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max henry: 5 contemporary poets next


RAPHAEL RUBINSTEIN
New Observations


The mania for "correcting" masterworks
was already in full swing
when, in a partly unforseen change
of tenor, I found myself slipping
past sleeping ticket takers
to join, in my usual inexact yet persistent way,
all kinds of people I was about to call "invitees"
and would have done, too,
in the era before the one I am describing.
Maybe it is impossible
to phrase this kind of perspective
without the decorative barbs
that let on more than you are letting on.
Maybe it is also impossible
to convince a face to stay in focus
for more than one breath.
I have stayed in that room
longer and better than I expected
but medals aren't much on which to base
a second conversation and
neither are strategies of entry
or that movie everyone insists you'll love
in which the originality of the crowd's misfortune
is the leitmotif which keeps goading the hero
to nip at the heels of his unassailable hosts.


On a Late Date

It's gloaming time in the cordons,
the notorious Mr Johann blocks the road
or at least his fatally fluent hymnbook of lies does.
They're offering complimentary copies
in the pricey clothes stores I never see even browsers in
like the one across the street
from the big twilight window where I'm sitting.

At this late date, from this new location,
I can't believe restructured menus are still appearing
as if the proprietors (or the fast-talking experts they call in for such matters)
were long incommunicado
to the truth that, for you, I don't have to even bother naming.

As early as the first or second anniversary
I've known there was a better way.
Soon I will have had enough of watching
someone else soak up the pretty girl's sibilant chatter.
Here I am, close enough to pull back,
within inches of our prearranged fiasco
and did I mean bitter?

X doesn't bother calling anymore,
a word filling five paintings
in the studio of someone
X will always envy.

I sent her a map of the cordons
but no apology.


What I Had With Me That Day in 1985
(from The Basement of the Cafe' Rilke)


It's not worth the trouble
to complain about distance. Distance
is barely worth mentioning.


Complaints are not magnets


to say that the limping pigeon
or the blonde girl
lying on the sunny grass
make me sad
leaves everything where it was before.


I light another cigarette.


5:30
I am about to escape you,
Place des Voges,
for a hotel two blocks away.
Bye, limping pigeon.
Bye, supine blonde.
Sunglasses, Lyres by Francis Ponge, notebook, pen.



Raphael Rubinstein
is the author of The Basement of the Cafe Rilke published by Hard Press


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