Stephen Burt

Three poems

      The Whiskery Towns

          If our
business with
the world
          fails,
we'll end

          up here:
expansively
dilapidated
          Weatherfield, Maine,
somewhere the train shoots through.

          Cattails. Sand
flats. New paint
against a dry rattan
          umbrella. The spent
moon's been out all day . . .

          Parenthetical
little divers,
no snobs and not ambitious,
          careening
seagulls crowd the shore road's rails.


      Scenes From Next Week's Buffy The Vampire Slayer

The rolls of carpet come out in all colors:
Apparently unsalable, they lean
Against the Sunnydale Tool
And Magic Shop - then up
In smoke they go: show the whole block on fire,
Then cut to Faith, who's smiling. She's to blame.
And here come the credits. Later the star of the show

Could arrive, see vamps, warn all, stand out,
Snap a fence post in half, and start
To fence with it. O foleys, do your work:
We want to be half-fooled. That good can win
And isn't always ugly, that sleek fish
Were athletes once, werewolves are guys in bands
And souls round, luminous, fragile and regained

Has to be true for these dusty particulars
To be like somewhere we would choose to live:
Otherwise the closed shop is, simply, closed
For good and business reasons, morning made
Of risible schedules, baby-sitting and cash,
The script not censored or altered after all
But the work of a number 2 pencil moving along

With several thousand others in their wooden
Tiers on Saturday, blackening
Old questions that arrange us for our roles
In plots no TV shows, on the narrow channels
Nobody would choose, if she thought she could have a choice.


      Tenth Avenue

The peregrine iron
Creeper buoys
Its bricks; their scaffolds face up to the air.
The hush files in from the Hudson, the roar from points east.
Flip the lids up on your sunglasses: "It's a new world."

Its rooftop holds:
The horizontal glare, the overheard joke,
The scraps of a bill in the wind, the far-fetched birds,
The action you can't call selfish, the van that sputs
And pulls away, speckled and matte like a tangerine rind.

A sadness of missed, of just-missed expectations
Startles the Meat District's rainy biers:
This is the world to come. All your decisions
Are yours now, to be made over again.
No one will tell you when you get them right.

photo of Stephen Burt, 2000

Stephen Burt

Stephen Burt's first book of poems, Popular Music, is out now from the Center for Literary Publishing and the University Press of Colorado. He is a graduate student at Yale, where he is completing a study of Randall Jarrell. He lives in northern Manhattan.
      His essays have appeared in American Letters and Commentary, Boston Review, Popwatch, Thumbscrew, and the Yale Review, among other journals, and his poems in AGNI, Boston Review, Fence, Metre, and PN Review.
You can read his essay on "Poetry Criticism - What is it for" in Jacket # 11.


October 1999  |  Jacket 10  Contents  |  Homepage  |  Catalog  |  Search  |
about Jacket | style guide | bookstores | literary links | 400+ book reviews |