In Memory of Joe Brainard

By Frank Bidart b. 1939 Frank Bidart
the remnant of a vast, oceanic
bruise (wound delivered early and long ago)

was in you purity and
sweetness self-gathered, CHOSEN

                                • 

When I tried to find words for the moral sense that unifies
and sweetens the country voices in your collage The Friendly Way,

you said It's a code.

You were a code
I yearned to decipher.—

In the end, the plague that full swift runs by
took you, broke you;—

                                           in the end, could not
                                           take you, did not break you—

you had somehow erased within you not only
meanness, but anger, the desire to punish
the universe for everything

not achieved, not tasted, seen again, touched—;

. . . the undecipherable
code unbroken even as the soul

learns once again the body it loves and hates is
made of earth, and will betray it.



Frank Bidart, "In Memory of Joe Brainard" from Desire. Copyright © 1997 by Frank Bidart. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

Source: Desire (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997)

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

Poet Frank Bidart b. 1939

Subjects Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Frank  Bidart

Biography

Frank Bidart’s first books, Golden State and The Book of the Body, both published in the 1970s, gained critical attention and praise, but his reputation as a poet of uncompromising originality was made with The Sacrifice, published in 1983. All three books are collected In the Western Night: Collected Poems 1965-1990. His position in American letters has been solidified through his later works, including Desire, Star Dust, and . . .

Continue reading this biography

Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Living, Sorrow & Grieving, Arts & Sciences, Poetry & Poets

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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.