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Discourse 24.1 (2002) 165-166
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Ode to James Fennimore Cooper
Each four foot evergreen in front of the AAA on Market
resembles a bust of Homer. The untutored needles
share a metrical strictness atop the old horror
of speechless nights while the one plot does its epic work,
snapping the listening object into resumé and appetite,
loosing the echo of phantom sustenance from the traffic's sibilance.
You James an early mental author
of the entertainment channel of the nation where I drive to work
created the word "Ug" as a burial shroud,
the sound displaying the devotion that covers the cracks after any perfect murder.
No formation of however many bodies is adequate to the needs
of speech to say. To write reversed: any posture
of any body says what it needs
though always slumping into formulations
makes for a bad commute, witness the impotent speedometer,
the oppressive odometer, as the past keens a few billion
lullabies with nowhere to hide but here.
Full many a glorious sentence has tracked
into the long swanish march of a personal day whose royalties
are no match for the mounting poetic debt.
Its chains jangle softly, erotic, for you to like. [End Page 165]
Bodies owe minds their lives; I learned that
in language camp, singing cadenzas
around the fire in the burning pages I'm glad I'm holding.
But, hey, the news on kitchen towels and the curtains from the pricier
catalogs is that the winners get all the bargains.
So it's always back to basics for the poem.
A picture of a person, the picture of a person,
the same picture of the person lolling
in intense comfort, with numbers in the lower right hand corner.
The stock coated, the afternoon wet, the life ordered.
Centered is the, viewer, receiving, pricing.
Unnatural use this of words is natural.
It is nature itself getting simpler as the sentence lengthens,
discharging its cargo of refugee years in rhythmic
crenellations beyond which the enemy seconds move
too quick to shoot. Ug, then silence. Hector dies,
Cassandra makes tortillas in the camp with corn
presented by a future that involves only editing,
no production. Paris lingers over lingerie ads
though that all stopped three thousand years ago.
The languages melted down, repeatedly, metallic swirls
with the blood burnt out, for you to like, my novelist, my other,
learning nothing, forgetting nothing.
As for slogans that pack the days away,
all I can say is, later is better
though it's still early here.
I think I say a tree.
Bob Perelman has published numerous books of poetry, most recently Ten to One: Selected Poems (Wesleyan UP) and The Future of Memory (Roof Books); and two critical books, The Marginalization of Poetry (Princeton UP) and The Trouble With Genius (California UP). He is Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.