May 1999

Alan Devinish

Alan Devenish Alan Devenish's work has appeared in Poetry Northwest, College English, The Little Magazine as well as many others.  He lives in New York with his wife, where they both teach.
Heroic Couplets    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

The Roman men it seems feared that the Roman women
were in fact sexpots. Welcome Oddfellows and Rebekkas!

What's your day like? (He's really poisoning the waters.)
Do you want the forty-pound bag if we have it?

Well we don't just have them sit around and write
poems about their fear of math if that's what you mean.

They just like to go out in the woods and act like men.
Welcome to my webpage. I'm mad about the tango.

Who could ask for a happier onion an eruption of
ermine? She plays a mean frequency polygon.

When the surgeon suggested a "chat" I knew this was no
new deal for my neurons. Damn the topiary!

I snapped the spokes on my new maroon Schwinn and cried
in my room. Find a niche and stick to it.

My father fixing a spindle on the captain's chair.
Saying "That should hold—temporarily."

Looks snappy on you my dear. I'm so glad to breathe
fire and fate from this smooth-as-oil feeling fest.

Like climbling those peaks in the Pyrenees or longing
for lost health in New Hampshire.

Come to think of it I've never made love to a musician
no less frequently. Part sea goddess part pantsuit!



Three Inquiries    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

Who am I

I'm yesterday's update tomorrow's prediction Tiresias telling Oedipus to stop asking who he is (as if he didn't know) I'm Champollion shocked at my stone grown suddenly silent the lost shadow of that seventeen-year-old who always said No call me Flax Man David or Eugene

Why'm I here

Now that's the ticket I can hear the Tabernacle Choir warming up the Keep Off the Grass signs pointing the way it's not every night you get to see dawn from the Greyhound terminal in Des Moines or watch Gauguin knock back shots of absinthe under the palm fronds they lost my luggage and put me up at the Pickwick Inn of course that was years ago and this is now and then

What do I want

I'll have the tuna melt and so will the others keep it simple Thoreau said that's right on rye that and finding the exact location of the Garden of Eden which is not at the confluence of some rivers in Iran I want to dig up the pit from the fruit of the tree of knowledge other than that I have what I want it's just this one gap in my wish list but don't we all have one of those in our history of wants and without getting too abstract we know what happens when that happens



The Prize    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

It's the call I've been waiting for. The accent is Swedish. I've written and rewritten my acceptance speech for the past twenty-five years. It is in fact my sole opus: a modest body of work (granted) a narrow genre.  but one I've burnished to a fine gloss.

They congratulate me. The vote they say was unanimous. You've read it then? I ask. Meaning my speech. Oh yes they say. It's a very good speech. A speech like this comes once in a century at best.

They fill me in on the particulars—not knowing
my bags stand packed in the vestibule and have for years my wardrobe passing out of fashion in the dark the neat creases by now dated and indelible. They are about to intone the amount of the award when the raised inflection of my Oh please forestalls.

They will send a packet on travel schedule protocol etc. What they cannot see are the aerial photographs of Stockholm pinned to my wall. Detailed street plans and blueprints of the Academy. Or that with the help of friends and other unpaid personnel I have rehearsed the ceremony down to the astonished but not ungrateful smile of one who has toiled in total ignorance of his remarkable good fortune.



Lines Composed in My Room at the Inn at
    Foggy Bottom    Click to hear this poem in RealAudio

I'm writing the last great poem of the Twentieth Century the fog off the Potomac this mild New Year's Eve milky with the promise of procreation or is it Platonism? at seventeen I suffered through chemistry class wondering if I'd make it into the next century or if I'd get lucky and die young and famous like Keats preferably without all the coughing hark! I hear revelers outside on K Street and realize I'm old enough now to use a word like "revelers" if not "hark" almost without irony I know my poem is great because I'm waiting for the century to end in a strange hotel plus I feel things deeply if I can keep this up for another hour or so I'll have the critics wondering whether I've written the last great poem of the Twentieth Century or the first of the Second Millenium grist for a few doctoral mills I warrant ha! there's another of those words my semi-longevity has earned me rights to a solace of sorts since I'll never again be young enough to die like Keats.      

to top


Alan Devenish: Poetry
Copyright 1999 The Cortland Review Issue SevenThe Cortland Review