Circuits: Long and Short

(for M.R.)

 

You stand on the stage, 

Spotlight making you an instant celebrity,

And read your poetry:

The college circuit.

 

You know poets who get drunk or stoned

Before or after (mostly before and after)

Climbing into the ring.

 

You get stoned passing out miracles,

Knowing that someone out there

Is soldering a mental wire

As your image strikes their electric soul -- 

And there you are, the two of you,

Or the many,

Or the all,

Riding that cosmic circuit:

Toboganning 'round Saturn's sings, or, 

In slower rhythm, 

Like big grey elephants linking tails and trunks

Moving across the cloudtrail

Of a peachred Autumn sky. 

 

You gauge the crowd,

Measure the silences, comments, murmurs, 

Shifting in seats,

Who and how many walk out --

And then the applause

Of politeness or warmth.

 

Afterwards, people invite you for a drink

And tell you what poems they liked, 

Or redfaced girls stare from outside the inner circle

And smile.

 

And then you come home

And try to smell her scent in the bedroom,

Wandering how many months ago that she left.

You climb into your coldsheeted bed

And read the New York Review of Books

Until you fall asleep

With the lights on.

 

                                                                                               (Bellingham, WA: September 1970)

 

                                                                                  from The Bellingham Poems: Goliards Press, 1973