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Alfred Corn

The Veteran Gradual

They said, As misconceived as a grey swan.
Mmm, but comics reify the corridors of power
By applying mute pigments with a tongue
Depressor — rigid, and handy for if nothing
Else simulated scarring of the background.
Some connect, some don’t. Pick up the dice
Or go back to chess. Your mentor said to,
Whereupon a massive coronary hits the deck —
Confuse me? — bay and oak leaf brothers
Under the skin at least in terms of chlorophyll.
The president meant every word we said.

Which things catch on to the trick of speed
Or the theory that skimming keeps you safe
From arrest or blah martyrdoms? I’d still
Rather find a hat and our whereabouts.
A crucial plank in the gangway bends, then lower,
And breaks, one result, high body count, another,
The approach of a crumhorn player arm in arm
With a buffalo, both herded along as Exhibit A
In a naturalist convention. Ironic asides
Aside, it’s not the sweetest (forget the word)
Counteragent to notions likely to put crimps

In your flowing tributary of flames, each
In graduated tones, a kind of innocence,
But busting a gut to seem like fausse naïveté.
Sorry, we’ve pulled no fresher prints than these.
Experts have professed to actually like the blips,
And would never respond with a fight-or-flight
Pose unless it struck them as spiky enough
To justify brute exertions. Not so many can
Recite the plays verbatim, a quaint and dry form
Of courtesy, demanding praxis, pierceable ears,
And a taste for 3-D illustrations (-lustrations, -rations...)

Alfred Corn’s seventh book of poems, Present, appeared in April, along with a novel titled Part of His Story, and a study of prosody, The Poem’s Heartbeat. He has published six earlier volumes of poetry and a collection of critical essays titled The Metamorphoses of Metaphor. Fellowships and prizes awarded for his poetry include the Guggenheim, the NEA, an Award in Literature from the Academy and Institute of Arts and Letters, and one from the Academy of American Poets. At present he teaches in the Graduate Writing Program at Columbia. A frequent contributor to The New York Times Book Review and The Nation, he also writes art criticism for Art in America and ARTnews magazines. He lives in New York City.

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