Three Poems

Bill Yarrow

THE “MODERN” POETS

[I’ve been reading The Modern Poets edited by Brinnin and Read, but it’s not the poems but the p·h·o·t·o·g·r·a·p·h·s that are the most interesting pages: all those ANTIQUE poets looking so so so PRISTINE!]

How many hold cigarettes!

How many in jackets and ties!

How many turn sideways!

How many stare directly at us!

Brinnin posing at Stonehenge with a pipe

Betjeman dressed in clothes “that once belonged to Henry James.”

Robert Graves in profile in a Spanish hat

Thom Gunn in leather jacket and studded leather belt

Daniel Hoffman looking impish with I. B. Singer ears

Anthony Hecht in a work shirt doing his best Richard Conte

Robert Lowell standing meaningfully against a falling wall

like he’s auditioning for a role in an Antonioni film

The unexpectedly bright-eyed Ted Hughes

Predictably disheveled Frost

Wrinkly John Ciardi dressed like your uncle who just died

I flip between the photographs of Donald Hall and Dylan Thomas

Their bold cigars and wacky resemblance!

I stare at the picture of Delmore Schwartz

(his “Baudelaire” the best poem in the volume)

looking back at the phantom creditors gaining on him.

James Scully’s portrait forecasts a slovenly 60’s insolence.

But against all the foolishness and falsity

of these poet portraits

there is the Renaissance face

of Edith Sitwell

dressed and framed in black

whose hooded eyes and oval

inwardness are honest

like all really good poems

 

DROWNING IN AN EMERGING SEA

I looked up my dead mother on the Internet:
she wasn’t there, but someone with her name
was. She was listed under my name. In another
reality, I was her father.

The Internet is Borges’s Tlön,
his world inside an encyclopedia, a mutated
universe distilled from nostalgia, a cubicular
ruin infected with contagious misinformation.

 

MARRIED TO HAL

You dreamed I punched you in the face.   Honey, I would never do that!

You dreamed I strangled the kitten.                  Darling, I would never do that!

You dreamed I slept with your cousin.      Sweetheart, I would never do that!

You dreamed I laughed at your novel.       That wasn’t any dream, baby.

 


Bill Yarrow, Professor of English at Joliet Junior College and seven-time Pushcart Prize nominee, is the author of BlasphemerPointed Sentences, four chapbooks, and the poetry CD Pointed Music. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Pirene’s Fountain, Poetry International, RHINO, FRiGG, Altered Scale, Gargoyle, THRUSH Poetry Journal, and PANK. He is an editor at the online journal Blue Fifth ReviewThe Vig of Love, a new volume of poems, is forthcoming from Glass Lyre Press in September 2016.

3 Poems

Bill Yarrow

PROMPTS

Write a poem beginning with the word “bed” in which the word “horse” or “alpine” appears in the seventh line.
Write a poem in which fraternal twins each marry accountants.
Write a poem in which the last letter of the third word in every line spells out your home state.
Write a poem in which your father is a dog and you are his leash.
Write a poem constructed from four-syllable words in your favorite recipes.
Write a poem of 1000 lines in which prime numbers figure prominently.
Write a poem whose first word is also its last word, whose second word is also its eleventh word, whose forty-fifth word is also its sixth, seventeenth, and thirty-ninth word, and whose one-hundredth word is a foreign word.
Write a poem in which Christian missionaries become dry cleaners.
Write a poem whose refrain is any three consecutive lines from “Lycidas.”
Write a poem in which Cinderella is imprisoned for tax fraud.
Write a poem whose total syllables number 613.
Write a poem in which the narrator is the weather.
Write a poem in which the spirit of your dead cat tells you what to write your poem about.
Write a poem that does not contain the color red.

VISION OF JOE AND HANNA

It was quiet in the hall. Marilyn was trying to comb the cat.
There are certain tricks one must not play at night.
I dropped Penny’s keychain off the bluff into the ladies’ lot.
I still had a pocketful of bones and my party hat. Gregorio
howled when I punched him in the arm for fooling around
with the new electricity in the basement. Beware the wan
ghosts. It was a trial to try to figure who was going to pay
for what. I felt like I had been up since the breech birth of Infinity.
In the museum next door, velvet mules hung from giant hooks.
I would give Hanna a trough of jewels, I decided. That was
the only way. If the rain would just hold off! In the desolation,
I could make out the fiddler, the fish truck, blackened Louise,
and doe-eyed Joe making a play for the jelly skeleton babe.

VIGO BEACH

I felt my muscles darken.
I feared the melanoma in my soul.
Tormented by gnats of conscience,
I didn’t know where to turn. I took
out a dirty map of Vigo Beach.

I thought you loved me. You said so
once. But your eyes. Did they say
so too? I grabbed a half gallon
of vinegar and some nylon twine
and headed down to Vigo Beach.

I watched the waves rehearse
the agony of crashing. I smelled
the crushed shells of the horseshoe
crabs. I waited for you at the bistro
on the boardwalk in Vigo Beach.

You need a beach and perhaps
the sea’s release. I need the tide.
Stay with me! Together, we’ll live
a placid, saline life. My love is more than
water! My heart’s not filled with sand!

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Bill Yarrow is the author of Blasphemer (Lit Fest Press 2015), Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX 2012) and four chapbooks. His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including RHINO, FRiGG, THRUSH, Gargoyle and PANK. A multiple-time Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, he is a Professor of English at Joliet Junior College where he teaches creative writing, Shakespeare, and film.

3 Poems

Bill Yarrow

The Queen of the Underground

Birth is profound, but decay is more profound. Study decay, says the Queen of the Underground.

The sacred body is corrupted and needs to be purged by words, says the Queen of the Underground.

I am the Demon of Release, says the Queen of the Underground.

I am the Mistress of Reveals, says the Queen of the Underground.

I’m currently between religions, says the Queen of the Underground.

I want to see how ugly one can make a poem while still keeping it beautiful, says the Queen of the Underground.

The thirst that can be quenched but not vanquished—that’s what I hunger for, says the Queen of the Underground.

Today’s editor wants his pound of flash, says the Queen of the Underground.

I know a woman who made a necklace of her child’s baby teeth, says the Queen of the Underground.

I am a mere icon, says the Queen of the Underground.

There is no such thing as transitive voice, BUT THERE SHOULD BE, says the Queen of the Underground.

Apple Loan Neon, says the Queen of the Underground.

Diode Niece Scion, says the Queen of the Underground.

I got a telephone in my pajamas, says the Queen of the Underground.

Hurt my eyes open, please! says the Queen of the Underground.

Don’t be that way, says the Queen of the Underground.

All bending ends in breaking, says the Queen of the Underground.

The kitten is in the mail, says the Queen of the Underground.

Fall on your knees, my ass, says the Queen of the Underground.

The Queen of the Underground says, “The Poetry of Bullshit is Dead!”

COLERIDGE ON URINE

What a beautiful Thing
Urine is,
in a Pot,
brown, yellow,
transpicuous, the Image,
diamond shaped
of the Candle in it,
especially, as
it now appeared,
I having emptied the Snuffers
into it & the Snuff
floating about, &
painting all-shaped Shadows
on the Bottom.

THIS TIME

This time the mountain climber does not attain the summit.
This time the speedboat is not transporting drugs.
This time the hero gets it in the neck.

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Bill Yarrow is the author of The Lice of Christ (MadHat Press, 2014), Incompetent Translations and Inept Haiku (Červená Barva Press, 2013) and Pointed Sentences (BlazeVOX, 2012). His poems have appeared in many print and online magazines including Poetry International, RHINO, Contrary, DIAGRAM, Gargoyle, and PANK.