New Poetry with Audio!
Peter Drake studies in the MFA program at The New School, New York. He is working on a collection of poetry called Sweetwater: Poems from the Desert and the City.
It’s late on a November evening, cold
and pouring rain, and I must escape
from this little box unit where I live
and walk out into the night like King Lear
with no daughters and an umbrella. I
make my way along a familiar street
and plough right through a group of couples
in serious raincoats saying good-bye to one another
with heavy New York accents. I trudge along
on a thick carpeting of leaves – so many
have come down in one evening it seems
against the principles of mathematics. A single
person here, a couple over there, and then
a corner store, the kind where New Yorkers
buy normal things no matter what the hour.
In front of it are row upon row of forced
flowers soaking up the cold November rain.
Some are in shades of red and yellow
that look autumnal; others are big phallic
things sporting bulbous heads ready to burst
with some unknown color, while in the back
row are tall skinny stems with white on top.
I want to call them hyacinths but am no
specialist in flowers. All I know is that I’ve
seen them somewhere growing on a hill
or clasped in a cowboy’s fist at the back
of a Mexican bus. I stand there, soaked,
eying the white flowers as an employee
keeps me under his watchful gaze.
I could grab a bunch and run or march
into the store to have a word with
the cashier about sacrilege. Instead, I
push my way through the heavily-sprung
glass door and gather up the voluminous Sunday paper.
Back outside I remain by the flowers
in the rain with the world in my arms.
It seems to be coming down harder now,
and I realize, as I head back into the night,
that I have withdrawn my objections.
There are three types of people in Tennessee: slovenly, wild and gray.
The slovenly are slovenly in their being slovenly, becoming slovenly the more they place round hills in states shapes like parallelograms. They know full well there is a shamelessness and squalor in these round hills, yet they are comfortable in placing them where they fit. These round-mountain people do not care if other mountains are square. They dwell in shacks that crumble into rivers, unaware.
The wild are dispossessed of mountains, round or square. They roam the hills searching for what is not there. They shoot at things they cannot eat and eat things they cannot shoot. They wear no boots, only red, only yellow. For red and yellow are theirs to keep. They do not steal but claim their birthright in nothingness.
The grays are gray only if the sun shines too brightly, gray with an “a”, that is. They are grey with an “e” when it suits them. That is why and how they come into being grey with and “e”. They take delight in having made off with this language from the first colonists and using it as they please, with variations and misspellings which later enter into the academy, the Royal Academy of the Language of Tennessee. They alone know where it is and are in possession of the simple code by which the massive gates groan reluctantly open.
A plain white sheet of paper
is the best for writing
a poem, a love letter
or a death note:
you fold it in thirds
and leave it on a pillow –
there’s a peculiar kind of thrill
each time you find one.
There was a battalion
of handsome young
the desert, some
with brown hair.
Kill us, the people
said. The soldiers
raised their guns.
Don’t kill us,
the people said.