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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
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
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
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
'Hello, I'm an Intellectual' No woman will or could resist This disarming introduction Which, in contradistinction to Banal so-called pickup lines, Offers a frisson of brain buzz As a kind of appetizer for the Polymorphous feast of prandial And potable invigorations to follow. ‘Hello, I’m an intellectual!’ Say it With a cosmopolitan intonation (Practice with a recording device) And watch what happens. Read “Think and Grow Rich” to similarly Jump start your whole financial life Revelation At a Cubs game – no score After six innings – I prayed For a home run on the next Pitch and it happened. As the Ball cleared the left field wall I briefly hesitated, then fell To my knees and as I recited The Sh’ma the heavens opened And a great hippopotamus Appeared whose visage shone With compassion and love for All humankind. Then it was gone. I resumed my seat. I was eleven Years old. My friends shot me Puzzled glances for a moment But with shrugs they concluded I’d simply had a whack attack. The game continued, 1-0 Cubs. I have kept silent all these years! Sh'ma Yisrael, Adonai Eloheinu, Adonai Echud! Amen! Amen! Continue reading
Posted Apr 30, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Neem Fix had a nice bitch, Joe Blow had him a male dog, They decided to breed the dogs Where Neem got pick of the litter And Joe Blow got the next two Of the pups, then on and on Alternating the pups and if there Was an odd number of the pups The last of the pups would belong To that fine gentleman Neem Fix. His bitch whelped six pups so Neem wound up with three pups, One female and two males which He named after gun manufacturers, The female he named Winchester While the males he named Hi-Point And Ruger. Often when people Bought a pup they renamed the pup Something else but generally it was Too young to know the difference. Continue reading
Posted Feb 22, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
She longs for the loud mouth action man While I am of the diffident dreamy tribe. However, if life of the party is her desire, Then let’s get the show on the road will be My jocund motto, and later, when I tell her She’s looking good tonight, her chatoyant Sidelong glance and the adamantine luster Of her brown hair will ignite or intensify My pit bull dog determination to please her, This young woman whose name is Cynthia. Though I am seventy-one to her twenty years, I take heart from the audacious marriage of Peter Paul Rubens to Hélène Fourment, Who was sixteen. Rubens was fifty-three! Continue reading
Posted Jan 15, 2019 at The Best American Poetry
Who then were the chiefs and the lords of the Danaans? I could not tell the multitude of them nor name them, not if I had ten tongues and ten mouths, not if I had a voice never to be broken and a heart of bronze within me, not unless the Muses of Olympia, daughters of Zeus of the aegis remembered all those who had come beneath Ilion. Iliad, Book II These were the policemen, retired and active, Accompanied by their wives, who like a great Flock of birds attended Frank Umschlager’s Retirement dinner at the Cucina Albanese And their laughter reverberated off the ceiling Until the night wound down with Al Jablonski Saying a few words and then Frank Umschlager Said a few words himself at the end of the night. It showed respect for Frank Umschlager how Representatives of all twenty-four police districts Were there although in Frank Umschlager’s career Frank Umschlager had not actually worked in all Twenty-four districts, but in the districts where He did work he crossed paths with officers who Moved on to other districts so the upshot was Officers from all the districts attended that night. There was some horseplay among the policemen As they greeted one another, laughingly playing Some grab ass as the wives also exchanged hellos But the wives in a quieter way because the wives Didn’t know each other that well and because most Of them would just as soon have stayed home But they were there in Frank Umschlager’s honor Because they were the wives of the policemen. As when a great flock of birds lands in the trees, The policemen sat down at the tables designated For their respective police districts, each policeman Accompanied by his wife, and then the waiters Who seemed to appear out of nowhere filled their Water glasses, took their drink orders, and offered The appetizers of minestrone soup, bruschetta, Or crab cakes, which was the most popular appetizer. At the table of the 001 district there was Bob Dreher Whose father Dub Dreher worked for many years In the old Area South Detective Division when it was The private fiefdom of Lieutenant Slick Negronida. Joe Bona was also at the 001 table, and so were Ravko Micevik, Herb Bevens, and Phil Trymowicz, All of them accompanied by their wives that night Like a great flock of birds at the Cucina Albanese. Ravko Micevik, the gray-haired man, retired now from 001 where he worked patrol for many years, He opened his mouth and he said, “I remember “Going to Sox Park as a kid when there was “A late innings pitcher’s duel with no score until “Minnie Minoso came up to bat and I prayed for “A home run on the next pitch and he hit it over “The fence and ever since that day I believe in God.” From 002 came Barney Lanaham and his wife, Angelo Caniziaro and his wife, Al Louderman And his wife, Konstantin Gekas and his wife, Gene... Continue reading
Posted Dec 11, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
They called him the old grumpus wumpus But why? Why? Can you please explain that To me? Would you be so kind? Did I miss Something? I must have missed something Because for the life of me I can’t understand Why they called him the old grumpus wumpus. What got into them? What purpose could it Possibly serve? Is there some ulterior motive? Could you please take a moment out of your Busy schedule to enlighten me about this? Doesn’t it seem awfully mysterious to you? Everything was fine and then a minute later They called him the old gumpus wumpus. Oh, for Christ’s sake! Jesus Christ almighty! Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
Liszt You’re buying a can of tuna fish As you’ve done so many times Over the years but this is today, This is the exact can of tuna fish You’re buying now, it’s different From all other cans on the shelf, This is the Chicken of the Sea Light Chunk tuna fish in water You’re buying at this moment And you’re thinking of Liszt and Lina Schmalhusen as you buy it, The name of Lina Schmalhusen Echoing in your mind, ricocheting Around in your brain as you buy this tuna fish -- Lina Schmalhusen, Lina Schmalhusen -- and her rivalry With Dori Petersen, both of them Students in Liszt’s master classes For piano performance and the Rivalry getting worse and worse Until Liszt himself had to compose A stern letter to Dori Petersen and This is the precise can of tuna fish You buy on this day and you take it Home in your car in a paper bag. You’re making a tuna melt as you have Often done in your life but never this one That you’re making at this exact moment In this kitchen with this can of tuna fish That you put in the sink and on the counter Beside the sink you place a bowl, a spoon, A spatula, a knife, a can opener, a lemon, A bottle of mayonnaise, a white onion, A pack of pre-sliced cheddar cheese, And two pieces of rye bread. Meanwhile Liszt is still on your mind -- Liszt, Liszt – And Lina Schmalhusen’s rivalry with Dori Petersen in 1883 when Liszt was Drinking absinthe and Achille Colonello, His manservant was powerless to stop him. You slice off a section of the onion and You dice it on a plastic cutting board, And you use the knife to sweep it off The board into the bowl as you return Your attention to the can of tuna fish In the sink and then you open the can With the can opener and then, without Removing the lid, you press down On the lid with your thumbs to drain Water from the opened can of tuna fish. Has almost all of the water been drained From the can of tuna fish in the sink? You lift the top of the can for a moment And if too much water seems to remain You replace the top and -- with the can Still in the sink -- you press down again Even harder than before, after which You remove the top, discard it, and With the knife as your tool you transfer The tuna to the bowl where the onion is. Liszt suspended Dori Petersen from His master classes with that letter Stating that ‘this whole intrigue was ‘Initiated by you in a mean-spirited way.’ But then Lina Schmalhusen was caught Shoplifting so that Liszt, after assuring Himself of her innocence, felt obligated While the matter proceeded to trial To engage the judge and convince him To drop the charges. Now you place A... Continue reading
Posted Aug 9, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
When David Shapiro blamed my ping-pong Victory on the distractions of what in a fit Of pique he called my flapping ostrich Gesticulations I ventured to remonstrate That in many of my life’s activities or even In most of them I was like a flapping ostrich, “And David,” I continued, “don’t expect me “To bury my head in the sand.” Oh reader, Do you recognize my irresistible reflex for The comical riposte where the more droll Cosmopolitan rejoinder of which John was Such a past master might be something I should strive to develop? On the island Of Hydra Leonard Cohen once said to me, “Sing your poems instead of reading them, “You will have a new career.” I tried but Suppressing my laughter proved impossible Causing Leonard in a fit of pique to exclaim, “Take it seriously, Kenneth!” and I replied, “How can I take it seriously when I can’t sing?” Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
At first he was Little J.A. in a Prospect of Flowers But he kept on doing it and by the end he was in The Library of America – two volumes, mind you. “Here a scarf flies, there an excited call is heard,” That’s his best line I believe, but “Attention, shoppers” Is also wonderful and there are so many good ones. Some might say that “mild effects are the result” Sums up his oeuvre but I certainly don’t agree And if I ever said that it was just to get his goat As the shadows lengthened and we were wondering If man is horrible, for instance, as he wrote in “These Lacustrine Cities.” Once I recalled to him His recommendation of years past that I read The poetry of Muriel Rukeyser and he replied, “Are you sure it was me?” with that sly grin and The hint of insinuation like old wine that has Almost turned to water except there’s something Still going on there, but what? Or is it just you? Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
There was a day I mused to the class How making love with Queen Elizabeth Would be interesting – surely at Columbia I was the only professor who thusly mused And I often mused, as when I mused how Poets would be interested in the word ashtray But prose writers would be interested in all The different people who used the ashtray Or when I mused on Friday, February 7, 1964, As the Beatles first arrived on these shores That it would be interesting to be famous like The Beatles and meet beautiful Brit women And one of the students said, “Elizabeth again?” So I laughed and mused, “God save the queen.” Continue reading
Posted Jul 24, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
What did you think was going happen, anyway? Don’t say you were never warned! Old Herrick’s “Live here blitheful while ye may” gets the message Across, or how about this one: “The worms crawl in, "The worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on "Your snout.” It’s not like having tenure at Columbia, Where it’s almost impossible to get rid of you. In fact, You’ll get rid of yourself, the only question is when. That grumpus-wumpus Philip Larkin put it this way: “Most things never happen, this one will.” Well, okay, You get it. Uncle! Call off the dogs! “Though he slay me, "Yet I will honor him,” spake Job in the Book of Job So let’s go to the Cedar Bar. Except that’s closed. What about Max’s Kansas City? The West End? Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
"It's very difficult to criticize my French, since I speak perfectly." -- Kenneth Koch, in conversation It’s very difficult for me to write this poem After I’ve been dead for eighteen years Or maybe even longer depending on when You’re reading it but it’s very difficult For me to know exactly when that might be Since keeping track of time is very difficult For the dead with one day much like another but Not writing this poem would also be very difficult Because I started writing poems at a young age And it’s one of the things I got used to without Ever getting completely used to it like making love Is something else I never exactly got used to Since it’s very difficult to make love perfectly Like I could speak French perfectly. It’s very difficult to write about my future at this point Since I don’t have one but I can draw inspiration From John’s lines in Civilization and Its Discontents, “I could only gaze into the distance at my life like “A saint’s with each day distinct” and in fact each day Is so distinct that even long-forgotten remarks Flit into one’s consciousness like the randomness Of a hummingbird’s flight across a table set for A charming breakfast in the backyard of the parents Of a beautiful and brilliant girl you want to marry Despite a rather obvious age differential and suddenly you Hear yourself saying, “Rubens married Helene Fourment “When she was just sixteen and they even had five children.” Wait a minute, where was I? You see, it’s very difficult to manage a train of thought when The tracking mechanisms of time and space are Removed but I was about to say that slapdash reminiscences Now crop up like bumblebees not entirely unwelcome But somewhat alarming all the same and in particular I had In mind the first year I taught writing at Columbia when Apropos of who knows what I observed to the startled class, “When you’re twenty you think you will never die but when “You’re forty you know you will.” Funilly enough (funnily enough!) I was only thirty-nine so I was kind of looking into the future Except not like when you meet a beautiful girl and you know you Will make love with her without knowing exactly when But more like you’re speaking French with her and she speaks Perfectly and then she uses a word you’ve still got to learn. Continue reading
Posted Jul 19, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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 a hundred thousand times. Continue reading
Posted Jul 17, 2018 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