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Mitch Sisskind
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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 4 days ago 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
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'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
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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
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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! https://www.nytimes.com/2018/08/12/opinion/vs-naipaul-my-wonderful-cruel-friend.html Continue reading
Posted Aug 13, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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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?” https://newyorkschoolpoets.wordpress.com/2016/11/11/leonard-cohen-1934-2016-kenneth-koch-and-the-island-of-hydra/ Continue reading
Posted Jul 28, 2018 at The Best American Poetry
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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
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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