Dorine Preston




God, I could put out

your eyes I could

put out. I could wring

my hands, my snakes.


There it is, damn its stench:

the error house.

Yes, you embarrass me,

you easy liquor.


I'm done dredging gutters

for honeysuckle,

for the dumb fuzz from your thighs—

It was your clover-choked


windmills that threw me.

Anyone would understand.

Abasement is where I keep

my receipts.




The Facts We Prefer


As it may be generous

to donate firewood


to a heretic's burning,

so the ascetic thrashes


against the hands

that love him,


lest they settle

between his ribs


and take hold,

like sleeping hawks


whose relaxed claws

grip the perch more tightly, immobile


as the eyes and mouths

of the dead (exhausted


by surprise, as we all will be):

open, finally ready to receive.


We sew them shut

for decency's sake.




Basta Cosi1


Oh, the hell with it, really.

Let the L=A=N=G=U=A=G=E poets2

fuck themselves. Enough disjunction.

Let words, in addition to being bodies,

reveal bodies. Let the tongue,3

that arbiter of sweetness,

clot and finally fail, but let us

in the meantime presume,

if not to understand the erotic,

then at least to savor it with a syntax4

which rigorously determines meaning.5

Let's have a real old fashioned

love poem, for Chrissakes!

Let us not settle for copulative verbs.6

Let's have moonrise over the Mediterranean

and six tiny fishing boats

lighting their lamps and your head in my lap

and my hands in your hair

and you asking me please

to keep humming that old song,

because I am so good at it

and so beautiful

and such a comfort to you.

1 Italian for "Enough like this," or, in the English idiom, "Enough of this." See also "Sono qui con mio ragazzo" or "I am here with my boyfriend."

2 I mean poets who gleefully arrange text which "destroys the spontaneously functional nature of language, and leaves standing only its lexical basis" (Barthes 41). Barthes, Roland. Writing Degree Zero. Trans. Annette Lavers and Colin Smith. New York: Hill and Wang, 1968.

3 Strictly speaking, I refer here not to the tongue entire but to the papillae on the tongue, where the tastebuds are located. (See Sherwood, Lauralee. Fundamentals of Physiology: A Human Perspective. 2nd ed. New York: West Publishing Company, 1995.)

4 By "syntax," I mean "the arrangement of words in a sentence in order to reveal the relation of each to the whole sentence and to one another." (Lunsford 980). (Lunsford, Andrea. The St. Martin's Handbook. 5th ed. Boston: Bedford St. Martin's, 2003.)

5 I recommend against strategies of clausal arrangement which leave the task of constructing relationships between elements of the poem mostly to the reader. The Beowulf Poet, for example, delivers his text to his listeners/readers in what Fred C. Robinson terms an "appositive style," which requires the reader to interpret the relationships between nouns and noun clauses. (See Robinson, Fred C. Beowulf and the Appositive Style. Knoxville: University of Tennessee Press, 1985.) Similarly, much contemporary poetry presents itself as a series of juxtaposed clauses/images, so that the reader is asked to "write" the connective structure between these elements. For example, see Christine Hume’s Musca Domestica. (Hume, Christine. Musca Domestica. Boston: Beacon Press, 2000.)

6 Strunk and White warn the writer: "Do not affect a breezy manner" (73). I hope I shall not be accused of doing so, nor of "cutting rhetorical capers" (74). (Strunk, William Jr., and E.B. White. The Elements of Style. 3rd ed. Boston: Allyn and Bacon, 1979).





Ode to the Tune of Frank O'Hara


Oh phone! You are a sleek silver super-

huge bullet in the palm! Allowing me

to believe I am Clint Eastwood

when I am only calling the dentist!

But perhaps I should not squint into

the wind this way (certainly such chomping

on cigars is bad for me). It will not do

to confuse my office with a desert!

Maybe some dry weed will tumble me

to Vegas, where every long leg swings

from a lit-up brick. How short-

lived is beauty in the absence

of preservative liquids! I order seabreeze

after seabreeze from a Cleopatra

I'm not sure how to tip—how can I multiply

in the presence of false eyelashes?—and each tide

arrives in a glass I don’t know. Perfectly crimped

trouser cuffs everywhere! This current

of smooth men in smooth suits that breaks

around the polyester-shadowed slot machines

leaves sand in my shoes and that's why

I'm kicking off my knickers

to shimmy up the nearest palm tree

and from the top I'll dial until someone understands.