24 April 2009

If you could only stop your heartbeat for one heartbeat

Apple Tree and Old Cars, Stuart, VA

2 poems by Gerald Stern


I don’t want to go to Hemingway’s house,
let him come to mine, walk in and we’ll do
The Killers at my kitchen table, he with his
back to the Japanese maple, me with my back
to the Maytag, ginger ale for one, white rum
the other; the dragon and the mayfly, death and the knowledge of death,
Monk and Bartók all the same to me.


I liked this hotel best because the swimming pool
was on the roof and I was closer by an inch
to the sun that way and there were birds thereby
that fit into the landscape more and flew at
right angles to my elevated body
as I crawled up and down the cement lanes
guided vaguely by the wavering tar; and
I liked the fact that there was a national newspaper
every morning at my door and the rugs were
hideous, and that was that, and they were
poorly laid to boot, and I even tripped
and spilled my coffee following the wrong
red arrow once, but I have had an hour
of mercy at the makeshift desk or in the
lobby, such as it was, and I have had mercy
in places you wouldn't believe, so much that I
am ruthless about it; I started with an orange crate
in my living room, and that was that; I know it was
lit up by a brazen dancer with the torches
growing from her belly, my first mercy.

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