Poet James Tate
Two Poems from Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by James Tate
Here’s a link to an excellent review by Charles Simic: Inexhaustible & Brilliant, and here are a couple of poems to introduce you if you aren’t familiar.
I saw my name in a list of possible suspects. It made me
furious. I drove down to the police station immediately. I walked
in and the first officer I saw stopped me. I said, “Why is my
name on this list? I have done nothing illegal. I want my name
removed right now.” “Slow down, buster. You sound just like
all the guilty ones. I don’t know who made this up, but they must
have had some reason to put you on it,” he said. “I am a law
abiding citizen. I pay my taxes. I follow the speed limit.
I don’t molest children. I don’t rob banks,” I said. “You sound
like you’re not having any fun at all,” he said. “I listen to
the radio. I make pancakes,” I said. “You’re pathetic,” he said.
“About once a year I go bowling,” I said. “This is the saddest
I’ve heard since my grandpa died,” he said. “Occasionally
I go out to eat at Sal’s Diner,” I said. “I hate the place.
They got bugs in their rice,” he said. “I once volunteered for
the March of Dimes,” I said. “A bunch of phonies,” he said.
“You don’t like me. You don’t like anything I do,” I said. “Do
I look like a I care what you do? I don’t care even a tiny bit.
I got my own fish to fry,” he said. “You got fish to fry?” I
said. “Trout,” he said. “I love trout. That’s my favorite fish,”
I said. “I’m not going to invite you to dinner. I have little
kids,” he said. “I love little kids,” I said. “You love every-
thing, because you have nothing.” “That’s right,” I said, “because
I have nothing.”
The Little Green Man
The rain fell all day and I was in a terrible mood. I gen-
erally like the rain so it made no sense to me. I guess things
are just going lousy for me. I threw up after breakfast. Don’t
ask me why. And then I fell down the steps going to work. I
didn’t break anything as far as I know. When I got to work I called
Janice Bob and she slapped me. Things went pretty well until
lunch. I ordered calamari and they brought me a rattlesnake.
I tried to be polite, but how do you eat a rattlesnake? I couldn’t
eat It. When the waiter came at the end of the meal he saw that
I hadn’t eaten anything. He said, “You didn’t like your calamari?”
I said, “This doesn’t look like the calamari I had in mind.” “This
is western calamari,” he said, “I like eastern,” I said. I went
back to the office after lunch. There was a note on my door that
said, “You’re next.” That’s all. I started quivering in my shoes.
Who had I offended? Only Janice, and she wouldn’t kill anybody.
I started looking in my desk for something to defend myself with.
All I came up with was a stapler. I could knock the gun or knife
out of his hand with my right hand and staple his lift hand to his
forehead. Just then there was a knock on my door. It was my boss.
He said, “I said you’re next.” I relaxed. “Yes, sir,” I said.
I went into his office unarmed. He said, “Jack I wanted you to
know that I think you’re doing a terrific job, but, in spite of that,
I’m going to have to let you go. We have to tighten our belt.”
I left his office, gathered my stuff, and drove home. I opened
the door and a little green monster jumped out at me. No he didn’t.
He just stood there and stared.
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