The Admirer

With James Tate.

At the clothesline, you watched and remembered loving her in the great storm. You worried she would run off with a sailor. And you saw the shadow of a man but not the man, how it mocked you.

You loved the crazies, wanted to hear them. You were the buddy to the toughest guy in every class––protection, maybe, you laughed. The things we do.

You pulled a gun on the man who beat your mother, joined a gang called something like The Zoo Club. It’s funny how the gangs of old always sound quaint. Your mother was recovering, your grandmother was cooking, and your grandfather was silent. You invented.

The first poem you read was, as you put it, stupid. You fell in love. You met poetry in bars, on street corners and in back alleys. Suddenly ravenous, you could not get enough. It was coming out my ears, you said, of your reading.

The hardest work, you said, after decades in love, is creating the situation, the new reality. Once that was handled, you had something to work within. You loved the surprise of a laugh when you meant to be crying.

It’s a tragic story, you wrote, but that’s what’s so funny.


I spent the early morning with poetry and interviews by (and with) James Tate, and I am glad I did. Italicized phrases are Tate’s.