Jan 012015

PicsArt_1413674718519Roger Weingarten


To the Day [Prague 7/13/08; Burlington 3/13]

the panhandler on her knees, forearms
and forehead pressing the tourist
littered street, cups her hands.

To the day I closed
in on the clean
shaven red-cheeked man who lifts

the vagrant to her feet and cups
her face in manicured fingers, chanting
to her in a tongue I’ll never

get the real
gist of, his
smile—like the cuckolded

Joseph cradling his infant
stepson—aglow. Months
ago, to the day, when the deep-set

hazel eyes of this
Lazarus open to what
seems to be someone else’s

heart executing
a tango with itself on two
monitors, I ask the hovering

jowls filling the green
mask, when can I have
sex. Wrong

question, my little Isaac,
it smirked. Your heart’s
undamaged and you can screw

the world into the next
century only
when I say so. To the day

when I ask the Joseph smile if he
speaks English, and he nods. Then ask
this woman if it’s easier

to die if you
are already dead. Who, he asks,
going pale, the hell are you,

then lifts the tattered
beggar into his arms
and walks away.


Self-Portrait in the Convex Bumper of a Ford Woody

Hunched woman
in a babushka waddling

up the subway
stairs shlepping her

life in the two
bags under her eyes,

spits, but he’s
a jew to the un

dead voice in her head. Good
shabbos, old

mother, I offer, and touch
a fingertip to my black

skullcap, and take a shot
at a smile. Please, Little

Mike, she coaxes, carry these
bags to the street, and if you’re

nice, I’ll give you a nickel. My childhood
name slashed

across her face and the pale
blue numbers of hers

tattooed to her wrist pull
the breath out of my lungs and me

back to a self
portrait in the convex

bumper of a Ford
woody easing

its way out of the gates
of a neighborhood restricted

to Jews. Tow
headed boys toss in the back

seat, while a woman
wearing a hat and net veil

over her eyes mouths
kike through the passenger

window. My eight-year old
jaw dropped while what remained
of my childhood straddled
my bike.


Dear Reader, Dear Father, the Last

time we spoke you were peeved
I told you my brother backed

his Harley over your plot, dis
mounting to water the fake

bouquet. Please forgive that
artifact. This

time, I wake next to my half
gentile wife mysterious in pink

ear plugs and eye mask
to behold—sticking out

of my most blocked
aperture—your chemo-blotched

skull wondering
why you didn’t have the moil

throw me away and keep
the foreskin. Father, aren’t you

supposed to be rolling
over in your gated high

rise ultra reform air conditioned
catafalque somewhere along the eastern

seaboard? Roger, after
your mother’s ill will flew in to recite

your masterpiece—“Old Fart Leaves
Millions to the Hezbollah”—the congregation

voted to disinter. I hadn’t heard, Pops, but after
Uncle Manny of Lost Causes blurted to the millennial

Passover table that Stalin
pronounced Mayakovsky’s death a suicide,

he whispered into his napkin tucked
into his collar that you were jealous

when you said you never
fathomed a word I wrote. Zun, your brother still

owes me a finfer and eight cents,
your sister hasn’t spoken

to me since I cut her
out of my life, and the gravy

over it all is your ex-
stepmother’s shtupping

a one-legged republican semi-
retired cosmetic surgeon, so I

have no one and nothing to haunt
from this grave but you and this blood

feud of a poem. My period’s
weeks late, Mystery Wife

mutters to my dream
counterpart. What are you, sweet

husband, going
to do about it?


See Below

See beneath the Poughkeepsie
Picasso pasadoble

premonition projected
on the domed
planetarium night. See behind eyelids

cupping red-eyed
grief churning weeds into drifting

toward a great
northern loon and her bobbing
chick about to plunge

through a daydreamed
hand that lifts me into a whispered

you need to wake now and leave
through the emergency. Plumb white
capped haze that

surrounds the capsized—you
put your left foot in, you put

your right foot out—canoe, under
which Little Brother’s
knuckles—clutching metal

thwarts cursing our father who aren’t
in heaven—slap the dome, upside

down and bobbing
on a wake, a wake
replete with schnapps and honey

cake crumbs scattered
across linen, absent

the hokey pokey first and tipsy
second born. Low-rise
low brow post

modern plumber/anti
Rilkean prankster, don’t I,

like Pablo’s Minotaur
with Javelin and a Woman
Hostage, just

love my life? Never
wake. Never. Hallelujah.


For the Smoker

You know who you are and how
sorry I was to read in The Times that

even tertiary smoke, in wall
paper, carpet or oozing

out of pores under
your thinning mop had

proven toxic. After a toad
in the hole and grits slathered in hot sauce

pick-me-up, you tell me your two
packs a day is strapped

to a brown study wrapped
in an exploding star. Because

your ex wrote in lipstick, Dear
Ashtray Breath, no one ever offered

to bronze my pussy on your vanity
mirror you tried to erase with a gold

fingertip, I tried to console. I’m not
complaining, compadre—I can twig to hanging

out in twenty below stomping
my feet with a clot of future

lung cancer patients trailing
oxygen tanks, whistling That

Reincarnated Buzzard Blown
off a Shit Wagon by the Smell

of Your Breath Blues.
I’ll never forget

leaning my chair back into a hot
radiator in the urology ward next to my

post-op crony—who just had a conga line
of venereal polyps removed from his

busy day—watching ephysema
help the old guy across the aisle breathe,

like a chainsaw cutting stone, his last
as the steaming metal branded

the back of his liver
spotted hand. My granddad punched

cows in Wyoming his seventeenth
year on this planet, the first

Jewboy cowboy according
to his sister, who told me over a box of old

snapshots he’d have lived
forever if he didn’t vote for Nixon or roll

his own from makings he grew behind
a stone tool shed. She dug

pre-Socratic Greek poets, pink
meringues, devoted her

life to cancer research, and slipped
away in her sleep at a hundred

and seven while we were snowshoeing
a mountain trail we had, at our

age, according to Who
Gives A Flying Fuck, no business on. Your one

habit, you say with a smirk, crushing
a butt underfoot, in your most

monastic voice, before we bend
over a frozen mound of bear scat.


Light Year of Mr. and Mrs. Hammered Horseshit

Bubonic insomnia surrounds the darkest
part of their shadow falling

out of both sides of a pillow
top model of the solar
system in which planetary

phases and feline
satellites move at relative
velocities around Herr
und Frau Gehämmert Pferdeäpfel’s
mechanical bed. Like stressed

desserts, they pull the Hidden
Star heirloom quilt fondant-taut
over a nebula of flannel
sheets soft as Depression
Cake then step
into a constellation of cat
puke in the hall. Frau looks

down at meteoroids shooting
across her night
blue toenails. Herr looks up
through charged
particles in the magnetic
field between them, and says—just
as asteroid Belle Starr
the Cat brushes his ankle—I’m pretty
sure you think I’m just a sleepless
sentimental slob in close
orbit around the celestial

aureoles of your soul, but I can’t
breathe without your moon
square Venus. Quasi
stellar in her threadbare
bathrobe that radiates
a redshift, she slows,
stops, and moves in the opposite
direction. It’s OK, she says, reciting
primes and reaching
for the planemo of his
left hand, pulling it
back into perigee with her belly
climbing their ultra-galactic
bed chamber orrery, from which,
with the Littlest
Dipper of his right foot,
he clicks the door.

—Roger Weingarten


Roger Weingarten, author of ten collections of poetry, and co-editor of eight poetry and prose anthologies, has lectured, taught and read at writers’ conferences, poetry festivals, and universities nationally and internationally. He founded and taught in the MFA in Writing and the Postgraduate Writers’ Conference at Vermont College. His awards include a Pushcart Prize, a Louisville Review Poetry Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, and an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in Literature. Stranger at Home: American Poetry with an Accent: co-edited with Andrey Gritsman, Interpoezia Press, was published in 2008, Premature Elegy by Firelight by Longleaf Press in 2007, and Open Book: Essays from the Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, co-edited with Kate Fetherston by Cambridge Scholars’ Press in 2007. The poems published here are from his new collection, The Four Gentlemen and Their Footman, due out with Longleaf Press in 2015.

  24 Responses to “To the Day: Poems — Roger Weingarten”

  1. Potent and muscular, as always. I eagerly await Weingarten’s new collection.

  2. I’m always enchanted by Weingarten’s joie de vivre, the abundance and extravagance of his sensibility which includes angers and contempt effortlessly in its imaginative celebration. I just saw the Matisse cut out show at the Museum of Modern Art in NYC and felt the same way about the fertile imagination. They have a lot in common.

  3. Classic Weingarten!! A fantastic kick off into 2015!

  4. this poet’s ability to make wit and pain dance together is remarkable– and then, too, to have so much fun with language, to offer it up!

  5. To make your way into these poems of Roger Weingarten’s is to be inside a world of memory, music, horror and, inevitably, humor. It’s a place that always stands for something. Bring on this new collection!

  6. Reading this is like fighting Muhammad Ali. Jab, jab, jab, taunt, jab, dance, taunt, jab, jab, dance, POW! And you’re on your back looking at the stars. Great work, Roger!

  7. Weingarten’s mix of tenderness, heartbreak, vitality, and pure, delicious Id-energy rampages at full force through these terrific poems.

  8. Classic Roger Weingarten poems. Thanks for these!

  9. These poems sing with irreverent relevance to what makes us most human. They’ve whet my appetite for the next installment of Weingarten’s linguistic wizardry in The Four Gentlemen and Their Footman.

  10. These poems are tight, loose, imaginative, have a foot or two in the world, are sensitive and beautiful. I eagerly look forward to the new book—-great work, Roger!

  11. It’s great to hear the Weingarten voice again. Thanks, Roger!

  12. Dazzling! Great words and great thoughts are rarely delivered in such an entertaining manner.

  13. Brilliant! Precise, characteristic Weingarten’s witty style, edgy development of a poem. As always, pleasure to read, and sharp on social matters. Portrait of our times in a convex mirror.

  14. It’s nice to hear Roger’s voice in these poems. I take that back, nice isn’t the right word to ever use in relation to his work which is wonderfully irreverent and carefully constructed to satire. It strikes me this morning that poetry – if not prayer – should have an element of complaint along with an edge, and that it’s the duty of the artist/poet to supply that to our culture. What could be better then to turn to Roger’s words and hear it in spades.

  15. Reading this new work of Roger’s moves me to think that The Four Gentlemen and their Footman will be
    one of his best books.

  16. I used to be baffled by much of Roger’s poetry, but lately I’ve realized I have tended to “over-think” it. As I read these new works I let my eye run fast like the babbling mountain brook of the actual voice I hear when I’m with him. No time for over thinking here, but just letting the words and images and often crazy and convoluted sentences rush across the raw emotions often buried by too many thoughts. Just let the craft do the rest. Thanks Roger!

  17. Love these, roger. Love their flat out extravagant rejection of easy grace and the expected beautiful utterance.

  18. I agree with the kudos. Weingarten is a poet who unrepentantly writes from the Middle: from two worlds (Jewish and gentile), or if you prefer, two moments in Time (Past and Present), as well as from two cultural areas (America and Old Europe, with all that the Old Europe implies). The brevity of words, the pithy hardness of his verses conceals tenderness in the unpredictable. unexpected folds of the syntax.

    What remained
    of my childhood
    straddled my bike.

    You grow suspicious that through his wittily constructed aphoristic sentences he only wants you to see the unbreakable shell, until you are ready to go below and find the privileged kernel:

    Dear Reader, Dear Father, The Last… builds up and trails off like an echo of anger at one’s own grief and loss, and – throughout – his selection of sounds (wake, schlepping, canoe, knuckles, …) gives the impression of an attentive tossing of small stones, such as we find piled up on Rabbi Loew’s headstone in the Old Jewish cemetery in Prague.

    The image of Grandfather, “the first / Jewboy cowboy” is unforgettable, as full of humor and nostalgia as you can find in America, where rarely remembrance becomes sappy. And off we go, transported to the galactic, erotic surrealism of Lightyear… . Truly, Un Chien Andalou meets Dali meets Roger W.

    More, Roger, more!

  19. No one has more fun jousting with words than Roger Weingarten. And while this poet swordsman is dancing his jig on more than one undulating mogul of brain matter, he slips it in: the notice of holocaust, the loss of innocence, the regrettable father; another step and he spins around and spears the rest- a wife waiting and a life to never wake from, nailing it all to the floor, the page now a poem. I bow. I smile. We had fun, my sword being undone, flung away by the master and jester.

  20. Bravissimo-The Four Gentlemen and their Footman will not induce “bubonic insomnia,” rather euphonic euphoria. Thanks for your genuine voice.

  21. It’s wonderful having new Roger Weingarten to sink my teeth into. I have been enjoying all of these, especially:

    Self-Portrait in the Convex Bumper of a Ford Woody

    “…shlepping her
    life in the two
    bags under her eyes,..”

    Those lines absolutely KILL me! I had to clutch my heart as I read (and re-read them). Wonderful.

    See Below

    “…through a daydreamed
    hand that lifts me into a whispered
    you need to wake now and leave…”

    so delicately done perfectly complimented by the air on the page,


    “…thwarts cursing our father who aren’t
    in heaven—”

    is SO right up my alley. Bravo.

    Light Year of Mr. and Mrs. Hammered Horseshit

    “…sheets soft as Depression
    Cake then step…”
    the contrast of that to “…the constellation of cat

    actually made me laugh out loud. Really looking forward to more!

  22. I love going for the ride in your Tilt-a-whirl mind. You spin us around and lift us up in your world, so we are by turns joyful, dizzy, and whatever else you dish up.

  23. I’d know a Roger Weingarten poem anywhere. Never safe, always surprising. Why dribble a single through the infield when you can hit a home run.

  24. I just came back from a another planet. Planet Roget. It rocked.

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