Ralph James Savarese – Four Poems

Ralph James Savarese is the author of two books of prose, Reasonable People and See It Feelingly, and two collections of poetry, Republican Fathers and When This Is Over. Of Irish and Italian descent, he teaches at Grinnell College, in the great middle part of the US.


Yes, I’m infantile. And you?
My poet friends want to be taken
seriously. As if they were kids
and life were a kidnapping.
A reputation is a dungeon,
which you enter willingly.
We live in all of the wrong places.
The right ones mock us: Amber Alert!
(Metaphor, the last refuge of a scoundrel.)
Last night, showing my age,
I screamed at the college kids
in the rental next door:
“Turn down your fucking music.”
It was 2:00 a.m. Wife-beater
and boxers. Nobel, I’m yours!


He hadn’t won the Nobel yet,
but he was famous,
and I, a fledgling poet,
had been chosen to introduce him.
Imagine the sorriest of shepherds—
I had no published sheep!—
introducing God
who was on a book tour,
his Ten Commandments
having become a best seller.
First things first: get his name right.
It’s not Gad or Ged or Gud.
It’s God, as in cod, as in great bod, God!
My tongue turned Seamus to Shemus
and Heaney to Haynie
Off-rhymes of himself, dyslexic,

sinning in sound….


A note-taker as a student
and then as a scholar,
I wrote down everything—
I was serious about knowledge,
believed in it the way one believes
in a bookshelf or a set of stairs:
my fingers climbed the page….
And then one day in my fifties,
I gave myself a colonoscopy.
No directions! No Twilight!
There isn’t an academic on the planet
who doesn’t need a good cleaning out.
Polyps on Hegel, polyps on Marx, polyps
on the Holy Bible. What a distraction!
Read a book the way a deer
walks through snow.



Lobsters are like footnotes:
they lurk at the bottom
where everything clouds,
and readers go to die.
Every footnote has an exoskeleton,
a chitinous carapace.
When you boil a footnote,
it turns orange.
(Think of Republicans turning Trump.)
They’re blue-blooded, like spiders and snails;
it’s not so much the hemocyanin,
which contains copper,
as their devotion to exclusivity.
Footnotes are always fair-skinned royals.
“Consider the lobster’s pain,” says DFW.
I say, “What about the reader’s?”


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