Tuesday, September 29, 2009


Lately, since moving back to New York, finding myself slightly more in the ferment of ideas, I have been going back and re-writing a few old pieces as well as continuing to write new ones. I have also been reworking the selection of poems for my first book of poems, Mnemonic Devices, based on these new and refurbished bits.

Here is a piece from a few years ago that I had totally given up on as unworkable. I am not entirely certain that is workable now, but there is something symmetrical about the structure that I rather like, so I have decided to republish it.

Essentially, the poem describes an absolute monarch, a King Lear type figure, before age, infirmity and adversity had ruined his powers of reason. If you think of him as the Western mind acting at the height of its intellectual powers, perhaps the poem will be more clear.

My Poor Fool

Why should a dog, a horse, a rat, have life, and thou no breath at all?
—King Lear

Heaven was just the place for him to go.
He never understood this world. You know,
We would discuss it over marmalade
And coffee—matter—how the world was made.
He would take soldiers—rectangles of toast—
And dip them in his egg—completely lost.
Most considered him a child—my half-wit.
Like any parent, my poor heart was split:

His jokes were creaky as an outhouse door,
And yet I loved him—loved him to the core.
He turned the girls to jelly. For, in his eye,
There twinkled something wild in black tie
Which frightened the officials, children, and dogs.
He painted funny faces in the fogs
Which rolled in like thunder from the sea
Those nights we kept each other company.

He tested my love constantly. He’d twist
My heart right into knots—without a sweat—
One drop of effort. For some reason I
Don’t fully comprehend, he teased me, “Why
Are you so melancholy, Lord—so blue?”
He pinged me with a pebble from his shoe.
I try to be a good king. But, of course,
My mood that morning could not have been worse.

I hanged the lad in public to remind
The peoples of planet Earth that God had died.
They stared at him like vegetables. Those
Who cried for Mercy I hanged twice. I suppose
I left a million dancing in the air
Who might have died at home. “Do not despair,”
I said, “There is no finer place to go
Than Heaven. Any fool will tell you so.”

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