Yo- heifers, sows, irritants, recite this poem and get a boyfriend
Poets, minor or major should arrange to remain slender,
Cling to their skeletons, not batten
On provender, not fatten the lean spirit
In its isolated cell, its solitary chains.
The taut paunch ballooning in its network of veins
Explodes from the cummerbund. The hardening artery of neck
Cannot be masked by turtle-throated cashmere or foulard of mottled silk.
Poets, poets use rags instead; use rags and consider
That Poe did not lie in the morgue swathed
Beyond recognition in fat. Consider on this late March
Afternoon, with violet and crocus outside, fragile as glass,
That the music of Marianne Moore’s small, polished bones
Was not muffled, the score not lost between thighs as thick as bass-fiddles
Or cat-gut muted by dropsy. Baudelaire did not throttle on corpulence,
Rimbaud not strangle on his own grease. In the unleafed trees, as I write,
Birds flicker, lighter than lace. They are the lean spirit,
Beaks asking for crumbs, their voices like reeds.
William Carlos Williams sat close, close to the table always, always,
Close to the typewriter keys, his body not held at bay by a drawbridge of
Under his doctor’s dress, no gangway to lower, letting the sauces,
The starches, the strong liquor, enter and exit
With bugles blowing. Over and over he was struck thin
By the mallet of beauty, the switchblade of sorrow, died slim as a gondola,
Died curved like the fine neck of a swan.
These were not gagged, strangled, outdone by the presence
Of banquet selves. They knew words make their way through navel and pore,
Move weightless as thistle, as dandelion drift, unencumbered.
Death happens to fatten on poets’ glutted hearts. (“Dylan!”
Death calls, and the poet scrambles drunk and alone to what were once
swift, bony feet,
Casting a monstrous shadow of gargantuan flesh before he crashes.)
Poets, remember your skeletons. In youth or dotage, remain as light as ashes.