C. K. Williams
Beds squalling, squealing, muffled in hush; beds pitching, leaping,
immobile as mountains;
beds wide as a prairie, strait as a gate, as narrow as the plank of a ship
to be walked.
I squalled, I squealed, I swooped and pitched; I covered my eyes and
leapt from the plank.
Beds proud, beds preening, beds timid and tense; vanquished beds
wishing only to vanquish;
neat little beds barely scented and dented, beds so disused you
cranked them to start them.
I admired, sang praises, flattered, adored; I sighed and submitted,
solaced, comforted, cranked.
Procrustean beds with consciences sharpened like razors slicing the
darkness above you;
beds like the labors of Hercules, stables and serpents; Samson blinded,
Noah in horror.
Blind with desire, I wakened in horror, in toil, in bondage, my con
science in tatters.
Beds sobbing, beds sorry, beds pleading, beds mournful with histories
that amplified yours,
so you knelled through their dolorous echoes as through the depths of
your own dementias.
I echoed, I knelled, I sobbed and repented, I bandaged the wrists,
sighed for the embryo lost.
A nation of beds, a cosmos, then, how could it happen still, the bed at
the end of the world,
as welcoming as the world, ark, fortress, light and delight, the other
beds forgiven, forgiving.
A bed that sang through the darkness and woke in song as though
world itself had just wakened;
two beds fitted together as one, bed of arrival, acceptance, patience,
bed of unwaning ardor.
(Reprinted in Best American Poetry 1998)
Arsonist and Fireman
It was the hot orange edge,
the flame biting and tearing its way
out of the field--that's what I loved.
I looked up the word 'loins' in the dictionary,
and lit the dry grass with its meaning.
Put that memory away now. Its magnet
is weak after all these years. It's time to stop.
He's dead, long dead, dead for years.
Let his sad soul go off by itself.
Let it rest for a while in the scorched grass.
Portraits: A Retrospective
Isaac Bashevis Singer, 1973
Norman Mailer, 1979