The Blue Booby

By James Tate b. 1943 James Tate
The blue booby lives
on the bare rocks
of Galápagos
and fears nothing.
It is a simple life:
they live on fish,
and there are few predators.   
Also, the males do not   
make fools of themselves   
chasing after the young   
ladies. Rather,
they gather the blue
objects of the world
and construct from them

a nest—an occasional   
Gaulois package,
a string of beads,
a piece of cloth from   
a sailor’s suit. This   
replaces the need for   
dazzling plumage;   
in fact, in the past   
fifty million years
the male has grown
considerably duller,   
nor can he sing well.   
The female, though,

asks little of him—
the blue satisfies her   
completely, has   
a magical effect
on her. When she returns
from her day of
gossip and shopping,
she sees he has found her   
a new shred of blue foil:   
for this she rewards him   
with her dark body,
the stars turn slowly
in the blue foil beside them   
like the eyes of a mild savior.

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

Source: Poetry (April 1969).

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This poem originally appeared in the April 1969 issue of Poetry magazine

April 1969
 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 Living, Marriage & Companionship, Nature, Relationships, Men & Women, Animals

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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