Porthos, you should be with me in this hour.
My facing snagged, revealed my shabby corduroy,
guilt-crimpled like a candy’s foil.
What did we read those damn books for?

For just your glint of tinsel, yes,
your Atlas strength.
Old fatty, with your burlap touch
you kept the tune. Our candied life,
weighted with lies, will smother us.

The dog star barks,
holding the other stars at bay.
They drop their glittering fakeries,
indifferent, reveal
the shoddy cavern as it sags.
“Machines,” he cried. “Too heavy,” and his heart
broke then. The stars lost sight.

He was their eyes.

Questions and Answers

What inspired “Corduroy”?

“Cordroy” is a tribute to Porthos, the largest, strongest, happiest, greediest, poorest, simplest, most honest, and least “glamorous” of Dumas’s Three Musketeers. Porthos is the “ordinary” man. Touchy on the subject of his poverty, and a little vain, though no more so than any of the other musketeers, he quarreled with D’Artagnan (musketeer no. 4) when D’Artagnan unintentionally revealed that Porthos’s brand new cloak was not as expensively lied as its gorgeous facing made appear. To have this “fakery” revealed was embarassing.

“Atlas” is the strong man in Greek mythology who holds up the sky. The word “corduroy” translates as “cloth of the king” (and Porthos, as musketeer, is the king’s man) but the cloth itself is a relatively inexpensive cloth, warmer and more durable than flat weave cotton. Corduroy is often used for informal jackets and trousers; it is a very “ordinary” cloth as opposed to “dry-clean-only” velvet or silk. “Burlap” is cloth at its cheapest. “Tinsel” is the cheap imitation of gold or silver. Porthos died on active military duty, crushed by a collapsing cavern he had blown up with gun powder but was not strong enough to escape from.

“Sirius,” the dog star, the least glamorous of the stars, is, like Porthos, one of my favorites.

What poetic techniques did you use in “Corduroy”?

I do not find it useful to talk about “technique” in a poem; I am more comfortable with the word “style”—e.g. is this poem written in a relaxed conversational style, or in a meditative and very personal style, or in a joking style, or in a musical or in a chanting style, etc.

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