The Vanity of Self-Loathing
Exhausted by a discontent disguised as modesty,
I dream that I am Achilles, hero who thinks too much.
Confined to our anchorage of dust, we fix small pinions
to large claims and call innocence what we have lost.
Then the dream of a woman sitting in a restaurant,
naked, save for the cobwebs wreathing her shoulders
and face; appetite and terminus, she comes to tell me
that we don’t want to know the names the dead give us.
Dusk again, and night’s blank facets breeding pangs.
I dismiss the full moon’s pious obligations and offer
myself to sleep as one might be set down at a station
in a wilderness, trembling with grief like a just-flung knife.
If I could scrape the crusted salt
from the face of Lot’s wife and free
from the corner of her blue eye
the single tear that would redeem
the cities of shame, then perhaps
I could make you believe what seems
impossible to explain. Dear sleep,
spare me last night’s dream of grieving
Mary’s walking in a furnace, treading
flames. A shout from the street below
rips wattage from our hearts, and the dog
slumped at my feet lifts his hot black face
and barks three times, as if the world’s errors
required his reproof. When the crooked
have been made straight, Lord, let my anger
inherit the earth.
Four Thoughts on Poetry
As if you did a really good job
at some very hard work for twenty
years and at the end they give you a
cheap watch from a catalog of prizes.
You go, “Gee, thanks a lot …”
… and she says, “My pleasure
big spender.” The tiniest strap
on her shoe is more beautiful than
Gotham. A smile wades from the
dark shore of her mouth, and you’re
playing hooky where cobwebs stretch
as taut as sails for a boat of dust.
Interviewing C.K. Williams on the phone
and I say, “People don’t understand how
the length and rhythm of the line not only
give a poem shape but tell the poem
where to start,” and he says, “Only a poet
would say that,” and I go, “Thanks a lot!”
Lots of rain. Damp gravel with scent of gun-
flint, ambitious and saturnine; lachrymose
constellation of raindrops flocked in
stooped pines; a piercing rain’s combative
iteration; and the inclination is to go on
and on before someone shouts, “Will you
shut the fuck up!”
© Fredric Koeppel
Fredric Koeppel has had poems published recently in the journals Vox Poetica, Cakes and Grapes, The Curator and Peeking Cat. He lives in Memphis, Tennessee, and writes the wine review blog biggerthanyourhead.net.