayed sorority girls These no makeup girls seemed to Flaunt their back country origins and While they did not wear Davy Crockett Coonskin hats they might as well have. After a few songs I was asked to Introduce myself to the group and Maybe say a few words about myself Like where in Mississippi I was from And about my interest in folk music. Often I am rather squeamish about Saying that I come from Hog Chain So I say Bogue Chitto instead but Among the odd duck girls I admitted, “I’m from Hog Chain in Lincoln county.” I continued, “It may surprise you to “Learn that a hog chain has nothing “To do with pigs but is actually a “Metal rod that supports the hulls of “Flat-bottom stern-wheeler riverboats. “I am the first ever from Hog Chain to “Attend Ole Miss just as I am the first “One to be a brother in Kappa Alpha “Where our motto is ‘Dieu et les Dames’ “Meaning ‘God and the Ladies’ in English. “As for my interest in folk music perhaps “I don’t know how I can put it into words “But I have smelled so much hairspray “And deoderant on sorority girls that I “Need a break from that really bad.” Had I said too much or not enough? A moment of stunned silence ensued Until one of them finally whispered Quietly almost like a little mouse, “Could you please tell us your name?” Just then in that very second before I could reply the Beatnik Girl stated Loudly and firmly, “His former name “Means nothing because I am giving “Him a new one which is Grey Squirrel!” Continue reading
Posted Aug 4, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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Ray Lloyd Burford Student As the word got out how Wobble Alfork Had said that the Beatnik Girl was hot, Which he said on the football team’s bus, It caused a controversy because Wobble Was the main Ole Miss girl rating expert. Half of us thought Wobble was plain nuts While the other half scratched their heads And wondered was there something they Were not seeing that Wobble was seeing In Kate Haley known as the Beatnik Girl. It all came to a head at a meeting of the Ole Miss M Club where without saying The Beatnik Girl by name Wobble said, “I will tell you something and you can “Listen or not listen, it’s all up to you. “Right now we have the Tri Delts and “So forth with the permanent waves “In their hair and wanting to be like “Miss America but change is coming “And am I the only one who sees that? “Soon the hot girls at all the colleges “All over the country and even Ole Miss “Are going to have long straight hair “And they will play the guitar and sing “Hang down your head Tom Dooley. “And those girls will be hot to trot “And the ones putting on their makeup “With permanent waves in their hair “Will wonder what happened because “They will never know what hit them. “By the way, my fellow members of the “M Club, I’ll tell you what else is going “To happen, there is going to be Negro “Football players and basketball players “At Ole Miss and we can play tiddlywinks.” Then he stopped talking but it seemed Impossible what he said, and I tried to Imagine the hot beatnik girls and Negro Ole Miss football players but it was like An ant trying to imagine the Sputnik. Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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I'm doing a project of 100 monologues by imaginary students, faculty, administrators, donors, and staff at the University of Mississippi in 1957. After this I will do a similar project set at Columbia University in 1967, and then a final one at a college to be determined set in 1977. This is from the Mississippi project >> Frank Daniel Glass Student At the SAE house we watch a lot of Television but there are also books That we pass around and laugh about Except sometimes we also discuss Them seriously and even angrily. One of the books is “Peyton Place” About the goings on in a small town Some of which are of a sexual nature But “Peyton Place” is also surprisingly Philosophical in some long passages. For example, “Peyton Place” begins “Indian summer is like a woman. “Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle.” And there is also sex and abortion With the character of Betty Anderson. On the other hand, “Peyton Place” Has passages like, “Why pray at all? “God will do what he wants anyway.” We have had discussions about this Besides about Betty taking off her bra. The other book we pass around is Called “Mandingo” by Kyle Onstott. This is an amazing book about which People would get really angry because Of the way it depicts the Old South. However, I did not get angry about it And just to get the brothers’ goats I said “Mandingo” was the opposite of How “Gone With The Wind” prettified The South so “Mandingo” uglified it. In “Mandingo” all the white people are Racists to which some of the brothers Objected but I asked how can a person Own Negro slaves without being racist? The idea of that is even quite laughable. There were times when we almost came To blows about “Mandingo” but I said Honesty is the best policy in a book. I even wrote an English paper about “Mandingo” for which I received an F. Continue reading
Posted Jul 14, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
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As I am riding a lightning bolt You are on an embankment In a box for which I have a key. O ich wünschte ich hätte mehr Gelegenheit dich zu küssen! I am sitting on a hot stove On an embankment while You are not playing dice. O was für eine authentisches Verführerische Weib bist du! If a fish is told to climb a tree On an embankment it will Believe that its life is useless. O ich möchte dich betteln hören! Später kommt die Knutschflecken! Continue reading
Posted May 2, 2019 at The Best American Poetry