William Delman recently received the 2006 Academy of American Poets
Prize at BU. In 2003 he received an International Merit Award from the
Atlanta Review. His poetry and fiction have previously appeared in
Shampoo, Cairn, C/Oasis, and other journals. New work is forthcoming
in Chelsea, Salamander, and Publio magazine. He is a fiction editor for
Agni, and a founding member of The Bay State Underground reading series.
Who in the midnight's burlesque
has not lost conviction
two keys one door flecked with egg-shell
What questions were guillotined
by the day's ramble
by the night's of long dancing
Where attraction drinks itself deep
this emptying called us
When the comfortable became quotidian
and lied in stubborn rounds
we slammed our fingers and sold our rings
Why this pretence of flowering
as the growth of closure
failed to save our gardenia
we chased our suffering as new
only to find to find our suffering
In 1986 My Uncle Jack Sits
On His Front Porch in Monroe, New York
As the shadows draw down on the dead leaves
he thinks of Dionysus, Pentheus; and his son
immured in some Florida library,
with a man's name on his lips.
Thunder pounds its taiko drum
above the downpour. In nine days,
Jack will learn that the liver is the organ of anger
from his Chinese doctor. But for now
he rolls a smoke and listens to the rain.
Voice or dream, whatever alcoholic nocturne
it is that knots self into self; Hecuba and Paris pled:
burn it. So you fell into a nationless meandering.
The mind entrapped first in Florida
took off for Alaska, then all fifty before
a brief stay at St. Francis. In your version,
Telmachus ran off with the swine-herder,
Penelope enjoyed the suitors
and Odysseus knew enough to stay missing.
The miles traveled as an addiction,
stories like birds flapped off your tongue:
one aspect of your generic cirrhosis.
A barred witness, I still imagine the hospice:
my teacher of epics, exo-theory,
Joshu's damn dog, barely coherent,
received into the transparent myths,
composing the first line of your death poem:
Elpenor walks into a bar. . . .
Slurring off the stool-you bet a guy
that you could still recite the Diamond Sutra
from memory-which prejudicial jack-knife was it,
or some cocktail of her salary and his choice?
Without words, and without choice; no tincture
could obliterate the failings you recognized,
but couldn't forgive in yourself. We hefted your body
limp into the back seat, an oarsman
by the herds of Helios, and we took you home.
What should I make of this dissected lamp
and rorschach on the carpet, this cat,
this octopus alone in a fish tank?
In the bedroom close the door. It could be
a noir, but where are the names that go
with this laundry? It could be nothing,
just an accident. A car turns into
another car; both are reexamined
as the drivers climb out and trade numbers.
The shock. They desire to have dinner
together, and the carpet is ruined.
Maybe she just tripped and broke the lamp,
or decided it was time to do the
laundry? I am thinking of the things we
covet. What knowledge can be gained from an
open curtain, a knife, an unmade bed,
a TV dinner, half-eaten, left on
the coffee table? The door should be locked;
there should be a note, but there isn't. Just
this. And this is good. She might come home.
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