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Peter Tomassi: Two Poems
Untitled | Day #183


All I know is what the words know.
—Samuel Beckett
Prefix, suffix, adjective:
let us undress and stare
at one another to compare
marks—do you notice
the soil on my knees?

Or let's compare nephews
like rival aunts.
Who were you
to tell me my life
with its own inventions,

as if you had buried in me
disenchantment, bemusement,
fulfillment, dissent,
commitment? I am
committed to you
as a gardener

who leads his tools
to rustle dirt for growth,
commits to extend himself
to vine, fruit, blossom,
whose nature
slaves to ingredients.

But do you pretend
to start where he starts,
on a dream of morning:
the wet earth of some
forgotten plot,
that picture of fresh stalk?

You've led me to believe it,
so I seem foolish
now romping
in your dull puddles,
then intelligent on your
clean tract of nouns.

All the same
I'll take your challenge—
I made love before you
uttered loveliness, infatuation,
cheated before you
accused: miscreant, misogynist.

What were you feeling
at the time if not
-ism's, -tion's, de-'s,
could you have
pronounced them
without my help?

If you can speak
your vocabulary,
ask the ready ears
in your leaves, your bark,
were you their making,
their unmaking?

Day #183

Where is the glory ordinary?
Can you tell me something
about raking leaves
I don't already know,

or raise a sermon
about the well-kept air rocking
a pair of boots on the electric line,
about socks slung over a radiator?

Are they stories worth telling?

Why would anyone care—
the sea just rustles a dark manuscript
as I flip the pages of a magazine,
learning how to read,

how not to read.

Does anyone remember
what the Magi did with their old age,
how their grandchildren felt
thumbing a box of wooden toys?

Are there any sequels worth telling?

The sea wrestles dark green pages
as I race through a story in Time,
glimpse the divided leaves,
hear the far-off swell.

Poet's Biography:
  Born in Plainfield, N.J. in 1969, Peter Tomassi graduated from Columbia College, where he founded the politics and rhetoric journal, Helvidius. His work has appeared in numerous publications in the U.S. and abroad, including Beauty for Ashes Poetry Review, The Cafe Review, Central California Poetry Journal, The Comstock Review, Magma (London), Lynx Eye, Newark Review, Paris/Atlantic (France), The Pittsburgh Quarterly,, Porcupine Literary Arts Magazine, Wings, Word Salad, and Yeast for Food. His debut book of poetry, Mixing Cement, was recently published by Thunder Rain. He lives in San Francisco.

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