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Witness

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Because the dark suit is worn it is worn warm
    with a black tie
and a kiss at the head of the stairs

When you hear the dark suit rip
on the heart’s curb the hurt is big
     rose flesh caught on the orange woman’s buttons

As you talk metropole monotone
                  antique intelligence
as you dress wounds by peyotl looming the boulevards
women hunt their children from you
who look out
                  lit still inside of a dark suit

Philip Lamantia, “Witness” from The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia. Copyright © 2013 by Philip Lamantia. Reprinted by permission of University of California Press.
Source: The Collected Poems of Philip Lamantia (University of California Press, 2013)
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Witness

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  • Surrealist poet Philip Lamantia was born in San Francisco in 1927, the son of Sicilian immigrants. Largely self-taught, he started writing in elementary school and became interested in surrealism after seeing the work of Joan Miró and Salvador Dalí at the San Francisco Museum of Art. He dropped out of high school and moved to New York City, where he eventually became assistant editor at View magazine. In New York, Lamantia became acquainted with André Breton and Max Ernst, publishing his first book of poems, Erotic Poems (1946), before he was 20. Other collections include Narcotica (1959), Ekstasis (1959), Destroyed Works (1962), Becoming Visible (1981), Meadowlark West (1986), and Bed of Sphinxes: New and Selected Poems, 1943–1993 (1997).

    In the 1940s, Lamantia returned to San Francisco and took courses at University of California, Berkeley. He traveled in France, Mexico, northern Africa, and the United States and lived for a while...

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