Circuits: Long and Short
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 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