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Poems Seven

New and Complete Poetry

by Alan Dugan and Carl Philips

Paperback, 422 pages, Random House Inc, List Price: $18.95 |


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Poems Seven
New and Complete Poetry
Alan Dugan and Carl Philips

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Book Summary

A new collection of poems by the winner of the 2001 National Book Award chronicles forty years in the career of one of the nation's most talented poetic voices. Reprint.

Read an excerpt of this book


Awards and Recognition

National Book Award (2001)

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Note: Book excerpts are provided by the publisher and may contain language some find offensive.

Excerpt: Poems Seven

Poems Seven

New and Complete Poetry

Seven Stories Press

Copyright © 2002 Alan Dugan
All right reserved.

ISBN: 1583225129

Chapter One

* * *


This is this morning: all
the evils and glories of last night
are gone except for their
effects: the great world wars
I and II, the great marriage
of Edward the VII or VIII
to Wallis Warfield Simpson and
the rockets numbered like the Popes
have incandesced in flight
or broken on the moon: now
the new day with its famous
beauties to be seized at once
has started and the clerks
have swept the sidewalks
to the curb, the glass doors
are open, and the first
customers walk up and down
the supermarket alleys of their eyes
to Muzak. Every item has
been cut out of its nature,
wrapped disguised as something
else, and sold clean by fractions.
Who can multiply and conquer
by the Roman numbers? Lacking
the Arab frenzy of the zero, they
have obsolesced: the butchers
have washed up and left
after having killed and dressed
the bodies of the lambs all night,
and those who never have seen blood awake
can drink it browned
and call the past an unrepeatable mistake
because this circus of their present is all gravy.


The wind came in for several thousand miles all night
and changed the close lie of your hair this morning. It
has brought well-travelled sea-birds who forget
their passage, singing. Old songs from the old
battle- and burial-grounds seem new in new lands.
They have to do with spring as new in seeming as
the old air idling in your hair in fact. So new,
so ignorant of any weather not your own,
you like it, breathing in a wind that swept
the battlefields of their worst smells, and took the dead
unburied to the potter's field of air. For miles
they sweetened on the sea-spray, the foul washed off,
and what is left is spring to you, love, sweet,
the salt blown past your shoulder luckily. No
wonder your laugh rings like a chisel as it cuts
your children's new names in the tombstone of thin air.


The formal, blooded stallion, the Arabian,
will stand for stud at fifty bucks a throw,
but there is naturally a richer commerce in his act,
eased in this instance by a human palm
and greased with money: the quiver in his haunch
is not from flies, no; the hollow-sounding,
kitten-crushing hooves are sharp and blind,
the hind ones hunting purchase while the fore
rake at the mare's flank of the sky.
Also, the two- or three-foot prick that curls
the mare's lip back in solar ectasy
is greater than the sum of its desiring:
the great helm of the glans, the head
of feeling in the dark, is what spits out,
beyond itself, its rankly generative cream.
After that heat, the scraggled, stallion-legged foal
is not as foolish as his acts: the bucking and
the splayed-out forelegs while at grass
are practices: he runs along her flank
in felt emergencies, inspired by love to be
his own sweet profit of the fee and the desire,
compounded at more interest than the fifty in the bank.


    Drinking Song: An Indoor Plant: A Dull Life

The person of this plant with heart-shaped leaves
and off-shot stalks, bending at each knee,
is built of dishwater, cigarette smoke, no
sunlight, and humus mixed with peat-moss. Like
genius, it survives our inattention and the dark,
potted like myself indoors, and goes on growing.
It grows for no known cause that I can find
outside itself, by means of mumbling, flowering
no flowers, no flowers, none for all these years.
Since imagination has the answer to these noes,
imagine it as one of those survivors in the old
swamps, shadowed by the grown, light-headed conifers:
fit for the damps, whose gentlest odor seems
corrosive, mightily akin to older, shadowed ferns,
it might have dropped its pollen in the black
water where the pollen swam, and thus become
perseverant in going on in lust, like us,
and mobile through its young. Even now
it does move on in time, too, each elbow putting out
a stalk and leaf in faith and doubt, but no
flowers. Who knows what in hell it loves or lacks
as crawler in arrest. Sometimes to water it,
to notice it, to keep it out of the bureau drawer
and trained to climb perennially around itself,
is piety enough toward indoor plants right now
when one is thirsty, too, for rich lost tastes
and light streaming down through amniotic air.


Balance and survival: it has
a strategy of elbows as
it breaks its hairy knees
while climbing up the wall
and then juts off again,
shaped like a claw.

Even at its top most
broken elbow, it
must turn uprooted from
its heaven in the air,
and, in going down,
not find it on the floor,

either. Compelled to move
anyhow, it always has
an angle and an out
in going nowhere, all
around itself
in faith and doubt.