Sunday, January 18, 2009

New Poem: Unto Death....poetry book sales

I'm sitting here wondering if anyone has bought my book yet. Only my publisher knows. Should I write her or wait for her to write me?

A poetry book does not behave in an arc like a bestseller. It has a lower and longer trajectory and a longer shelf life. If you don't believe it, just visit the poetry section in the book store and compare dust levels. Orders, I expect, will dribble in slowly and hopefully pick up speed to a steady trickle. Is this pessimistic? I think it's realism. Besides, in this internet printing-on-demand age, a book can have a very long shelf life.

Writing a book is the easy part. Selling it is the hard part.


I often tire of Puritan America and perhaps that distaste helped fuel the poem I wrote tonight on this very blog (before speculating on book sales). Here goes:

Unto Death

When does pleasure turn to slavery?
When does bubble gum become
a tasteless mechanism of the mouth?
When do cigarettes take up the whip and chain?
When does alcohol require
denial for communion?

Tell all your blue-nose friends
addiction's rarely fatal.
Go shock them with your habits.
A house does not collapse from one bad timber.
A life does not collapse from one bad habit.
A crab can get by fine on seven legs.
There is little on this living earth
we can't make an obsession out of.

When does pleasure turn to slavery?
When does the staff become a crutch,
the crutch a knife? Because
denial is incremental
like crabgrass in the fescue
slowly transforming a lawn
until seeds are forgotten
and mowing, you settle for green.
Don't let the jealous judge you--
there are more important things.
It's adversity that makes a man,
not what's in his bloodstream.
How much whiskey does it take
to get through a war?
There's never enough.

In the angel of satisfaction
lurks the devil of enslavement.
In the house of stimulation
lurks the devil of increase.
When does pleasure turn to slavery?
When you cannot not do it unto death?

I got to MC an amateur show for our men's circle tonight. It went surprisingly well, no doubt because I was wearing my impresario's pink-and-yellow paisley sport coat from the 60s. It's my most righteous rag, a public eyesore, an assault on all good taste. For that reason it garners incredulous attention and ungrudging admiration.

1 Kilobunny,



  1. This has many lines that are alive. You were "riding the wave" like Charles Olson advocated.

  2. Thanks a heap. Sometimes we succeed despite our defects. Good to hear Olson quoted.

  3. I love this post. The perspective and realism is phenomenal. Celeste


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