The Motorcyclists

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
My cuticles are a mess. Oh honey, by the way,
did you like my new negligee? It’s a replica
of one Kim Novak wore in some movie or other.
I wish I had a foot-long chili dog right now.
Do you like fireworks, I mean not just on the 4th of July,
but fireworks any time? There are people
like that, you know. They’re like people who like
orchestra music, listen to it any time of day.
Lopsided people, that’s what my father calls them.
Me, I’m easy to please. I like ping-gong and bobcats,
shatterproof drinking glasses, the smell of kerosene,
the crunch of carrots. I like caterpillars and
whirlpools, too. What I hate most is being the first
one at the scene of a bad accident.

Do I smell like garlic? Are we still in Kansas?
I once had a chiropractor make a pass at me,
did I ever tell you that? He said that your spine
is happiest when you’re snuggling. Sounds kind
of sweet now when I tell you, but he was a creep.
Do you know that I have never understood what they meant
by “grassy knoll.” It sounds so idyllic, a place to go
to dream your life away, not kill somebody. They
should have called it something like “the grudging notch.”
But I guess that’s life. What is it they always say?
“It’s always the sweetest ones that break your heart.”
You getting hungry yet, hon? I am. When I was seven
I sat in our field and ate an entire eggplant
right off the vine. Dad loves to tell that story,

but I still can’t eat eggplant. He says I’ll be the first
woman President, it’d be a waste since I talk so much.
Which do you think the fixtures are in the bathroom
at the White House, gold or brass? It’d be okay with me
if they were just brass. Honey, can we stop soon?
I really hate to say it but I need a lady’s room.

James Tate, “The Motorcyclists” 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 Activities, Travels & Journeys

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue

 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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SUBJECT Activities, Travels & Journeys

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Dramatic Monologue

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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