Friday, August 29, 2008


I'm attending a short course here in Vientiane and sometimes to ease the boredom I type poems from the books I brought here. Here's one:

Another Word For Blue

John Engman

On better days, I bathe with Wallace Stevens: dreaming his good dreams before I fall asleep, waves lapping, none of the poorly choreographed crashing they do around here, but waves can read music.

And one afternoon, when I felt a new dream studying me closely, I kept my eyes shut and lay flat, but the dream flew off, leaving me alone again, asleep with reruns.

People who don’t understand what it means to be an artist should be punished, and I know how: make them be one.

Make them write about their own mortal souls in the third person, make them enroll at college, where they would be forced to write creative things about a piece of driftwood, forced to write poems about their moods using colors like “cerulean,” another word for blue.

People don’t understand real artists: bottles with messages wash up on the beach, always a heartbeat ahead of the sea.

It isn’t always a matter of being in the right place in the right time, wearing clothing that makes them notice you: black satin jackets and green string ties and crocodile shoes.

Sometimes it’s a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, unsinkable as Ivory Soap, an aesthetic theory that isn’t much more than a plain bad attitude.

All I ever wanted was an ice-cold beer and a booth with a view of the local scene, that, and the adulation of multitudes.

There’s a little place about a block from here where they never heard of free verse.

When they say they took a bath, they don’t mean they spent an hour soaking with Esthetique du Mal, they mean they lost big bucks at the track.

For all they care, Esthetique du Mal could be bath salts.

They know two things: on planet earth “being yourself” doesn’t mean much, And there’s no paycheck in pretending to be something else.

So when I tell the waitress, oh yeah, I could have been another Wallace Stevens – she tells me, oh yeah, so who needs two?

That’s the kind of stuff that goes on the poetry business.

Am I am pleased when I can refrain from expressing myself, refrain from saying anything new: I like saying the same old thing, words that stay put.

Words that don’t go far, letting life remain a mystery for you.

Words that I might say to a small group of friends someday, friends who will sponge me down whenever I begin raving about free verse back in the twentieth century, quoting at length from my own modest book of poems, a visionary book which sold poorly.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

this.. this.. it gave me the chills! seriously.

5:04 PM  
Blogger frank cimatu said...

I like it, too.

9:39 PM  

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