National Laureate

- 1959-

Eagle and egret, woodcock and teal, all birds
gathering to affirm the last gasp of sunset.


Maybe I should stay in bed
all day long and read a book
or listen to the news on the radio
but truthfully, I am not meant for that.


Then, as we talked, my personage subdued,
And I became, as Petit jean, a ghost,


I can stand here all day and tell you how much
I honor, admire, how brave you are.


Dark grays and fainter
Grays of near fields and far hills
Motionless, his mind

Playing silently
Over and over with his
Worry beads of words.


On her dresser is one of those old glass bottles
of Jergen's Lotion with the black label, a little round
bottle of Mum deodorant, a white plastic tray
with Avon necklaces and earrings, pennies, paper clips,
and a large black coat button. I appear to be very
interested in these objects.


We learn from our animals, if we're smart.
They know how to wait. They know how to run
To catch up. Much of their life is spent at windows.


Loaded on beer and whiskey, we ride
to the dump in carloads
to turn our headlights across the wasted field,


I imagined him wading the shallows of a mountain stream—
the breeze still cold off the higher snow fields,
the fish smell of fresh water, the pitched hum of insects
waking to the sun.


Fact is, each breath becomes bone
becomes dust


Hill Thoughts,
Midnight Flight


The afternoons go by, one by one.
My old friend, who shone like a tropic sun
Amid the poets of our day, too soon
Grown wan and thin as the late May moon,


In river country flint nodules rest
among limestone sea bottoms, unexplained,
glassy among the porous tangles of shells


I see her in a photograph I found,
unsmiling in a drop-waist dress. No telling
how the roaring twenties roared through here.


i search but i can not find out
the streets of my ancestors

nor any relative to receive me


When I was a child and angels argued slamming doors,
I lolled, feet up the couch, head on the floor


Before I leave, almost without noticing,
before I cross the road and head toward
what I have intentionally postponed—


Behind the Ridge
The Seeking Spirit
Cry Life


Gray cloud like a sweater pulled over the heart of the moon.


Windmill. Stretch even the
Fingertips against sand-coated hills.
You can get there from here,


Treat your Mommy nice
and take her to Las Vegas—
she'll think you're swell.

New Hampshire

The city was brick and stone in the time
before glass and steel. In those days
the city was streets of women.

New York

Long ago you kissed the names of the nine Muses goodbye.

North Carolina

The only clouds
forming are crow clouds,

the only shade, oaks
bound together in a tangle of oak

North Dakota

Most poets are rooted in the natural world,
spokespersons for the inarticulate in nature.


under her cool skin
the feet dipped in formaldehyde
to prevent sweating
a river runs.


And you pretty much gotta trust Her,
even if that means twiddling your thumbs
while she makes Her way through Her medley—

Rhode Island

The dark barge works the length of braziers
humped like monks awaiting sacrifice;

South Carolina

Seeds of hope are waiting
in the sacred soil beneath our feet
and in the light and in the shadows,
spinning below the hemlocks.


for eighty some odd years
He rose with the rising sun
And many mornings got up at dark
For so much work was to be done.


Her skirt clings to her the way fog clings to a flower.
Her legs are curled up, her sleeping face soft like a saint.
Driving for hours a man thinks about how things are measured,
about how coffee always tastes better in small towns.


Neither of us can guess if they'll hurry
dusk along, those clouds that have loitered
all afternoon over the rooftops. From our window...


When you come back to me
it will be crow time
and flycatcher time,
with rising spirals of gnats
between the apple trees.


When the last cloud leaves
nothing behind—no
history, no trace of error, no
basilica to shelter a man—


oblivious to the fact
that anyone might be watching,
that he might be teaching us all
how to live

West Virginia

Then, that recognition would
reward me for all I'd undergone,
my bravery of thought, my refusal
of dishonest love, and my goodwill


Although distance does not
matter, it's a long way
into the flat pine forest


the work of hunters is another thing:
I have come after them and made repair

Note: Not every U.S. state has a designated poet laureate

from This Window Makes Me Feel

This window makes me feel like I'm protected. This window makes me feel like people don't know much about recent history, at least as far as trivia goes. This window makes me feel whole and emotionally satisfied. This window makes me feel like I'm flying all over the place, gliding and swirling down suddenly. This window makes me feel like I count and I enjoy knowing my opinions are heard so that hopefully I can help change the future. This window makes me feel like I'll find the one thing that makes me feel like I want to feel. This window makes me feel like I can tackle any problem anytime. This window makes me feel like I have energy again and it refreshes my brain cells and makes my feet move. This window makes me feel like I'm the only person who can do something as cool as drumming. This window makes me feel like it's better to hear that other people have gone through it—it's like a rainbow at the end of the storm. This window makes me feel good and grounded and peaceful all at the same time. This window makes me feel like the year I spent campaigning was worth it. This window makes me feel like the artist really knows something about the truth. This window makes me feel really good and also makes me feel like it heightens the sex when it finally happens. This window makes...


from "A Hemingway Reader": The Sun Also Also Rises

To look and to listen requires the work of attention, selection, reappropriation, a way of making one's own film, one’s own text, one's own installation out of what the artist has presented.
                                                           —Jacques Rancière

Book I

Chapter I

I am very much impressed by that. I never met any one of his class who remembered him. I mistrust all frank and simple people. I always had a suspicion. I finally had somebody verify the story. I was his tennis friend. I do not believe that. I first became aware of his lady's attitude toward him one night after the three of us had dined together. I suggested we fly to Strasbourg. I thought it was accidental. I was kicked again under the table. I was not kicked again. I said good-night and went out. I watched him walk back to the café. I rather liked him.

Chapter II

I am sure he had never been in love in his life. I did not realize the extent to which it set him off until one day he came into my office. I never wanted to go. I had a boat train to catch. I like this town. I can't stand it to think my life is going so fast and I'm not really living it. I'm not interested. I'm sick of Paris. I walked alone all one night and nothing happened. I was sorry for him but it was not a thing you could do anything about. I sorted out the carbons, stamped on a by-line, put the stuff in a couple of big manila envelopes and rang for a boy to take them to the Gare St. Lazare. I went into the other room. I wanted to lock the office and shove off. I put my hand on his shoulder. I can't do it. I didn't sleep all last night. I could picture it. I have a rotten habit of picturing the bedroom scenes of my friends.

Chapter III

I sat at a table on the terrace of the Napolitain. I watched a good-looking girl walk past the table and watched her go up the street and lost sight of her. I caught her eye. I saw why she made a point of not laughing. I paid for the saucers. I hailed a horse-cab. I put my arm around her. I put her hand away. I called to the cocher to stop. I had picked her up because of a vague sentimental idea that it would be nice to eat with some one. I had forgotten how dull it could be. I got hurt in the war. I was bored enough. I went back to the small room. I went over to the bar. I drank a beer. I could see their hands and newly washed, wavy hair in the light from the door. I was very angry. I know they are supposed to be amusing. I walked down the street and had a beer at the bar. I knew then that they would all dance with her. I sat down at a table. I asked him to have a drink. I was a little drunk. I got up and walked over to the dancing-floor. I took my coat off a hanger on the wall and out it on. I stopped at the bar and asked them for an envelope. I took a fiftyfranc note from my pocket.

Chapter IV

I saw her face in the lights from the open shops. I saw her face clearly. I kissed her. I was pretty well through with the subject. I went out onto the sidewalk. I did not see who it was. I wanted to get home. I stopped and read the inscription. I knocked on the door and she gave me my mail. I wished her good night and went upstairs. I looked at them under the gaslight. I got out my check-book. I felt sure I could remember anybody. I lit the lamp beside the bed. I sat with the windows open and undressed by the bed. I looked at myself in the mirror of the big armoire beside the bed. I put on my pajamas and got into bed. I had the two bull-fight papers, and I took their wrappers off. I read it all the way through. I blew out the lamp. I wonder what became of the others. I was all bandaged up. I never used to realize it. I lay awake thinking and my mind jumping around. I couldn't keep away from it. I started to cry. I woke up. I listened. I thought I recognized a voice. I put on a dressing-gown. I heard my name called down the stairs. I looked at the clock. I was getting brandy and soda and glasses. I went back upstairs. I took them both to the kitchen. I turned off the gas in the dining-room. I had felt like crying. I thought of her walking up the street. I felt like hell again.

Chapter V

I walked down the Boulevard. I read the papers with the coffee and then smoked a cigarette. I passed the man with the jumping frogs. I stepped aside. I read the French morning papers. I shared a taxi. I banged on the glass. I went to the office in the elevator. I was looking over my desk. I held him off. I left him to come to the office.

Chapter VI

I sat down and wrote some letters. I went down to the bar. I looked for her upstairs on my way out. I saw a string of barges being towed empty down the current. I suppose it is. I walked past the sad tables. I watched him crossing the street through the taxis. I never heard him make one remark. I do not believe he thought about his clothes much. I don't know how people could say such terrible things. I don't even feel an impulse to try to stop it. I stood against the bar looking out. I did not want anything to drink and went out through the side door. I looked back. I went down a side street. I got in and gave the driver the address to my flat.

Chapter VII

I went up to the flat. I put the mail on the table. I heard the door-bell pull. I put on a bathrobe and slippers. I filled the big earthenware jug with water. I dressed slowly. I felt tired and pretty rotten. I took up the brandy bottle. I went to the door. I found some ash-trays and spread them around. I looked at the count. I had that feeling of going through something that has already happened before. I had the feeling as in a nightmare of it all being something repeated, something I had been through and that now I must go through again. I took a note out of my pocket. I looked back and there were three girls at his table. I gave him twenty francs and he touched his cap. I went upstairs and went to bed.

Note from the author: "When I was 13, my brother gave me a copy of Hemingway's The Sun Also Rises. It was my first foray into real Literature and I hated it. Even with little or no way to enter the novel, I dutifully slugged through it (I mean, what is cog-nak anyway?) Years later, I have returned to revisit the relationship. In this version, I have erased my way through Hemingway's original text, leaving behind only the phrases that begin with the pronoun 'I'."

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