Poem to Some of My Recent Poems

By James Tate 1943–2015 James Tate
My beloved little billiard balls,
my polite mongrels, edible patriotic plums,   
you owe your beauty to your mother, who   
resembled a cyclindrical corned beef   
with all the trimmings, may God rest   
her forsaken soul, for it is all of us   
she forsook; and I shall never forget
her sputtering embers, and then the little mound.
Yes, my little rum runners, she had defective   
tear ducts and could weep only iced tea.   
She had petticoats beneath her eyelids.   
And in her last years she found ball bearings   
in her beehive puddings, she swore allegiance   
to Abyssinia. What should I have done?   
I played the piano and scrambled eggs.   
I had to navigate carefully around her brain’s   
avalanche lest even a decent finale be forfeited.
And her beauty still evermore. You see,
as she was dying, I led each of you to her side,
one by one she scorched you with her radiance.
And she is ever with us in our acetylene leisure.
But you are beautiful, and I, a slave to a heap of cinders.

James Tate, “Poems to Some of My Recent Poems” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Selected Poems (1991)

Discover this poem’s context and related poetry, articles, and media.

Poet James Tate 1943–2015

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Subjects Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica

 James  Tate


James Tate was born in 1943 in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a BA from Kansas State College and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. He was the author of over 20 poetry collections, including 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 . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Ars Poetica

Report a problem with this poem

Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

This poem has learning resources.

This poem is good for children.

This poem has related video.

This poem has related audio.