Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Ron Padgett Take Two


So I liked Ron Padgett’s How to Be Perfect so much I went looking for his other books (I went through a similar thing with John Koethe after reading Ninety-fifth Street, which I also adore), and have just finished (I had to put the Ashbery aside for a bit, but I’m looking forward to greatly to getting back to it) You Never Know, which came out in 2001.

Here are three more tries (plus one) to make you into a Padgett fan. Three poems that I think trace out the contours of his work (all from You Never Know, Coffee House Press, 2001):


Morning


Who is here with me?
My mother and an Indian man.
(I am writing this in the past.)
The Indian man is not a man,
but a wooden statue just outside
the limits of wood. My mother
is made of mother. She touches
the wood with her eyes and the eyes
of the statue turn to hers, that is,
become hers. (I am not dreaming.
I haven’t even been born yet.)
There is a cloud in the sky.
My father is inside the cloud,
asleep. When he wakes up, he
will want coffee and a smoke.
My mother will set fire
to the Indian and from deep inside
her body I will tell her
to start the coffee, for even now
I feel my father’s breathing change.


The Abyss


We skid to a stop at the edge of what we realize is a cliff and our breath goes out over it and falls slowly into the abyss. The abyss is so hungry that it will accept even breath—it sends back a deep, hollow “thank you”—the abyss so empty of everything but sorrow. We put the car in neutral, get out, and shove it over the cliff. This time the abyss burps back its satisfaction. We empty our pockets, take off our clothes, and hurl everything over the edge. But we do not hurl ourselves. We will never do that, because nothing that falls into the abyss ever hits bottom.


Small Pond


As a child
I wanted to have a boat
and row
around a room
filled with money
the way
Scrooge McDuck
did, but I didn’t
want to be
stingy or light
a cigar with
a twenty. I
just wanted to
see the coins
and bills fly
sparkling up
as oar and oar
went dipping
and churning.


[My daughter Natalie, who just turned eight last month, after I read the above poem to her, said, “This is a cute, and sweet, and weird poem.” I liked that and would hope that Padgett would like it too, though I know nothing about him except his connection to New York. One more, just because why not?]


How to Become a Tree in Sweden


I look up ahead and see
the trees of Sweden waving at me

Gently they wave their bending heads
The light goes dim above the land

And down below the lights come on
And Swedish people one by one

Come out to shop and say hello
as crisply as a Swedish cracker that

fresh out of the package goes snap
And soon the air is full of snaps

And schnapps and weimaraners and
me, my various selves united,

for a moment Swedish, a tree myself,
waving and lost among the others

11 Comments:

At 12/16/2009 10:24 AM, Blogger Matt said...

also be sure to check out his early stuff, like Great Balls of Fire, which is crazier.

 
At 12/16/2009 10:30 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Matt!

I have it! And another one, a chapbook, called "Poems I Guess I Wrote." But I haven't gotten to them yet. I guess I'm working backward.

I should get the New & Selected, but it's out fo print, I think. I've decided I need everything everything everything.

 
At 12/16/2009 2:09 PM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

I'm with you here, John. The more Ron Padgett poems I read, the more I like him. He was far and away the highlight of the Poets Forum this fall -- hearing him read a few poems and hearing him talk a bit about "how poems end." I need to get the books of his you've mentioned.

 
At 12/17/2009 5:53 AM, Blogger 123 123 said...

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At 12/17/2009 6:01 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

MT:

And what makes this all the better is the Sexy Lady female escort spam that got in. Ah, "Nice story you got here." Simply beautiful.

 
At 12/17/2009 10:47 AM, Blogger Matthew Thorburn said...

Yes, you attract the primo spam, JG! All mine seems to be written in Chinese characters...

("Nice Story You Got There" would be an excellent poem title.)

 
At 12/17/2009 10:59 AM, Blogger John Gallaher said...

Way ahead of you there, pal...

 
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