192.1: Joel Dias-Porter:: Elegy for Atlantic City & The Idea of Improvisation at Newport (1961) & Seven Things I Should Have Said, Before You Left. & Whitman’s Sampler 192

As I write this introduction, I am listening to the version of “Atlantic City” by The Band. Now, I don’t know if Joel Dias-Porter likes The Band, but one line that sticks out in this song that is applicable to the poems here is: “Well, I’m tired of g’tting caught out on the losin’ end / But I talked to a man last night, / Gonna do a little favor for him.” Dias-Porter always features a speaker in between places—lamenting the past and fearlessly ambling into the future. It is the ethos of Americana—always mobile and on the road, where:

          Raindrops like fingers drum
          On the windshield of the car,
          Roses lovely up an empty seat
          And await your smile, white as
          Whiskers curling
          On an elderly chin.

The poems are immediately intimate and originate from a special cloister in the heart. The danger of writing this way is that the work might seem too personal and too isolating to an innocuous reader. Dias-Porter avoids this trap by always grounding his poems in the universal through simile and metaphor. I have followed his work closely for fifteen years, and I can say with conviction that he is a true master of metaphor and image. He throws up haiku on Twitter regularly, and they never fail to impress. He has always worked well in compressed form and will happily let the image do the work of the poem. I can really only think of Charles Simic, Stuart Dybek, Sylvia Plath, and Amy Lowell who can pull this off with a grace and ease that puts envy into my poet’s heart like this poet does. Dias-Porter, too, has a poetic vision and a comfort in relaying what he sees and hears (his ear, as you will see in these poems, is uncanny). But, I talk too much. Let the poems speak for themselves. “Elegy for Atlantic City” ends:

          I’ve ignored prettier cities than you
          but none that so stiffly stops my needle on North

          every night I pray to be the last chip you wager
          before the moon comes on like an empty fuel light.

And that is the ethos of the poet and his work. Pigment and image-heavy. That last simile of the moon warning like the fuel-light in a car manned by a road-weary traveler. The heart of a gambler in matters of money and love. If he has debts no honest man can pay, he sleeps soundly knowing that he kissed beauty on the mouth and changed her mind about him forever. It conveys the songs and memory of a heart so vast, that to pull it from the chest would leave the corpus as light as a feather. It is a supreme pleasure to feature such a genuine and skilled poet that I esteem so highly. Enjoy these poems. They are outstanding. Cody Todd

Elegy for Atlantic City

You have the most sincere
fake smile I’ve ever returned

Several times I almost bought a ticket
to whirl on its Ferris wheel

Whether you know it or not, you don’t deserve to dissolve
like Salt water taffy on the tongue of a two year old

You are the most illuminating thing under Absecon Lighthouse
so sexy that I almost forgive you for not having a bookstore

at night, the sight of you snatches the air from my lungs
like Funnel cake from the hand of a four year old

I’ve been enchanted by you at least as long
as the last roulette wheel has been spinning

the dunes on your beaches are impressive
even though I know all the sand is silicone

every morning I wake wondering if ordering free drinks until I pass out
is the same as betting it all on black?

Still, I imagine your hand dozing in mine
like a lifeguard in a shaded chair

your history haunts us, relentless
as the hand of a beggar on the Boardwalk

during hurricane Irene, while we were apart
I missed you like the last bus to Brigantine

I’ve ignored prettier cities than you
but none that so stiffly stops my needle on North

every night I pray to be the last chip you wager
before the moon comes on like an empty fuel light.

The Idea of Improvisation at Newport (1961)

Bangles on bronze arms and daisies on dresses,
Lipstick that lingers and long sassy tresses,
Phone calls on Fridays and jingles that sing,
Lightning that hints at what evening might bring.

Raindrops like fingers drum
On the windshield of the car,
Roses lovely up an empty seat
And await your smile, white as
Whiskers curling
On an elderly chin. Curious as
Kittens, they anticipate your
Bright eyes, mint
Copper pennies, two
Kettles of complexity
And what could be
Warm as your hands? Not knitted
Woolen scarves, or those red
Mittens you lost last winter. Long
Brown legs, where are you?
Paper bag brown, twin slender
Packages of satin. Are you
Tied up on the phone or caught
Up in a meeting
With a client like
String knotted into fishnet?
These questions vex,
Are six white roses sufficient?
A light drizzle, a
Few wayward splashes
Of memory caress my hand,
My fingers think of your
Favorite spot to be touched, imagine
Things they’ll soon coax you to say.

Cranberry candles and cognac in crystal,
Flannel pajamas and tongue tips that tickle,
Sweet tea from tumblers in cool soothing swigs,
Feed me dark chocolate with raisins and figs.

Seven Things I Should Have Said, Before You Left.

I preferred your sandwich with the crust untrimmed,
Your sighs were iridescent oil on asphalt,
Domination always twitching on the fringes.
The secret? The alphabet trick with my tongue.

Your voice steeped fragrant as loose leaf Darjeeling,
brown bits of cinnamon stick on my tympani,
most nights I dug its squall of sudden spice.
And any bag, even silk, was too much restraint.

Given time, the bend of The Butterfly Position
(insistence banging the bottom of the bundle)
gears shifting like a manic derailleur
probably could have cured your scoliosis.

I never liked your girlfriend with the organic perfume,
that protracted eyebrow, a geometric sneer,
knew she was orange juice on a sore throat,
afterbirth on ice, dripping all night.

I came home early that weekend from Chicago,
saw her feral hands clasp your jagged gasps.
The camcorder wasn’t the only thing turned on.
I fapped to the tape at least once a week.

I never enjoyed the sound of slapping you.
But what else would we have done for rhythm?
After nights of Neapolitan, vanilla is a prison,
even if French, with flecks of exotic beans.

When you angled the just oiled pistol
and proclaimed “Either we say ‘I do’,
or I shall have to kill myself.”
I thought, “Well, I’m going to miss you.”

I do.

Whitman’s Sampler

To begin with, take warning, I am surely far different from what you suppose;

I sing the body electric,

I do not ask any more delight, I swim in it as in a sea.

The swimmer naked in the swimming-bath, seen as he swims through the
Wheeze, cluck, swash of falling blood, short wild scream, and long, dull, tapering groan,

Then the eyes close, calmly close, and I speed forth to the darkness,

Open the envelope quickly,
Mind not the old man beseeching the young man,

Entering but for a minute I see a sight beyond all the pictures and poems ever made,

Ebb stung by the flow and flow stung by the ebb, love-flesh swelling and deliciously aching,

Undulating into the willing and yielding day,

Have you ever loved the body of a woman?
Have you ever loved the body of a man?

Whatever the survey, whatever the sea and the sail he strikes soundings at last only here,

The circling rivers the breath, and breathing it in and out,

And who has made hymns fit for the earth? In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,

Here, take this gift,

Which too long I was offering to feed my soul,

To tell the secret of my nights and days,
O I think it is not for life I am chanting here my chant of lovers,
       I think it must be for death

Indeed O death, I think now these leaves mean precisely the same
       as you mean,

The sniff of green leaves and dry leaves, and of the shore, and dark-color’d sea-rocks, and of hay in the barn;    
And what I assume you shall assume;   
Stop this day and night with me, and you shall

possess the origin of all poems;     
To elaborate is no avail—
But I do not talk of the beginning or the end.

Stout as a horse, affectionate, haughty, electrical,
I and this mystery, here we stand.

But as for me, for you, the irresistible sea is to separate us,

For you, for you I am trilling these songs.