May 2002

Gerald Stern


Gerald Stern lives in Lambertville, New Jersey, and is the (first) Poet Laureate of New Jersey. He is the author of 12 books of poetry, the winner of many major awards, including, in 1998, the National Book Award for This Time: New and Selected Poems. Last Blue was published in 2000, and his latest book, American Sonnets, was published in April of 2002, Norton.

Blue Sheets   

Look at his moustache now, look at his tragic
face, if he had stayed outside Toulouse
and not come back, if he had stuck with Villon,
his secret holy master, he never should have
been obedient, he would have let the Testaments
keep him alive, and added his own testament
by staying there, he could have rectified his
life through words though he insisted, didn't he,
that life came first; he should have been more stubborn,
he never should have cried, he never should have
written letters onto those thin blue sheets
and licked them shut, nor should he have allowed
his mind to argue with itself that way
nor should he have gone back after only skimming
the surface, as he did, what was he going back to,
a lover he hardly knew? A rigid mother
and father? A school that never missed him? It could have
been Burns, it could have been Hart Crane who had
more than a little of the same obedience,
driven by his lake. I was by rivers.




Gerald Stern: Poetry
Copyright 2002 The Cortland Review Issue 20The Cortland Review