Robert Polito


Deep Deuce

As phantoms direct life from the shadows,

I feel
I leaned on something,
and it broke.

My father on the porch with his crosswords said,
this must be what it feels like to be dead;

When I returned from the dead there was no one to greet me,
but still you are glad —

I wander the ruins the way my tongue
wanders my missing teeth,
the bricks and mortar of Deep Deuce
rotted like molars in an ancient mouth;

Here Charlie Christian might have walked —

The astrologer counseled patience
and creative imaging:

Hollywood & God

If only God would save me,
I would know how to hurt you.

If only God would save me,
I would know who to sell my soul to.

Anything is an autobiography,
but this is a conversation —

William Burroughs insisted
literature lagged 50 years behind painting,

thinking no doubt about abstraction, collage,
fragmentation, his cut-ups.

But whatever that meant (why always 50 years?), or however
he presumed to rile other writers,

poetry probably does lag behind any credible media theory about it —