James Tate: Two Poems

from “Absences”


The eye wants to sleep
but the head is no mattress.
I break the railroad in two.
All the terrifying endless chaotic detail,
worthless narcoleptic wombats.
A dirty comb in the house
of the recently deceased.
No wound there, what is it then?
We are doing what we should
in the barbershop cortege,
a great deal of boring
& irrelevant information.
His age is not known.


A small man from another world said:
people live on gloomily,
come in cars or boats
— hubba hubba would you look at —
while driving to the business conference,
totally air-conditioned,
sitting with a false humility
when a tree dies.

An asterik in the heart,
at the same time
the difference between them
so you can read it in a mirror
because “there ain’t nothin’
you ain’t heard” including
a few previews of The Thing,
drenching herself
just when I feel
it isn’t cinematic sex,
it isn’t built up to.
Independent of the universe.

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