Poet James Tate
Two Poems from Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by James Tate
I just finished ‘Dome of the Hidden Pavilion by the late James Tate.
Tate recounts experiences on the edge of absurdity but not so absurd you can’t say “You know, that’s exactly what happened to me.”
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.
Get this book here: Amazon or give yourself some extra pleasure and check it out from your public library.