The Chaste Stranger

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
All the sexually active people in Westport
look so clean and certain, I wonder
if they’re dead. Their lives are tennis
without end, the avocado-green Mercedes
waiting calm as you please. Perhaps it is
my brain that is unplugged, and these
shadow-people don’t know how to drink
martinis anymore. They are suddenly and
mysteriously not in the least interested
in fornicating with strangers. Well,
there are a lot of unanswered questions
here, and certainly no dinner invitations
where a fella could probe Buffy‘s inner-
mush, a really complicated adventure,
in a 1930ish train station, outlandish
bouquets, a poisonous insect found
burrowing its way through the walls
of the special restaurant and into one
of her perfect nostrils—she was reading
Meetings with Remarkable Men, needing
succor, dreaming of a village near Bosnia,
when a clattering of carts broke her thoughts—
“Those billy goats and piglets, they are
all so ephemeral ...” But now, in Westport
Connecticut, a boy, a young man really,
looking as if he had just come through
a carwash, and dressed for the kind of success
that made her girlfriends froth and lather,
can be overheard speaking to no one
in particular: “That Paris Review crowd,
I couldn’t tell if they were bright
or just overbred.” Whereupon Buffy swings
into action, pinning him to the floor:
“I will unglue your very being from this
planet, if ever ...” He could appreciate
her sincerity, not to mention her spiffy togs.
Didymus the Blind has put three dollars
on Total Departure, and I am tired of pumping
my own gas. I’m Lewis your aluminum man,
and we are whirling in a spangled frenzy toward
a riddle and a doom—here’s looking up

your old address.

James Tate, “The Chaste Stranger” 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 Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

 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 Class, Social Commentaries, Money & Economics

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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