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J A C K E T   #   T E N  
O C T O B E R   1 9 9 9


Tony Towle

five poems


      Dow Jones Haiku

British steel tastes fruit
after years of sacrifice
in empty markets.

      The Art of War

I'm sorry I was asleep when you called.
I was up till dawn
attacking the Prussians at Ligny,
and I didn't even do a good job, there
were still plenty left
when I pushed "save"
and turned off the machine. I'm glad I
didn't know any of them personally,
as I ordered my 12-pounders
to eliminate the tiny clusters of veteran brigades,
and clicked on all the available cavalry
to erase the inexperienced Landwehr from the screen.

      McGovern's Sea Chantey (after Melville)

Joey the Lemur went out to the store
just as Eddie the Mailman showed up at the door.
He was bringing a message from Fred the Fed
that Norwegian Roy was dead.
So Big Walter the Cook, and Jerry the Book,
Charley McG and then Jimmy C
all had a drink on me, Tony T.

I was ready to stop but Paul the Ex-Cop
sprung for a round,
and then Upstairs Lou and Brooklyn Bill too,
Vinnie the Mooch and Telephone Phil
all followed suit and bought rounds until
the scenery turned unreal
and sense slunk away
like the Hoboken Eel.

      Introduction & Exposition

Initially, he gave his name and, honestly, he tried to explain himself.

Annoyingly, he began each attempt with an adverb.

Inaccurately, he thought this would be edifying.

Coincidentally, it sometimes was.

Sadly, she considered his undertakings pointless.

Ironically, he agreed with her, while theatrically he had felt upstaged for years.

Biblically, the book was closed.

Decidedly, she left him.

Astronomically all continued as before: the sun rose realistically
each day and glisteningly the stars appeared at night.

Riotously the populace would sometimes take to the streets;
paradoxically he watched from the azure sofa of space and sleep.

      Fugitive Visions

While the devil and an angel struggle overhead
for the soul of the wholesale bread distributor,
two drifting, metaphorically unstable critters
emerge from the maze they'd been wandering in,
sit down on the allegorical plains, and light up:

Delirious from her sun picture, the whisper goddess has stopped,
opined the first.

But I waxed mad recall and drove the vanilla moon from the sky,
returned the other.

Although the rain petals soften our view in elaborated sympathy. . .

Or have crushed the arboreal light above the blameless road . . .

Or blamed the road for its vertical paucity,
as time boils down, er, with numbers, or something, something
as it passes, closer to the ticks or, rather, ticking
on the discarded mattress of reverie -

And so on in this vein - while elsewhere the rest of us
also reach for the same immortal blossom
which, when picked, releases another chorus of inexactitudes:

The sky may essentialize but the nurse drives on.

Wintry murmurs leave us blissfully in a ditch above the stars.

Finance data raises doubts of city board.

Wait, complained the nebulous shepherdess,
taking her eye off the flocks of tears and captive memories
that graze in grandiose subtlety wherever we look,
that last one makes no sense.

In another hypothesis
a dreamer is assigned a gender
and set strolling across the unsteadying heath
to her doom.

In yet another, questions are posed:
Has romance become inconvenient for you?
Have you become too busy to revise your idiosyncratic state?
When you see the shepherdess in the supermarket,
do you permit the tiny voices in your head to compose the dialogue
or do you maintain editorial control?
For example, if you say, But think why such tiny lakes rob men so.
Does she come back with: The truest rain petals will fall from your vision
in unelaborated sympathy, or words to that effect?
Or does she simply retort: Go, in bitter mist?

In any case, I inscribe her response on the hollow shell of my existence.
For some can sing the loves of Romeo and Juliet, etc., while I
merely extend the stammering of adolescents.
I look at you and feel the fever of Thebes is what I meant to say,
but now, elsewhere, having passed once more through bitter mist
and rusted void as well, I ponder, like the frog,
the implications of my most recent transformation.

I ponder the emotional inconvenience of this latest sorcery,
and turn on the TV: Here Come the Lombards!
"Can a late-arriving and contentious Indo-European family
find happiness in the Po Valley?"

I suspect they will,
but here is the woman of my dreams.
She strolls quietly across the heath
and that's all I'm going to say.


photo of Tony Towle

Tony Towle was born in New York in 1939 and has lived there most of his life, at present in Tribeca. He became associated with the New York School of Poetry in the early 1960's, and won the Frank O'Hara Award in 1970, in conjunction with which North was published. Other volumes include Autobiography, Works on Paper, and Some Musical Episodes, the latter from Hanging Loose Press in 1992, which will also be publishing The History of the Invitation: New & Selected Poems 1963-2000 later this year.

From Jacket’s Tony Towle author notes page, you can link to half a dozen or more Jacket pages where his work features or where he is reviewed or interviewed.

"Fugitive Visions" appeared previously in Shiny, and "The Art of War" and "Introduction & Exposition" in The World.


J A C K E T  # 10 
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