Advice to My Friends

1    for a poet who has stopped writing

if we could just get a hold of it,
catch aholt, some kind of a line,
if the sun was a tennis ball or something
but it ain’t, the impossible thing is the sun

if words rhymed, even, we could catch a holt
(a bush) and start the stacking, words
lined up, I mean, like, in the old days
wood behind the kitchen stove

but you take now your piecemeal sonnet
wow, certain of these here poets,
these chokermen can’t even count to fourteen
and as for Petrarch, well, I mean

I’ve been to bed with some dandy and also skilled
ladies, sure, but would I a ballyhoo start
for the keen (and gossipy) public?
I’d be sued or whatever, maybe killed but (now and then) you’ve got to tell somebody
and a reader has I guess, in spite of all, ears

2    to Eli Mandel, setting his new alarm

time was elapsing, sure, but when does it not
and always elapse?
and hauling out, we were, the logos
from the forest of earthly delights

you and Dennis, Smaro and I, holus-bolus
drinking wine at the dining room table,
Eli: night, you were trying to set your new alarm
the birthday gift, the gift from Ann

what time is it now? you asked, gave us a fright
Dennis raising the spectre of the stove’s handy clock
over the books of poems, Ritsos, Suknaski, Pound, Webb
we were reading aloud to each other

and by the time you had let spin by
the digital flash of LOCK, of ALARM
it wasn’t that time, time passes, will, amen
what time is it now? you, wantonly, asked

and, like the guy said, if you really think
you can get away with it, thank again

This poem “Advice to My Friends” originally appeared in 25th Anniversary Issue. Spec. issue of Canadian Literature 100 (Spring 1984): 181-182.

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