I live near Boston and teach philosophy at Boston University. Besides academic pieces, I write fiction when I’m up to it and poems when I can’t help it. I use a fountain pen—my link to tradition—and write to music. I’ve published essays, stories, and poems in a wide variety of journals. My most recent book is Heiberg’s Twitch.
for Firestone Feinberg
The new is appealing, sweet and neat
as the inside of a just-bought
Jeep, or a room full of freshmen
who haven’t yet been bored or taught.
The new is ephemeral but
evaporates at different speeds;
the headline and weather forecast die
fast, unlike tyrannies and weeds.
How long before a dream gets old?
An infant’s scent, the latest trend?
When is the year no longer new?
Oh, months and months before its end.
After the blizzard heaven crashed and froze,
the cosmos turned to thinnest porcelain.
He feels as if, could he strike it, the sky
would toll once then shatter. He pities unhoused
sparrows, drivers of articulated
trucks, night watchmen, lost cats, abandoned dogs.
The study window is knee-deep in frost.
To be snug, sometimes, is sin.
Wandering with his yarns of waves
Heaving heavenwards heroes’ hulls,
Of sword-oaths swiftly sworn,
Shattered shields and lopped limbs
Stuck in blood-pooled battlefields,
Tales of dragons dragging men to devour
In dens dug deep in Danish dirt,
Skald staggers, stumbling into snow,
lordless, frozen, and forlorn.
A rapper’s vanity is rhyme
And meter that keeps perfect time.
Ferociously he barks a story
Glorifying his own glory.
Spiders from their guts extrude
Intricate skeins to snare their food:
To the trapped flies, all webs are rude.
His colleagues at the bank smirked when they learned
Hanson wrote verse.
They thought it like hugging oaks or cooking quiche;
Not on their lives
Would they poetize, worse than collecting
stamps or stocks—or wives.
“So, I hear the banker amuses himself with poetry?”
scoffed the president’s son.
Hanson smiled, put down the phone, drew himself
up with pride.
“No,” he replied. “The poet diverts himself with banking
on the side.”
Academic poets flock to their retreats,
careful not to mistake commoners for lords,
hot for chapbook publishers, fighting
back the urge to quote themselves and the inkling
that the only good bard is a dead one.
Sooner or later the best Chinese
poets were all banished to the boondocks.
The weak, bitterly sentimental, wrote
eastward-facing lamentations while the
strong opened their eyes on fresh landscapes, threw
their arms around new subjects.
children’s rice songs and lyrics on medlar trees,
verses dense as bamboo forests, Li-du his
On A Peasant’s Wife Giving Birth Beside Her Sow.
They say the great Chu-po bravely quipped, “It’s
the Emperor who’s in exile from Chu-po.”
In the cold Bulgaria of his soul, on
the shore of a black-flowing Danuvius,
he sees himself metamorphosed from
lion to outcast, feels himself bursting
with unsung verses, bereft of listeners,
rivals, even critics. How does one resign
oneself to the exile of one iron desk
and to a doubtful immortality?
“Antepostmodern Poem” first appeared in The Montréal Review
©2016 Robert Wexelblatt
©2016 Robert Wexelblatt