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1 Burnside Poetry- A to Z

This title in other editions

Failure

by

Failure Cover

 

 

Excerpt

Its Sunday Morning in Early November

 

and there are a lot of leaves already.

I could rake and get a head start.

The boys summer toys need to be put

in the basement. I could clean it out

or fix the broken storm window.

When Eli gets home from Sunday school,

I could take him fishing. I dont fish

but I could learn to. I could show him

how much fun it is. We dont do as much

as we used to do. And my wife, theres

so much I havent told her lately,

about how quickly my soul is aging,

how it feels like a basement I keep filling

with everything Im tired of surviving.

I could take a walk with my wife and try

to explain the ghosts I cant stop speaking to.

Or I could read all those books piling up

about the beginning of the end of understanding . . .

Meanwhile, its such a beautiful morning,

the changing colors, the hypnotic light.

I could sit by the window watching the leaves,

which seem to know exactly how to fall

from one moment to the next. Or I could lose

everything and have to begin over again.

 

Talking to Ourselves

 A woman in my doctors office last week

couldnt stop talking about Niagara Falls,

the difference between dog and deer ticks,

how her oldest boy, killed in Iraq, would lie

with her at night in the summer grass, singing

Puccini. Her eyes looked at me but saw only

the saffron swirls of the quivering heavens.

 

Yesterday, Mr. Miller, our tidy neighbor,

stopped under our lopsided maple to explain

how his wife of sixty years died last month

of Alzheimers. I stood there, listening to

his longing reach across the darkness with

each bruised breath of his eloquent singing.

 

This morning my five-year-old asked himself

why hed come into the kitchen. I understood

he was thinking out loud, personifying himself,

but the intimacy of his small voice was surprising.

 

When my fathers vending business was failing,

hed talk to himself while driving, his lips

silently moving, his black eyes deliquescent.

He didnt care that I was there, listening,

what he was saying was too important.

 

“Too important,” I hear myself saying

in the kitchen, putting the dishes away,

and my wife looks up from her reading

and asks, “Whats that you said?”

 

Specimen

 

I turned sixty in Paris last year.

We stayed at the Lutetia,

where the Gestapo headquartered

during the war, my wife, two boys, and me,

and several old Vietnamese ladies

carrying poodles with diamond collars.

 

Once my father caught a man

stealing cigarettes out of one

of his vending machines.

He didnt stop choking him

until the pool hall stunk of excrement

and the body dropped to the floor

like a judgment.

 

When I was last in Paris

I was dirt poor, hiding

from the Vietnam War.

One night, in an old church,

I considered taking my life.

I didnt know how to be so young

and not belong anywhere, stuck

among so many perplexing melodies.

 

I loved the low white buildings,

the ingratiating colors, the ancient light.

We couldnt afford such luxury.

It was a matter of pride.

My father died bankrupt one week

before his sixtieth birthday.

I didnt expect to have a family;

I didnt expect happiness.

 

At the Lutetia everyone

dressed themselves like specimens

theyd loved all their lives.

Everyone floated down

red velvet hallways

like scintillating music

you hear only once or twice.

 

Driving home, my father said,

“Let anyone steal from you

and youre not fit to live.”

I sat there, sliced by traffic lights,

not belonging to what he said.

I belonged to a scintillating

and perplexing music

I didnt expect to hear.

 

The Summer People

 

Santos, a strong, friendly man,

who built my wifes sculpture studio,

fixed everything I couldnt,

looked angry in town last week.

Then he stopped coming. We wondered

if we paid him enough, if he envied us.

Once he came over late to help me catch a bat

with a newspaper and trash basket.

He liked that I laughed at how scared I got.

Were “year rounds,” what the locals call

summer people who live here full time.

Always in a hurry, the summer people honk a lot,

own bigger cars and houses. Once I beat a guy

in a pickup to a parking space, our summer sport.

“Lousy New Yorker!” he cried.

 

Every day now men from Guatemala, Ecuador,

and Mexico line up at the railroad station.

They know that theyre despised,

that no one likes having to share their rewards,

or being made to feel spiteful.

 

When my uncle Joe showed me the shotgun

he kept near the cash register

to scare the black migrants

who bought his overpriced beer and cold cuts

in his grocery outside of Rochester, N.Y.,

his eyes blazed like emerald suns.

Its impossible to forget his eyes.

 

At parties the summer people

who moved here after 9/11

talk about all the things they had to give up.

Its beautiful here, they say, but everything

is tentative and strange,

as if the beauty isnt theirs to enjoy.

 

When Im tired, my fathers accent

scrapes my tongue like a scythe.

He never cut our grass or knew

what grade I was in. He worked days,

nights, and weekends, but failed anyway.

Late at night, when he was too tired to sleep,

hed stare out the window so powerfully

the world inside and outside

our house would disappear.   

 

In Guatemala, after working all day,

Santos studied to be an architect.

He suffered big dreams, his wife said.

My wifes studio is magnificent.

Wed hear him up there in the dark,

hammering and singing, as if

he were the happiest man alive.

Copyright © 2007 by Philip Schultz

 

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, recording, or any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

 

Requests for permission to make copies of any part of the work should be submitted online at www.harcourt.com/contact or mailed to the following address: Permissions Department, Harcourt, Inc., 6277 Sea Harbor Drive, Orlando, Florida 32887-6777.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780156031288
Author:
Schultz, Philip
Publisher:
Mariner Books
Subject:
American - General
Subject:
Single Author / American
Subject:
Poetry-A to Z
Copyright:
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20090406
Binding:
Electronic book text in proprietary or open standard format
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
128
Dimensions:
8 x 5.31 in 0.27 lb

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Related Subjects


Fiction and Poetry » Poetry » A to Z

Failure Used Trade Paper
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$9.50 In Stock
Product details 128 pages Mariner Books - English 9780156031288 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by ,
"Philip Schultz is a hell of a poet, one of the very best of his generation, full of slashing language, good rhythms, surprises, and the power to leave you meditating in the cave of his poems."

--Norman Mailer

A driven immigrant father, an old poet, Isaac Babel in the authors dreams—Philip Schultz gives voice to failures in poems that are direct and wry. He evokes other lives, too—family, beaches, dogs, the pleasures of marriage, New York City in the 1970s ("when nobody got up before noon, wore a suit / or joined anything")—and a mind struggling with revolutions both interior and exterior. Failure is a superb new collection from one of Americas great poets.

"Synopsis" by ,
This superb Pulitzer Prize–winning collection gives voice to failure with a wry, deft touch from one of this countrys most engaging and uncompromising poets. In Failure, Philip Schultz evokes the pleasures of family,marriage, beaches, and dogs; New York City in the 1970s; revolutions both interior and exterior; and the terrors of 9/11 with a compassion that demonstrates he is a master of the bittersweet and fierce, the wondrous and direct, and the brilliantly provocative. Filled with poems of "heartbreaking tenderness that [go] beyond mere pity" (Gerald Stern), Failure is a collection to savor from this major American poet.

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