Winter 02


The Body of Poetry





Robert Duncan, San Francisco's Black Mountain bard
Fading now from our anthologies, focused
On erotic hilarity as central to our humanity,
Homo or hetero, Duncan nearly forty when presenting
Marianne Moore, doyenne of the redcoats-are-coming
School of American poetry, at the West Coast
Arts Center, Moore no longer
Column smooth of neck or auburn-haired

As a pythoness, brother a Baptist minister,
Mother her censor, father an orange Irish
Ne'er do well who'd vanished
Into mist tainted with alcohol
And mischief. Duncan loved men,
Their altering arched fountains of semen
He called soft sparks of life. His mother died
Giving birth to him. He praised Moore's fusion
Of voracious veracity, citing Stevens'

Sly blessing of the humility of the pure
But poor who rove the world
With the lure in their hearts of the real.
Professor Costello, Bonnie of B.U.,
In her commentary, Marianne Moore:
Imaginary Possessions
(as in "gardens
With real toads in them"), insisted the chameleon's
Chromatic adaptiveness was modesty.

Duncan spuriously claimed Moore's
"To a Chameleon" was never reprinted,
So he voluntarily recited it, her apostrophe
To the lizard's glorious cutaneity:

Hid by the august foliage and fruit
Of the grape vine, twine your anatomy
Round the pruned and polished stem, Chameleon.
Fire laid upon an emerald as long as
The Dark King's massy one, could not
Snap the spectrum up for food
As you have done.
                               Ah, the Dark King's massy one.

I am reminded of the penguin driving in Boston
Noticing that his warning light was on. He pulls
Into a gas station where the mechanic says
It will take a half hour, so he goes to the Schrafft's
On the same street, eats a bowl of vanilla,
And when he gets back the mechanic
Is just climbing from under his car.
"It's the brakes," he says. "I'm afraid you blew a seal."
"Uh uh," says the penguin, "it was just ice cream."


Moore explores her relations with other members
Of her gender in a poem pessimistically 
Entitled "The Fish" which concludes
With herself as a cliff with a permanent hole in it,
Dynamite-grooved, in her words, or else by an ax
Clipped. It's where the sea
Grows old and which lives, she says,
On what cannot revive its youth:

Love amputations? Landscapes
Without maps? Those birch and aspen barrens
I wandered at five and six in foster-care
That wouldn't exist anymore
Even if one could find them? Moore cites
Jade mussels waving limp shells
Like broken fans, sprites that cling
Like barnacles, undersea lilies
And drunken mushrooms

That enjoy swift, submerged
Turquoise shafts, whimpering, whinnying,
While the cliff endures in the memory of the water
Wedge that carved the iron chasm in it,
Shaping the poem and the body's
Salamandrine fate. "Imaginary gardens
With real toads,"
but who knows, who knows...


Kenneth Rosen's first collection, Whole Horse, was selected by Richard Howard for the Braziller Poetry Series in 1970. Kenneth was living with his family in the village of Steep, England outside of Petersfield, Hants, under the auspices of the late British novelist, Penelope Mortimer, of The Pumpkin Eater fame, made into a motion picture starring Kenneth's favorite actor, James Mason, though Kenneth especially relishes Mason as Humbert Humbert in Kubrick's Lolita. Kenneth's sixth collection of poetry, The Origins of Tragedy is forthcoming from CavanKerry Press of Fort Lee, New Jersey. Recent poems have appeared in Paris Review, Marlboro Review, and River City. Kenneth has lived since 1966 in Portland, Maine and environs, where he is off and on a professor at the University of Southern Maine. He is recently returned from three weeks as a Fulbright professor in Egypt, and is en route to Ankara, Turkey where he will be a guest lecturer at the Middle Eastern Technical University, culminating his visit with a paper on Joseph Conrad's Heart of Darkness at METU's 10th Annual Joseph Conrad Seminar, and explain the incessant aporia at the heart of darkness as a site of freedom and of course horror.