Fuck the Astronauts

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
   I

Eventually we must combine nightmares
an angel smoking a cigarette on the steps
of the last national bank, said to me.
I put her out with my thumb. I don’t need that
cheap talk I’ve got my own problems.
It was sad, exciting, and horrible.
It was exciting, horrible, and sad.
It was horrible, sad, and exciting.
It was inviting, mad, and deplorable.
It was adorable, glad, and enticing.
Eventually we must smoke a thumb
cheap talk I’ve got my own angel
on the steps of the problems the bank
said to me I don’t need that.
I will take this one window
with its sooty maps and scratches
so that my dreams will remember
one another and so that my eyes will not
become blinded by the new world.


   II

The flames don’t dance or slither.
They have painted the room green.
Beautiful and naked, the wives
are sleeping before the fire.
Now it is out. The men have
returned to the shacks,
slaved creatures from the forest
floor across their white
stationwagons. That just about
does it, says the other,
dumping her bucket
over her head. Well, I guess
we got everything, says one,
feeling around in the mud,
as if for a child.
Now they remember they want
that mud, who can’t remember
what they got up for.
They parcel it out: when
they are drunk enough
they go into town with
a bucket of mud, saying
we can slice it up into
windmills like a bloated cow.
Later, they paint the insides
of the shack black,
and sit sucking eggs all night,
they want something real, useful,
but there isn’t anything.


   III

I will engineer the sunrise
they have disassembled our shadows
our echoes are erased from the walls
your nipples are the skeletons of olives
your nipples are an oriental delight
your nipples blow away like cigarette papers
your nipples are the mouths of mutes
so I am not here any longer
skein of lightning
memory’s dark ink in your last smile
where the stars have swallowed their train schedule
where the stars have drowned in their dark petticoats
like a sock of hamburger
receiving the lightning
into his clitoris
red on red the prisoner
confesses his waltz
through the corkscrew lightning
nevermind the lightning
in your teeth let’s waltz
I am the hashish pinball machine
that rapes a piano.

James Tate, “Fuck the Astronauts” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Selected Poems (1991)

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Poet James Tate b. 1943

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Love, Relationships, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Realistic & Complicated

 James  Tate

Biography

James Tate’s poems have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, nihilistic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal. His many poetry collections include The Ghost Soldiers (2008); Worshipful Company of Fletchers (1994), which won the National Book Award; Selected Poems (1991), which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award; Distance from Loved Ones (1990); Constant Defender (1983); Viper Jazz (1976); and . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Love, Relationships, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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