Therefore and Why

Therefore and why
the sense of history
of a morning sky,
and none whatsoever
not being so clever
as the blowfly
whose sense of propriety
in insect society
stands incorruptible
as the pig's appetite --
and horses white
leaping high fences
shall never die
in cold weather.

Capote's Voice

High as the moon,
that leaf-thin voice
a garden full of funny flowers
that bloomed and spun everything around,
mischievous elfin mews
ran up the little flagpole and hung
the world by a string,
a pig's squeal, blue sky full
of little sparrow trills, lovestruck mew
chasing God around the room,
barreling after some bit of truth,
mad soprano and parrot squawk,
alleycat, a thousand rebel yells ---
hear that whip, snap, slap, cackle, bop,
honky-tonk, circus calliope, cowboy hoot,
monkey babble, policewhistle, schoolboy cheer,
love's deathrattle, battlecry and a squirt of gin ---
every mystical sweet whine that ever caught the world's ear
off-guard and shook loose down deep inside
us all the implausible notion
that life was so queer and beautiful,
oh, wish we could sound like that.

Modern Poetry

when language
wearing its formal dress,
at its station in high society,
disobeys the laws of exposition,
Love may creep
like a fiend
into the camphor-scented rooms
of finely-crafted sentences,
strangle the sleeping baby
and fill its bag
with moon and stars.

When Morning Knocks Gladly

When morning knocks gladly,
eager with lunatic opinions,
thoughts float like dead fish
on the shiny surface of day,
bearing the sad miracles,
the sacks of hearts
one must dig a hole for
in the undefiled gladness,
awaken the handsome moments
of quiet apologies
that fill our hands
with starlight
and close forever
the secret passage
from night.

I'm Baggy In Because

I'm baggy in because
and snug in why,
all bundled
in my warm goodbye --
and smug in my now,
my Oh my some-how
come honey me with moon-gleam,
till I'm wild in my anyhow,
and every if's dream
a revolution of whys,
and humble never-was
slay mighty always-been
with surprise.

Little Piggy Everything

Oh, now there secretly
once stuffed a black kerchief
down can't tell you's mouth --
and who'll ever guess
watched little piggy everything,
in waistcoat and trousers,
lug that heavy I tell you,
with Love's dead body
snug in a bag of why nots,
upstairs where can't tell you
waited in the long, thin dark
of a last believe what you wish.

The Red-Capped Boy Whistled To The Sun

The red-capped boy whistled to the sun;
it came running over the hills --
greeted him in the field,
where once the dead stumps
of night had startled
the last buds of light
from the trees,
lopped off a dog's head,
and in the uprising,
when ghostly faces
at windows fled,
tossed the whole town,
streets and all, down a hole
and dressed the children for bed.

If Anything I Unlike Poetry

If anything I unlike poetry
with its unduly zeal
for black magic,
levitating the houses
in which we live.
Who has not hidden
in its pretty round face
from poachers,
or gazed wistfully
at its ungainly hands
(one finger missing)
to learn what time it is?

Three Redheaded Men Hung From Your Nose

Three redheaded men hung from your nose,
when you first glimpsed her,
and across your lips tiptoed a monkey
holding an umbrella,
the little fellow smartly balanced,
though slipped, teetered
when you smiled --
then up your cheekbones,
a troop of children climbed
to the top of your head,
planted youth's fiery red flag;
rang bells, waved their arms,
kicked legs high, pulled your hair,
and in hoarse voices cheered
as the red-headed men,
the wobbling monkey
begged her to marry you.

When I Was Fabulous In My So Many Years

When I was fabulous in my so many years --
crammed in the seventy-three cluttered rooms
of flesh's smelly, dark fleabag hotel,
where large noisy mobs
stomp through on their jaunts to the '36 World's Fair,
climbing my bones like a ladder,
my baby teeth carried in the pockets
of mothers for good luck,
my hair strung about the pretty necks
of bank clerks strangled in the vaults of Swiss banks,
my blood jumps up, cheers in the grandstand,
when my matador-heart fans a fiery red cape at the angry bull,
my kidney stones tossed, skipped across a moonlit lake by blind monks,
and in my hands, in the tips of my fingers,
go the horribly perfect children of an hour
to spade the whistling garden.

When I was fabulous in my so many years,
I found a way to believe without believing,
and once I could deceive without deceiving --
for tender broke the promise dawn would break,
once my lamp-lit soul pitched in children
dreamed my queer little life awake.


Once All My Pretty Doubts

Once all my pretty doubts put on a pretty dress,
strolled down the streets of the town
and smiled at all the handsome young certainties
who stood looking dapper in their bowties
and clean shirts and shiny shoes.
And my pretty doubts
pursed their red lips,
coquettishly wiggled their hips
at the crowd, blushed and flirted
with all the eligible certainties
who yearned for pretty doubts,
who believed they were the one --
each inevitable, undeniable,
holding up flowers and candy,
wishful of courtship;
so certain the mob of certainties
blessed with a rosy, candied scent
seized my pretty doubts,
tore my pretty dress,
and each certainty in their turn
held me down and soiled me.

Wild Roses In Washington Square

The Marx Brothers were dead,
and the headlines said their prayers;
we picked the wild roses in Washington Square
and sold them on Park Avenue.
How bleak the year had gone. The good life was dead,
literature was the only thing worth talking about,
or dying for. And truth was a reasonable doubt,
the only certainty the certainty
of not knowing what life was about,
and the dead had charm and glamour,
Oh, how each morning in the east Village
rang out with the great magnificent clamor
of Jimi Hendrix's The Star Spangled Banner,
and nightly jazz musicians in the village
blew their brains out.

For years no one had written anyone home a letter,
or mentioned in passing how the years had been unkind,
prospects of fame were great and getting better.
A quiet came over us during those tumultuous years
and then there came a strange deafness in our ears.

What was it that everyone feared --
what was there so queer about us?
Our sense of decency disappeared,
we spoke of our malice for the old,
our souls were damp and cold,
and far too many lies had been told,
always we heard the hysterical golden
schizophrenic cries call
from hash and marijuana, holy sacraments
of our age. We took solace in our rage
and took comfort in our despair,
and grew long wild hair,
The God's death was disconcerting for us all.
We lived in the dreams of mad men,
drunken poets fell down the stair,
the pope dreamed a naughty nightmare,
J. Edgar Hoover died in the electric chair,
and thus, made of every good deed a sin,
surely none of us would ever die,
surely we would come sudden
upon the darkest heaven --
and for each of us
a sad nation come to cry.


One summer afternoon
Jack cracked a walnut
on the sidewalk,
and out burst
from the hard black shell
his sister Kay
riding a red-chrome bicycle,
and a church choir jumped out
of the dogwood tree,
clapped their hands;
and three o'clock
opened wide its eyes,
flung its wide-lapelled cloak
over the schoolyard,
as the shock of love
on sunlight's face ran wildly
through the day,
blithely calling
the sky its mother.


Once I was starlight
glib as the moon,
king of summer night,
when the houses in starbloom,
my mouth along rooftops
in the dark would crawl,
and I stood broad shoulders
to the starlight.

My dead father was a fanatic,
who'd locked the doors to heaven,
tomorrow was hidden in the attic
inside an old broken clock,
all quiet I climbed the stairs
and jiggled the lock.

Potter's Field

November 1970

We who lay quiet in the sod,
opposed to no regime or government,
piously biding our time in the service of God,
know the greatest truths appear strange and odd,
the supreme wisdom remain steadfast poor.
We shall never again ask for more,
we who came into the world on the backs
of candle-lit moments, and left by time's squeaky backdoor,
knew the world was deeply moved by blood and gore;
nations swooned, come upon by glut of hope or despair,
crowds of mourners, celebrators gathered in Time Square,
priests waved handkerchiefs from high windows---
passed uproarious our gravely-bitten age,
the smallest blessing came from the smallest reason,
and full of sky and earth we stood the blows
and made of our losses no grievance or rage.


The day flash bright
and sunboast
swagger and sudden
the dumb sky,
and rousted from grass beds,
love rings in the leaves.

Nimble come
the plumtree,
and passage through
the brush, dark souls
in rumpled hours.

Born in Appalachia, Ernest Slyman lives in New York City. He is a member of the Alsop Review.
He has been widely published in The Laurel Review, The Lyric, Light: A Quarterly
of Light Verse (Chicago), The NY Times, Reader's Digest and The Bedford Introduction
to Literature, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer, as well as Poetry:
An Introduction, St Martins Press, edited by Michael Meyer)

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