image credit: Melanie Schiff

Your name: Lauren Hall

Author’s name: Tom Devaney

Author’s website address: http://www.thomasdevaney.net/

What’s the Philly (love) connection?: Tom lives in Philly and teaches creative writing at Haverford and Penn.  (There’s also a Philly shout-out in the poem, itself.)

Why’d you nominate this poem?:  Not only is this poem a master class in craftsmanship, it brilliantly cuts through the bullshit of our daily lives with unapologetic candor — “Philly-Style.”  It’s the kind of poem that, after reading it, you can’t help but say, “Hell yeah.”



Trying to live as if it were morning

Every character in Dostoevsky is going to be in the hospital
——after this poem.
The underground man with a baseball bat, clearing house
“Philly-Style,” and from what I’ve seen
—–it would be true.

I put the Brothers K and their endless array of calamities
—–out with my pinky.

I don’t go in for the ping-pong of rational-irrational,
—–possible-impossible —
The sad, lucid, mad, attractive, murky
—–and yes, horrible overcoat of Paradox, Pennsylvania.

I don’t need that.

The Bros. K are gone.
The problem of fake hamburger or even real hamburger remains.

The Past at my back,
Back in the past, I agree with John Coltrane
—-when he says, “War begets war.”

I drive all around my neighborhood with “the Idiot”
—–in the front basket of my bike.
When he falls out we pick him up and keep going.
He’s clever in a way that any other person might be killed for.

Of course, people don’t fuck with us.

It’s the old game of imposing order where there isn’t any
—–then calling yourself on it.

The ancients called it gravity; the modernists job security.
The people after lost a lot of weight and went home pissed off
Not believing they were home when they actually were,
—–so they never really slept.

It’s the kind of trouble a fleet of blimps “up in flames”
Might cause flying over an Olympic stadium as seen
—-on video cassette —
————but really real anyway, like on fire.

People point out the violence I do to my own words,
How uncareful I can be — I duck under their commentary.
My copy of Crime and Punishment is under the aloe plant
—–all buckled and stained from water.

A man I respect said there hasn’t been any “breakthrough work”
—–since sometime in the 1930’s.
Sometimes for me it would just be breaking things;
Like my uncle’s a “good guy,” but
The precinct captain pulled his back-up.
He shouldn’t be here. We don’t talk about it.

Take out a piece of paper and write down:
Man the builder, Man the destroyer, Man the eater
—–of donuts, butter cake, and pork buns.

The experimenter says he, or a recombinant
He and She “unsettles all things.”
Even though that’s cool, I don’t unsettle “all things.”
I don’t have enough time.
There’s enough nonsense without that nonsense.

I’m not here to settle that.
I’m here to write a poem because I’m a morning person
—–and it’s morning.

This is a morning poem.

first published in The American Poetry Review, November 1, 2000.

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  1. Susan says:

    fantastic! dislocating Dostoevsky in mind, time, space . . .

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