james tate

The Definition of Gardening

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Jim just loves to garden, yes he does.
He likes nothing better than to put on
his little overalls and his straw hat.
He says, ‘Let’s go get those tools, Jim.’
But then doubt begins to set in.
He says, ‘What is a garden, anyway?’
And thoughts about a ‘modernistic’ garden
begin to trouble him, eat away at his resolve.
He stands in the driveway a long time.
‘Horticulture is a groping in the dark
into the obscure and unfamiliar,
kneeling before a disinterested secret,
slapping it, punching it like a Chinese puzzle,
birdbrained, babbling gibberish, dig and
destroy, pull out and apply salt,
hoe and spray, before it spreads, burn roots,
where not desired, with gloved hands, poisonous,
the self-sacrifice of it, the self-love,
into the interior, thunderclap, excruciating,
through the nose, the earsplitting necrology
of it, the withering, shriveling,
the handy hose holder and Persian insect powder
and smut fungi, the enemies of the iris,
wireworms are worse than their parents,
there is no way out, flowers as big as heads,
pock-marked, disfigured, blinking insolently
at me, the me who so loves to garden
because it prevents the heaving of the ground
and the untimely death of porch furniture,
and dark, murky days in a large city
and the dream home under a permanent storm
is also a factor to keep in mind.’

 

– James Tate

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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The Motorcyclists

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My cuticles are a mess. Oh honey, by the way,
did you like my new negligee? It’s a replica
of one Kim Novak wore in some movie or other.
I wish I had a foot-long chili dog right now.
Do you like fireworks, I mean not just on the 4th of July,
but fireworks any time? There are people
like that, you know. They’re like people who like
orchestra music, listen to it any time of day.
Lopsided people, that’s what my father calls them.
Me, I’m easy to please. I like ping-gong and bobcats,
shatterproof drinking glasses, the smell of kerosene,
the crunch of carrots. I like caterpillars and
whirlpools, too. What I hate most is being the first
one at the scene of a bad accident.

Do I smell like garlic? Are we still in Kansas?
I once had a chiropractor make a pass at me,
did I ever tell you that? He said that your spine
is happiest when you’re snuggling. Sounds kind
of sweet now when I tell you, but he was a creep.
Do you know that I have never understood what they meant
by “grassy knoll.” It sounds so idyllic, a place to go
to dream your life away, not kill somebody. They
should have called it something like “the grudging notch.”
But I guess that’s life. What is it they always say?
“It’s always the sweetest ones that break your heart.”
You getting hungry yet, hon? I am. When I was seven
I sat in our field and ate an entire eggplant
right off the vine. Dad loves to tell that story,

but I still can’t eat eggplant. He says I’ll be the first
woman President, it’d be a waste since I talk so much.
Which do you think the fixtures are in the bathroom
at the White House, gold or brass? It’d be okay with me
if they were just brass. Honey, can we stop soon?
I really hate to say it but I need a lady’s room.

 

– James Tate

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

Please visit the above, and click out on a Google link – help me pay for the time it takes to makes these daily posts

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The Cowboy

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Someone had spread an elaborate rumor about me, that I was
in possession of an extraterrestrial being, and I thought I knew who
it was. It was Roger Lawson. Roger was a practical joker of the
worst sort, and up till now I had not been one of his victims, so
I kind of knew my time had come. People parked in front of my
house for hours and took pictures. I had to draw all my blinds
and only went out when I had to. Then there was a barrage of
questions. “What does he look like?’ “What do you feed him?” “How
did you capture him?” And I simply denied the presence of an
extraterrestrial in my house. And, of course, this excited them
all the more. The press showed up and started creeping around
my yard. It got to be very irritating. More and more came and
parked up and down the street. Roger was really working overtime
on this one. I had to do something. Finally, I made an announcement.
I said, “The little fellow died peacefully in his sleep at 11:02
last night.” “Let us see the body,” they clamored. “He went up
in smoke instantly,” I said. “I don’t believe you,” one of them
said. “There is no body in the house or I would have buried it
myself,” I said. About half of them got in their cars and drove
off. The rest of them kept their vigil, but more solemnly now.
I went out and bought some groceries. When I came back about an
hour later another half of them had gone. When I went into the kitchen
I nearly dropped the groceries. There was a nearly transparent
fellow with large pink eyes standing about three feet tall. “Why
did you tell them I was dead? That was a lie,” he said. “You
speak English,” I said. “I listen to the radio. It wasn’t very
hard to learn. Also we have television. We get all your channels.
I like cowboys, especially John Ford movies. They’re the best,”
he said. “What am I going to do with you?” I said. “Take me
to meet a real cowboy. That would make me happy,” he said. “I
don’t know any real cowboys, but maybe we could find one. But
people will go crazy if they see you. We’d have press following
us everywhere. It would be the story of the century,” I said.
“I can be invisible. It’s not hard for me to do,” he said.
“I’ll think about it. Wyoming or Montana would be our best bet, but
they’re a long way from here,” I said. “Please, I won’t cause
you any trouble,” he said. “It would take some planning,” I said.
I put the groceries down and started putting them away. I tried
not to think of the cosmic meaning of all this. Instead, I
treated him like a smart little kid. “Do you have any sarsaparilla?”
he said. “No, but I have some orange juice. It’s good for you,”
I said. He drank it and made a face. “I’m going to get the maps
out,” I said. “We’ll see how we could get there.” When I came
back he was dancing on the kitchen table, a sort of ballet, but
very sad. “I have the maps,” I said. “We won’t need them. I just
received word. I’m going to die tonight. It’s really a joyous
occasion, and I hope you’ll help me celebrate by watching The
Magnificent Seven,” he said. I stood there with the maps in my
hand. I felt an unbearable sadness come over me. “Why must
you die?” I said. “Father decides these things. It is probably
my reward for coming here safely and meeting you,” he said. “But
I was going to take you to meet a real cowboy,” I said. “Let’s
pretend you are my cowboy,” he said.

 

– James Tate

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

Please visit the above, and click out on a Google link – help me pay for the time it takes to makes these daily posts

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A Vagabond

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A vagabond is a newcomer
in a heap of trouble.
He’s an eyeball at a peephole
that should be electrocuted.
He’s a leper in a textile mill
and likely to be beheaded, I mean,
given a liverwurst sandwich
on the break by the brook
where the loaves are sliced.
But he oughtn’t meddle
with the powder puffs on the golf links—
they have their own goats to tame,
dirigibles to situate.
He can act like an imbecile
if the climate is propitious,
a magnate of kidnap
paradising around the oily depot,
or a speck from a distant nebula
wishing to purchase a certain skyscraper ….

Well, if it’s permitted, then
let’s regulate him, let’s testify
against his thimble, and moderate his gloves
before they sew an apron.

The local minister is thinking
of moving to Holland, exchanging
his old ballads for some lingerie.
“Zatso!” says the vagabond.
Homeless, like wheat that tattletales
on the sermon, like wages swigged.
“Zatso, zatso, zatso!” cries the vagabond.
The minister reels under the weight
of his thumbs, the vagabond seems to have
jutted into his kernel, disturbed
his terminal core. Slowly, and with
trifling dignity, the minister removes
from his lapel his last campaign button:
Don’t Mess with Raymond, New Hampshire.

 

– James Tate

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

Please visit the above, and click out on a Google link – help me pay for the time it takes to makes these daily posts

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7th December – On This Day In History

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Born:

1943 James Tate (poet & Pulitzer Prize winner)

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Died:

2011 Harry Morgan (actor – M*A*S*H)

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On This Day:

1960 Ivory Coast claims its independence (from France)

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Have a good Thursday, 7th December

www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

Please visit the above, and click out on a Google link – help me pay for the time it takes to makes these daily posts

8th July – On This Day In History

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Born:

1951 Anjelica Huston (actress)

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Died:

2015 James Tate (poet)

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On This Day:

1979 Congo adopts its constitution

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Have a good Saturday, 8th July

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Shut Up And Eat Your Toad

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The disorganization to which I currently belong
has skipped several meetings in a row
which is a pattern I find almost fatally attractive.
Down at headquarters there’s a secretary
and a janitor who I shall call Suzie
and boy can she ever shoot straight.
She’ll shoot you straight in the eye if you ask her to.
I mow the grass every other Saturday
and that’s the day she polishes the trivets
whether they need it or not, I don’t know
if there is a name for this kind of behavior,
hers or mine, but somebody once said something or another.
That’s why I joined up in the first place,
so somebody could teach me a few useful phrases,
such as, “Good afternoon, my dear anal-retentive Doctor,”
and “My, that is a lovely dictionary you have on, Mrs. Smith.”
Still, I hardly feel like functioning even on a brute
or loutish level. My plants think I’m one of them,
and they don’t look so good themselves, or so
I tell them. I like to give them at least several
reasons to be annoyed with me, it’s how they exercise
their skinny spectrum of emotions. Because.
That and cribbage. Often when I return from the club
late at night, weary-laden, weary-winged, washed out,
I can actually hear the nematodes working, sucking
the juices from the living cells of my narcissus.
I have mentioned this to Suzie on several occasions.
Each time she has backed away from me, panic-stricken
when really I was just making a stab at conversation.
It is not my intention to alarm anyone, but dear Lord
if I find a dead man in the road and his eyes
are crawling with maggots, I refuse to say
have a nice day Suzie just because she’s desperate
and her life is a runaway carriage rushing toward a cliff
now can I? Would you let her get away with that kind of crap?
Who are you anyway? And what kind of disorganization is this?
Baron of the Holy Grail? Well it’s about time you got here.
I was worried, I was starting to fret.

 

– James Tate

http://www.aromaticcoffees.co.uk

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