Thursday, May 6, 2010

James Tate loves final lines. He has good finality. Its one of his trademarks. Here are the final lines from each poem of James Tates’ THE GHOST SOLDIERS, the lines standing alone. Together they make something still.


- “Noon at Sadie’s,” I said

- I slunk out of his room with my head nearly banging against my knees, longing for my bed again, not knowing if I’d ever find it.

- “Everything,” he said

- “The Memory palace has no memory. See, it just doesn’t care,” he said

- I started licking my chocolate cone with a deep sense of mystery.

- They were a lost tribe, and I wasn’t lost, just confused.

- I started firing every which way, blind as a bat.

- “That’s their native ground,” he said.

- “I don’t want to talk about that now. It’s such a beautiful night.”

- Our sun’s going to go out in twenty-five billion years, what then?

- My shoes are on the wrong feet, or so it seems to me now.

- And so the afternoon passed into the evening, and in the evening I sewed a button on my shirt, and felt really good about that.

- She was looking pretty good by now.

- He was walking fast and didn’t even look back at me.

- “Never believe in miracles” he said. “I won’t” I said.

- I wanted to put my finger on her forehead, but there was nothing there.

- I howled in pain.

- And then I slept and was happy.

- They call them the ghost soldiers, much beloved even by their enemies, and I guess that’s why I went to the parade, just to feel them march past, that little rush of cold air.

- I am worried the cricket may have been struck by some lightning of its own.

- Birdseed was her middle name.

- The starry sky, the police hiding in the bushes, God, it’s good to be alive, I think, and pee behind my car in the darkness of my own private darkness.

- Otto Guttchen showed me a fossil.

- “You’re beautiful,” he said, laughing, while nearly suffocating me with his fraternal bear hug.

- It was a parallel night, much like the other, and that was some comfort, cold comfort, as they like to say.

- “Martinez, nullify the Buddha.”

- I like the old fire engine, and the beat up roads.

- I respect them too much to ever try and trap one of them, although my fondest dream is to spend an evening with one, alone, in my home and for him or her to like me, to look me in the eyes, and for both of us to speak our hearts, for life is a serious business, never quite what it seems, and, the, always more.

- “Still, nice horse,” I said

- Nobody wants to have fun.

- “Lester! Lester Cunningham! Your dinner is getting cold.”

- “Bad bunnies,” she says, “very bad bunnies.”

- “You look a little peaked. Maybe a spider bit you, “I said.

- And then I went to bed.

- Then he went and fixed my lock.

- “Good, we can share a taxi,” he said.

- It was coming, and I was ready.

- Then, it changed.

- Any fool could see that.

- I couldn’t see my own hand in front of my face.

- “Beef stew,” he said.

- My poor mother never believes a word of it.

- She’d walk out onto the porch and stare at the stars, not sharing her thoughts with anyone, and that’s the way I want to be from now on.

- It already resembles one when I squint my eyes.

- I soon found myself in the midst of a lively crowd of shoppers, and I smiled at anyone who would accept my smile, and several who would not, and bought a hat from a lady whose hand I touched.

- Otters don’t lay eggs, but I was starving.

- “Just wildflowers and butterflies.”

- I was pulling a yak over a mountaintop, hauling water and rice to a dead wise man, who knows nothing, says nothing.

- I threw the newspaper into the trashcan and walked toward the fountain between two six-year-old hoodlums.

- He was just a crazy man, I told myself, one of those people who think they’re above the fray, when in fact they’ve already been crushed by it.

- “Well, now we’ve met. We’ve broken the ice.”

- “Those are the caringest people you’ll ever meet, “I said.

- “And, besides, if we had stolen that statue of Calvin Coolidge, this town would have nothing. It would blow away in the wind,” I said.

- “I’m sorry I ever told you about the swordfish. It was probably crazy anyway,” she said.

- The doe and two fauns were gone, but their ghosts remained.

- “Over my dead body,” he says.

- One soldier was startled by a shadow and fired at it.

- “But he’s missing,” I said.

- I dated that waitress for a while, but she left me for a drummer.

- “National security. It’s for your own good.”

- “You’re a very poor snake,” he said.

- “Well it’s time we did something,” she said.

- “Oh, cool,” he said.

- I looked stunned, then we both started laughing.

- “Let’s pretend you are my cowboy,” he said.

- “That was their calling. They went happily to the land of the vapors,” she said.

- I was surprisingly calm.

- “I know, I know,” and he held his arms out toward me.

- A Happy Think Tank just wasn’t my style.

- Tweetee’ relentless pursuit of knowledge had taken him into the darkest and most dangerous waters, and the whale waited patiently with one thing in mind.

- But Spinoza knows and I know, we were there.

- Instead, I loved the little man, almost to death.

- She was the only Patty I knew.

- I got up and started walking toward them, then stopped, turned around and left the park, a rich man, a stranger.

- But a pig that can count to ten is a thing of glory.

- I saw the monster with my own two eyes, and he was real, as much as anything’s real.

- I thought, I’m going to take this ship down to the bottom of the deep blue sea where we can rest at last, and maybe have some fun.

- Back home, I reflected on the mystery of life, then forgot it.

- It seemed to be fire resistant.

- I had until seven to find a human in me, to teach him to walk and talk, and maybe even to care, though maybe that was asking too much.

- I stood under the paulownia tree, its panicles of fragrant violet flowers almost smothering.

- He’s like a very flawed, lowly God, poor man.

- That would really be something.

- He looked really friendly and I was already starting to like him.

- “Meanwhile, try Candy Spots in the third,” he said.

- So I sat and waited, and no one ever came.

- “yes, mothers always do,” I said.

- “Impossible! There is nothing to know,” he said.

- I wondered how many prayers had been said with it, and if any of them had been answered, but I guess it is the faith that matters most, only to end up in Linda’s panties.

- Or I think we did.

- Something deep down was broken.

- I still didn’t know which side I was on

7 comments:

Elisa Gabbert said...

I think it would be interesting to do a survey and ask people if they think of "lines" as sentences or a literal line from the left margin to the right. When you say (not you specifically) "X writes great lines" do you mean their sentences, their quips, are quotable, or do you mean they have a strong sense of the poetic line as a unit?

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