Duane Locke


Threw away his guitar,
Recited a poem by Jules Laforgue and disappeared.

I wondered where she is and what was she doing at this hour,
Clipping with a clipper whose handles are wrapped in blue silk
The decayed leaves off a white orchid,
Or she is floating like Orphelia in a stiff, green dress
Down the Hillsborough River,
Or she might be pouring brandy into a pan to cook
Filet Mignon, Piedmont style.

It is midnight, perhaps, she is asleep with the man
That has Bengal tigers tattooed on each shoulder,
The fat man who was baptized last week by being
Dipped under in the river that flows by her house.

If I were an Egyptian poet about 3000 BC,
I might say:
Since she is away
The night tonight is an inverted ebony bowl
That has no flaws
To mar it blackness.
There are no stars,
No streaks of comets,
Or falling, burning meteors, tonight.
Sometimes, I think the black bowl quivers a little,
But I cannot be sure
The overhead is so dark
I cannot tell what it is doing.

I cannot tell what the sky is doing, and what she is doing,
I cannot even tell what I am doing.

I think of my misdirected life, I once went to Palestrina, Italy,
Looking for the smile of the Gioconda, but only found
A patch of asparagus growing behind a white picket fence,
And a rooster that crowed as it he were singing the St. Louis blues.

I have a difficult time making a decision.
I cannot decide if I want to grow geraniums
Or collect Egyptian scarabs.

I remember when I watched her loosen her white gold hair
I heard a funeral march.


Tonight, I started recalling ancient history
When gods fed on their fathers
After eating their mothers.
Zeus was supposed to end this situation
That if you were divine you would dine on your father.
Zeus substituted ambrosia.

These old gods had cobras crawling on their foreheads,
But I cannot remember when
The gods began to look more like the human beings
That Prometheus is rumored to have created.

Being anti-industrial revolution, I still use an hour glass
To tell the time, but I noticed the sand has run out,
But I could check my sun-dial clock out in the myrrh garden.

I do not need to know the time, because I am not
Going to meet her, or is she coming to see me.

I sit in this chair of one arm, and smell
The odors of the lotus in the next room.

I recall, entranced by the lotus’s perfume,
Old poets who wrote pantoums,
Her white-gold hair whose whispers were silver,
An eagle eating Prometheus’ liver.


I have heard that saints are shining
In the orbit around Orion,
But what else are these saints doing besides shining,

Using their light to guide cargo ships of slaves or opium.
Do these shining saints ever read Hegel.
Or listen to the squeaks of grocery carts in grocery stores.
Or on Halloween give peppermints to children.
Do these shining saints ever fall in love,
Or has their becoming light removed gender.

I don’t think I would like to become a dead saint,
Shine on filth, give transitory splendor,
Join the moon’s light in creating lunatics,
Have my secret life in caves made public.

But what other choices do I have. To see
You with the white-gold hair shopping on the avenue.
I walk by you, magnetized by how your hips
Undulated into your waist, and know
As I walk by and stare, I walk by unrecognized.
She always makes me feel as if I were invisible
And an unknown person. Once, I hired
A detective to find me, and he failed.
I got a fifty-percent refund on the bill.


Hand in hand we walked the Nileside pathways,
Her fingernails were painted the blue of faience.
Feeling the ardent touch of her hand,
I kept wondering where I was,
And why was I alone.

Swallows darted around me, but I do not recognize
Their Egyptian color scheme. Although alone,
I looked at her. Her eyes were the color of summer sea water.

I focused my attention on the back of her legs,
The curves on the back of her knees gave me identity.
Made me regret my past my distaste for wieners in a bun,
For she in a Bikini sold hot dogs on the Nile.

I had to eat, without appetite, one with mustard.
She would not take my money, it was as if
I did not exist. I held my money in my fi
st And watched the Egyptian wind flip it up and down.


I returned to find not what I expected,
Her skirt spread out on the white floor,
Her handkerchief with recent tears,
And a liquid the color of Rhine wine
In a puddle, a black lace brassiere,
And a suicide note in calligraphic script.

Instead, I found a silence, not the usual turmoil,
A silence like a silence seething with past seastroms.
A silence with the salt scent of a seaside.

Her picture on the piano had changed.
She now painted her eyelids with kohl.
I had a strange feeling that I had left
A land of buluppu trees, had gone
To a land of cedars. But actually,
I had only driven a few miles from my work.

I looked outside, nothing had changed.
It was the same. The old man next door
Combed over and over his white hair.
With many strokes combed his white beard,
Hoping to please the harlot with his good looks
When she came in tight amaranthine to make a house call.

I sat with Shiraz, touched my face, no skin,
But feathers. I was feathered like a bird
And had wings. I flew up onto the door sill,
Surveyed my room. It was now
A beautiful and wild tropical forest.

Duane Locke is a Doctor of Philosophy, English Renaissance literature and Professor Emeritus of the Humanities. He was Poet in Residence at the University of Tampa for over 20 years. Locke has had over 5,034 poems published. Over 2,000 were published in print magazines, such as American Poetry Review, Nation, and Bitter Oleander. In September 1999, he became a cyber poet and added over 3,000 poems published in e-zines. Locke is the author of 14 print books of poetry, and in 2002, added 3 e-books, The Squids Dark Ink, From a Tiny Room, and The Death of Daphne. He is also a painter, having many exhibitions, his latest at the city art museum in Gainesville, Florida. Also, a photographer, Locke now has over 184 photos in e-zines. He does close-ups of trash tossed away in alleys.


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