Dejected in Boulder, I Think of James Wright’s “Depressed by a Book of Bad Poetry, I Walk Toward an Unused Pasture and Invite the Insects to Join Me”

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That dream again where Yuan Mei and I
are brothers, then married to one another,
though not conjugally. Our wife a kiang,
a Tibetan wild ass.

That dream where John and I are at AWP,
but I won’t leave the hotel room, nursing instead
sick birds with scraps of my poems I tear and tender
with all the patience of broth
into their weak, delicate beaks.

I’ve just come from Red Letter Books in Boulder,
an hour with Bootsie in the poetry stacks.
So much that is not Vallejo.
Language for the such of so and sake.
Every phrase seems confused. Everyone
seems to have something to say
about nothing, as if reading books
about the world, among poets, has been banned.

Then a more satisfying hour
in History, in Natural Sciences.
Astronomy. The celestial bodies
of ospreys and hawks in the insect-thick
animal night. Two of Jupiter’s
eight gaseous moons hidden
in the humps of a Bactrian camel.
Marsupials with the primitive impulse
of the pouch somehow holding me
closer to rhythmic breathing than clever
language ever could.

How many evenings I’ve spent with Yuan Mei
before the fire, talking of woodcutting, the winter art
of mending a sock, the proper seasoning
of congee. Steam rising.
Jade Spring tea. He pours
himself through me as if filling a cup.
As if parting my lips would help me
follow the migration of butterflies
to a cave in Bolivia, or trouble
the black branches of the north.

The southern Tibetan Steppes. Hundreds
of miles through fog. The prance of primeval play
among ungulates. Only a few herds left
of the wild ass. Black stripe down the center
of the back—the before world, the after.

 

 

Photo By: Meredith Bell 

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About Author

George Kalamaras, Poet Laureate of Indiana, is the author of seven books of poetry and seven chapbooks, including The Mining Camps of the Mouth (2012), winner of the New Michigan Press/DIAGRAM chapbook contest, Kingdom of Throat-Stuck Luck (2011), winner of the Elixir Press Poetry Prize, and The Theory and Function of Mangoes (2000), winner of the Four Way Books Intro Prize. His poems have appeared in The Best American Poetry (on two occasions), Denver Quarterly, The Iowa Review, Kenyon Review, New Letters, North American Review, and many other anthologies and journals. He is Professor of English at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne, where he has taught since 1990.

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