THEY TOLD ME TO LIE AND I SAID NO
THEY told me to lie and I said no. Not boldly.
My eyes were hot with shaming tears.
They told me to lie and I refused. Not bravely.
It is not for sensitive children to be brave.
Let us throw aside all soothing words and interpretations.
For, insofar as words console us, they are tainted.
Success to your litany of lies and poetic abstractions.
May it prove a worthy object of renunciation.
You say whoever wants heaven wants hell.
You should also say whoever wants hell deserves it.
WHOEVER desires to give pleasure desires to put people in debt.
But is it not kinder to spare someone the state of being in debt?
A placid conviction of superiority is probably for the best.
It is the arrogance that can’t sit quiet that has to go.
A lotus leaf is alluring, for it is full of coursing blood,
But it’s of a type for which no bat has a hollow tooth;—
Yet I, who am colder than any water blossom’s sap,
Am constantly harassed by these night creatures’ thirst.
They say “love and lust”; I say “lust and friendship.” We shall see
Which of these two philosophies turns out better for the philosopher.
AT night, there are millions of suns; in the daytime, only one.
Like with so many things, we adore the light that happens to be nearest.
The sages are all agreed that our stupidity relaxes at night. To be sure,
It’s the absence of bright ideas that allows us to see things as they are.
Suppose we begin with the sentence “One puff makes a candle quiet.”
Everything contingent on darkness would be licensed, then, to speak.
A streak of gold or silver through a panel of unreflecting black
Will make what was only a lack of light into an annihilating void.
Your life will serve as a lively trope for hell, for such is the fate
Of all English teachers who can neither read nor write nor teach.
“THE source of the sun is God”—? That’s like saying God
Is a whirling cloud of self-attracted dust.
Dust, which takes root on vacancy, is the unacknowledged substrate
Of all the monosyllabic things in human nature.
It doesn’t stop at trees and planets. Everything has rings.
We are each a pond into which a stone’s been dropped.
Reader, a black cat’s eye has plumbed my double helix.
The saurian split through its iris can neither dilate nor contract.
I don’t like thinking; I like already knowing. And this is why
I am powerless to solve anybody’s problems.
WE have a tradition in our poetry that babies give off light.
Actually, the naked human body gives off darkness.
The poem says Adam went to sleep, and his Father played doctor. True enough,—
But at that point, the chronology goes astray.
The correct sequence should be sleep, strange dream and woman-out-of-nowhere,—
And only then does the ungainly rib find its way out of Adam’s side.
Indeed, the magic wand thing is always on backwards. You touch a thing
With the wand, yes—but it’s you who are magically changed.
HE speaks with great and grim authority, for he speaks
Of hating now what once he hotly loved.
Observe the parent bird urging her babies from the nest.
The poet’s eye is a mother bird, and the tears are jumping off his cheeks!
You take a rose by the throat as you would take a rake by its handle.
Don’t be surprised when the needlespikes pierce your fingers through.
As much blood comes out your hand is how recklessly you took hold.
And how recklessly reveals your sense of entitlement . . .
But no one admires you; no one’s inspired by you. Sexually and intellectually,
You’re the dead end of whatever goes into you.
580 ARROWS shot irresponsibly into the dark
Will never once in a thousand years pierce the eye of the same target.
The only place those arrows will ever reunite is between
The shoulder blades of the luckless archer who shot them.
If you considered lying, but then thought better of it,
Best not mention the fact, for no one will praise you.
I was kicked out of Columbia for “dulness and insufficiency.”
The humiliation turned me into a river.
River got no shadow. River move.
Whoever puts their hand in that river’ll draw back a stub.
WE are forced into symbolism because we’re obliged to be brief.
We have to take advantage of every prejudice that presents.
A gypsy’s deck of cards has only fifty-four tropes through which
All manner of gypsy wisdom must be conveyed.
An army of bloodless Nordic saxophones won’t cut it. We need all
The heat and cunning implied in the turned-up ace of shovelblades.
Here is the Spanish mandala I learned in my youth.
In the original, it goes As de bas | tijaras en cruz.
In English, that’s “Ace of spades, crossed scissors,” but in this poem,
It means the summary self-defeat of the wise.
“NO moss on a rolling stone”—? That’s a myth.
Just look how thick the dust cakes on the blades of an electric fan.
In childhood, we think lonely places likeliest to be haunted:
In adulthood, we only expect ghosts on crowded streets.
They cannot deny you water, but they can deny you every kindness.
And this is why I prefer—and more than prefer—to live in a state of thirst.
To teach is to go back in time; to learn is to visit the future. But to stand there like a
Mule, not a thought in your head, that’s “living in the moment.”
I was wrong to ask your opinion when all I wanted was praise.
You were wrong to take a tone of patient instruction.
DE SADE wanted to write a book one peek into which would be enough
To damn the reader’s soul to Catholic hell;—
Then it turns out all this pótent book amounts to
Is the tormenting of a bunch of crying goody-goodies.
Not so, Richardson’s novels, though they too are wet with tears.
By aiming at the improvement of morals, he proved the far more potent corrupter.
My rival has the habit of cheerfully saying obnoxious things.
He defeats me again and again, for he has the advantage of his good humor.
Oh, when I die, cut a hole in my foot and let all the water run out of me.
Then at my funeral you can take me out and strike me on the side of the box.