Brautigan > Rommel Drives On deep into Egypt

This node of the American Dust website (formerly Brautigan Bibliography and Archive) provides comprehensive information about Richard Brautigan's poetry collection Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt. Published in 1970, this collection of eighty-five poems was Brautigan's eighth published poetry book. Publication and background information is provided, along with reviews, many with full text. Use the menu tabs below to learn more.

          

Contents

Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt collects eighty-five poems by Richard Brautigan. Unless noted, all poems were first published in this volume.
By default all items are presented in ascending order. Use the checkboxes above to present the items in alphabetical and/or reverse order.

 


               —San Francisco Chronicle headline
               June 26, 1942

Rommel is dead.
His army has joined the quicksand legions
of history where the battle is always
a metal echo saluting a rusty shadow.
His tanks are gone.
How's your ass?

Textual References
"Rommel": Nazi general Erwin Rommel (1891-1944), commander of the German forces in northern Africa during the early years of World War II.


[No text appeared under this poem title.]


Have you ever had a witch bloom like a highway
on your mouth? and turn your breathing to her
fancy? like a little car with blue headlights
     passing forever in a dream?


I remember all those thousands of hours
that I spent in grade school watching the clock,
waiting for recess or lunch or to go home.
     Waiting: for anything but school.
My teachers could easily have ridden with Jesse James
     for all the time they stole from me.

Textual References
"Jesse James": American desparado (1847-1882).

Selected Reprints
A Legend of Horses Poems and Stories
No stated publisher, but possibly Pacific Red Car Press
No printing, place, or date information
5" x 9"; Printed wrappers; Stapled binding
Learn more

"High Schools Promote: Irresponsibility, Distortion, Schizophrenia, Racism, Chauvinism, Hate, Elitism, Linear Thought, Subordination, Militarism, Nationalism, Oligarchies, Loneliness, and other character disorders." Chicago: Chicago Area Draft Resisters, 197[?]: back panel.
Learn more


Acting out the place where the flowers die,
circling their graves with themselves,
your costume is perfect, you're on stage.


She tries to get things out of men
that she can't get because she's not
     15% prettier.


If you will die for me,
I will die for you

and our graves will
be like two lovers washing
their clothes together
in a Laundromat.

If you will bring the soap,
I will bring the bleach.

Textual References
"Romeo and Juliet": See William Shakespeare's play of the same title (1597).

Selected Reprints
Shake the Kaleidoscope: A New Anthology of Modern Poetry. Edited by Milton Klonsky. Simon & Schuster, 1973, pp. 274-276.
Learn more


Have you ever felt like a wounded cow
halfway between an oven and a pasture?
walking in a trance toward a pregnant
     seventeen-year-old housewife's
     two-day-old cookbook?


Mrs. Myrtle Tate, movie projectionist
died Wednesday in San Francisco.
     She was 66, retired.

We must remember again the absolute
excitement of the moon and think lyrically
     about her death.

It is very important for our Twentieth Century
souls because she was "one of the few women
who worked as a movie projectionist."

Oh, honor this mothersisterbride
of magic lanterns with an endless waterfall of
     visions.

Textual References
Mrs. Myrtle Tate, widow of Yancey S. Tate, died at San Francisco's Kaiser Foundation Hospital in September 1968, age sixty six. She was a long time member of the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees and Motion Picture Machine Operators of San Francisco Union, and, as noted in the obituary, "one of the few women who worked as a movie projectionist." The headline over her obituary in the San Francisco Examiner read, "Mrs. Myrtle Tate, Movie Projectionist." This is another example of found art finding its way into Brautigan's writing.

First Published
The San Francisco Public Library: A Publishing House, 5 Dec. 1968, p 2.
Three wet process legal-size photocopy pages (8.5" x 14"); stapled; self-produced by Victor Moscoso, Jack Thibeau, and Brautigan.
Learn more


There is something wrong
with this poem. Can you
     find it?

First Published
Heliotrope, Summer 1969, n. pg.
Published in San Francisco, CA. Heliotrope was a learning environment open to anyone and offered a wide range of courses: massage, cinema, celebration of dusk, for example. This publication (6" x 9 1/4" printed on heavy, yellow paper) was the summer catalog.


Love's not the way to treat a friend.
I wouldn't wish that on you. I don't
want to see your eyes forgotten
on a rainy day, lost in the endless purse
     of those who can remember nothing.

Love's not the way to treat a friend.
I don't want to see you end up that way
with your body being poured like wounded
marble into the architecture of those who make
     bridges out of crippled birds.

Love's not the way to treat a friend.
There are so many better things for you
than to see your feelings sold
as magic lanterns to somebody whose body
     casts no light.

First Published
Rolling Stone, vol. 32, no. 3, May 1969, p. 29.
where it was originally titled "Not the Way."
Learn more

Selected Reprints
A Legend of Horses Poems and Stories
No stated publisher, but possibly Pacific Red Car Press
No printing, place, or date information
5" x 9"; Printed wrappers; Stapled binding
Learn more

Recorded
"Paradise Bar and Grill"
Mad River
Capital Records
LISTEN to Brautigan read this poem accompanied by Mad River.


The net wt. of winter is 6.75 ozs.
and winter has a regular flavor
with Fluoristan to stop tooth decay.

A month ago I bought a huge tube
of Crest tooth paste and when I put it
in the bathroom, I looked at it
and said, "Winter."
               December 4, 1968


I have Christmas dinner every year with Michael
and he always cooks abalone curry. It takes
a long time because it tastes so good and the afternoon
travels pleasantly by in his kitchen that is halfway
     between India and Atlantis.

Textual References
"Michael": Michael McClure, poet and friend. Brautigan distills his friendship for McClure, and Christmas dinner experience, in this poem.


He wants to build you a house
out of your own bones, but
that's where you're living
     any way!
The next time he calls
you answer the telephone with the
sound of your grandmother being
born. It was a twenty-three-hour
labor in 1894. He hangs
     up.

Background
Written about a would-be biographer who trailed Brautigan during 1969.


Three sheep in a field
grazing beside a FOR SALE sign
are like pennies in the hand
of a child who will buy what
     he wants to.


Forsaken, fucking in the cold,
eating each other, lost, runny noses,
complaining all the time like so
     many people that we know.

Textual References
"Donner Party": A large group of emigrants that tried to cross the Sierra Nevada Mountains in California during the harsh winter of 1846-1847. Few survived, and there were tales of violence and cannibalism.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Learn more


I like to think of Frankenstein as a huge keyhole
and the laboratory as the key that turns the lock
and everything that happens afterward as just the
     lock turning.

Textual References
"Frankenstein": The name popularly attributed to the unnamed monster created by Dr. Victor Frankenstein in the novel by Mary Shelley (1818) and movie (1931).


Everybody wants to go to bed
with everybody else, they're
lined up for blocks, so I'll
go to bed with you. They won't
miss us.


It was snowing hard when we drove
into Los Alamos. There was a clinical feeling
to the town as if every man, woman and child
were a doctor. We shopped at the Safeway
and got a bag of groceries. A toddler
looked like a brain surgeon. He carefully
watched us shop at the exact place where he would
     make his first incision.

Textual References
"Los Alamos, New Mexico, and Hiroshima, Japan": The atomic bomb was developed at Los Alamos and dropped on Hiroshima, 6 August 1945.

Background
In 1969, Brautigan and Valerie Estes traveled together to New York, New York, where Brautigan signed contracts with his new agent, Helen Brann, and his new publisher, Seymour Lawrence. Along the way they stopped in New Mexico to visit Robert Creeley. While in New Mexico, Brautigan, Estes, and Creeley visited the Los Alamos Research Laboratories. The visit inspired Brautigan's poem.


We age in darkness like wood
and watch our phantoms change
     their clothes
of shingles and boards
for a purpose that can only be
     described as wood.

First Published
Poetry, Oct. 1969, p. 30.
Published by October House, Inc., New York, NY
Learn more


He'd sell a rat's asshole
to a blindman for a wedding
     ring.


Men are walking on the moon today,
planting their footsteps as if they were
zucchini on a dead world
while over 3,000,000 people starve to death
every year on a living one.
                    Earth
                    July 20, 1969

Textual References
"Jules Verne": French adventure writer (1828-1905), author of From Earth to the Moon (1865). "July 20, 1969" is the date of the Apollo 11 lunar landing, the first by humans. Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin walked on the moon's surface. Brautigan saw, and was inspired by televised images while watching the landing with Valerie Estes and friends Fritzi and Michael Drooth, at their San Francisco apartment.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Learn more


She sleeps this very evening in Greenbrook Castle
     without the comfort of husband,
and what she knows is what she dreams. He isn't dead
     and he isn't alive,
and the crack of light beneath the door is like the tail
     of a cat as she paces in her room.

She sleeps this very evening in Greenbrook Castle
     without the comfort of husband,
and what she knows is what she dreams. He isn't dead
     and he isn't alive,
and the light in her window is like a wedding ring
     shining to the dark and distant woods.

She sleeps this very evening in Greenbrook Castle
     without the comfort of husband,
and what she knows is what she dreams. He isn't dead
     and he isn't alive,
and the light that reflects her golden hair is the answer
     to her marriage and the children of her prayers.

Background
According to Keith Abbott, Brautigan, in early 1968, inspired by the collaboration between Michael McClure and Janis Joplin on the song "Oh Lord, Won't You Buy Me A Mercedes Benz," gave Joplin a copy of "The Horse That Had a Flat Tire" and "She Sleeps This Very Evening in Greenbrook Castle" hoping she would use it as the basis for a song (Abbott 71). Joplin's song "Mercedes Benz," although drawing from McClure's line "Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz," was actually written in collaboration with Bob Neuwirth, road manager for Bob Dylan during the English tour filmed in "Don't Look Back," and was included on Joplin's album Pearl, released in 1971, post-humously, following her death in 1970. Michael McClure collaborated with Bobby Womack to write the song "Trust Me," included on the same album.


               For Gary Snyder

There is a motorcycle
in New Mexico.

Textual References
"Gary Snyder": American poet (1930- ). Written as an improvised Zen tribute to Snyder during an evening of drinking in early March 1968. Brautigan was to travel to New Mexico in six days and perhaps this influenced his selection of place for the motorcycle.


If you love a statue start a mirror.
Your friends will admire you.
If you love a mirror start a statue.
Make room for new friends.


Feasting and drinking went on far into the night
but in the end we went home alone to console ourselves
which seems to be what so many things are all about
like the branches of a tree just after the wind
     stops blowing.


[No text appeared under this poem title.]


Hinged to forgetfulness like a door,
she slowly closed out of sight,
and she was the woman that I loved,
but too many times she slept like
a mechanical deer in my caresses,
and I ached in the metal silence
     of her dreams.

Selected Reprints
A Legend of Horses Poems and Stories
No stated publisher, but possibly Pacific Red Car Press
No printing, place, or date information
5" x 9"; Printed wrappers; Stapled binding
Learn more


I have a 75 watt, glare free, long life
Harmony House light bulb in my toilet.
I have been living in the same apartment
     for over two years now
and that bulb just keeps burning away.
I believe that it is fond of me.


Just because people love your mind,
doesn't mean they have to have your body,
     too.


"Butch didn't die in Bolivia. He came
home to Utah—I saw him after he got back.
The Sundance Kid was killed in Bolivia
and it grieved Butch to leave him there."

Textual References
"Butch Cassidy": Ianthe Brautigan notes that her father owned a copy of William Goldman's script for the popular 1969 movie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Feedback from Daniel Buck
"I was poking around the Internet today and came upon Brautigan's poem, "The History of Bolivia." Don't know if you know the backstory. The entire poem is a quote Butch Cassidy's sister, Lula Parker Betenson, gave to a Women's News Service reporter, Rebecca Morehouse, during a 1969 interview with Betenson in New York City while Morehouse was attending the premier of [the movie] Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. The story, "Butch Cassidy 'Nice' Bandit," was published in a number of small city newspapers, like The Lima News (Ohio, 19 October 1069), The High Point Eneterprise (North Carolina, 24 October 1969), The Burlington Times-News (North Carolina, 10 October 1969), The Daily Gleaner (Kingston, Jamaica, 15 October 1969), and The Arizona Republic (Phoenix, 9 October 1969).

"Betenson always contended that her brother did not die in Bolivia, but returned home and visited her once, in 1925. Most historians, myself included, do not believe her. She created the tale of Butch's return because she wanted to tart up her book, Butch Cassidy, My Brother (1975), and stick a thumb in Hollywood's eye, which had made buckets of money off her brother's life.

"In the 1969 interview she said that Sundance died in Bolivia, Butch grieved for him, etc. In her book, written in 1975, she reversed herself, saying that Sundance survived the Boliva shootout, that Butch ran into his girlfriend, Etta Place, in a Mexico City bar, and she took him to Sundance elsewhere in the city (Butch Cassidy, My Brother, 186-187). Yes, of all the gin joints . . .. Those of us who pay attention to this minutia consider the collision between her 1969 quote and her 1975 book a tell, a clue that she was making it up as she went along; that she really had no idea what happened to Butch and Sundance. The best evidence is that Butch and Sundance died in a shootout with the military in Bolivia in November 1908.

"Anyway, I like the poem. "The History of Bolivia." Butch and Sundance is what most Americans think of when they hear the word 'Bolivia.'"
— Daniel Buck. Email to John F. Barber, 29 September 2012.

See Buck's website, Digging Up Butch and Sundance.


               He taught me to love him
               and called me his flower

An old woman clutches a bagful of groceries
to her chest. A loaf of white bread sticks
out the top. She has forgotten to put her
food stamps away. They're still in her hand.


Propelled by portals whose only shame
is a zeppelin's shadow crossing a field
     of burning bathtubs,
I ask myself: There must be more to life
     than this?

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Learn more


Clad in garments like a silver disease
you parade around the house. You're quite happy.
The lights are out. The shades are down.
     It's your own business.


Lions are growing like yellow roses on the wind
and we turn gracefully in the medieval garden
     of their roaring blossoms.
          Oh, I want to turn.
          Oh, I am turning.
          Oh, I have turned.
               Thank you.


There is so much lost
and so much gained in
     these words.


Where I come from it's just
another carrot in the patch.
Where do you come from,
     stranger?

Textual References
"Casablanca": A seaport city in Morocco and title of the famous 1942 film starring Humphrey Bogart (1899-1957).


[No text appeared under this poem title.]


At the earliest dark answer
she turns her hair toward
     the door.
She'll learn, she'll learn
that life is more than a
     closing comb.


                    For Valerie

All girls should have a poem
written for them even if
we have to turn this God-damn world
upside down to do it.
                    New Mexico
                    March 16, 1969

Textual References
"Valerie": Valerie Estes.

First Published
The Free You, vol. 3, no. 6, May 1969, p. 45.
Published in Menlo Park, California, by Midpeninsula Free University. Edited by Fred Nelson, Jon Buckley, Ed McClanahan, and others.
Learn more

Selected Reprints
One Lord, One Faith, One Cornbread. Eds. Fred Nelson and Ed McClanahan. Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1973.
Learn more


We stopped at perfect days
and got out of the car.
The wind glanced at her hair.
It was as simple as that.
I turned to say something—


Chosen by beauty to be a handmaiden of the stars,
she passes like a silver brush
across the lens of a telescope.
She brushes the stars, the galaxies
and the light-years into the order that
     we know them.


Thinking hard about you
I got onto the bus
and paid 30 cents car fare
and asked the driver for
     two transfers
before discovering that I
     was alone.


Do you think of me
as often as I think
     of you?


There is darkness on your lantern
and pumpkins in your wind,
and Oh, they clutter up your mind
with their senseless bumping
while your heart is like a sea gull
frozen into a long distance telephone
     call.

I'd like to take the darkness
off your lantern and change the pumpkins
into sky fields of ordered comets
and disconnect the refrigerator telephone
that frightens your heart into standing
     still.


The gunman holds the wind
     in his hand.
Autumn and spring pass like robberies
     across his eyes.
He doesn't blink while one stops leaves
     and the other starts them.
The gunman is a friend to the changing
     of the seasons.
He holds the wind in his hand.


He's howling in the pines
at the edge of your fingerprints.


Walking on crow eggs, mama,
listening to the shells break
like cars being parked on
     asphalt.


My telephone rang in the middle of the night,
but I didn't answer it. It rang and rang
and rang and SHUT UP! and rang as if it were
     possessed.
I always figure that good news doesn't travel
in the middle of the night, so I didn't answer
     the telephone.
I let it go to hell. I was right, too.
It was somebody calling to tell me that Kennedy
     had been hit.

Textual References
"June 5, 1968": The day Robert Kennedy, brother to President John F. Kennedy, was assassinated in Los Angeles, California.


Lemon Lard: with your odd snowshoes
and your ability to remember dates,
you're all that you'll ever want to
     be.


Just an ordinary girl, 118
pounds, chipped front tooth, cute,
born in Reno, Nevada, a student
at SF State, she wants candles
married to her womb by the color
of a telescopic saint, so that all
her children will be adventures
     in light.


     Fragile, fading 37,
she wears her wedding ring like a trance
and stares straight down at an empty coffee cup
as if she were looking into the mouth of a dead bird.
Dinner is over. Her husband has gone to the toilet.
He will be back soon and then it will be her turn
     to go to the toilet.

Selected Reprints
"Fragile, Fading 37/A Poem." Kaleidescope-Madison, vol. 2, no. 19, 17 Sep. 1970, p. 7.
Published biweekly; Box 5457, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 53701.
Learn more


Snowflaked as if by an invisible polar bear
     —unlucky bastard,
you're sitting on the fender of her kisses
while she drives the car down into the
     perfect center of ice.


I feel so bad today
that I want to write a poem.
I don't care: any poem, this
     poem.


Always spend a penny
as if you were spending a
     dollar
and always spend a dollar
as if you were spending
a wounded eagle and always
spend a wounded eagle as if
you were spending the very
     sky itself.

First Published
Journal for the Protection of All Beings, no. 3, 1969, n. pg.
Published by City Lights Books, San Francisco, California. 6" x 10.25."
Learn more


In a room that knows your death
a closet freezes like a postage stamp.
A coat, a dress is hanging there.


It's a late starting dawn that breathes my vision,
inhales and exhales the sound of waking birds
and pokes ten miles of cold gray sky at a deer
     standing alone in a meadow.

Selected Reprints
Postcard Poems. Edited by Paul B. Janeczko. Bradbury Press, 1979, p. 46.


A witch and a 6 pack of Double Century Ale
that's what I want to do on a rainy winter night
     at her place.


He wants to fly,
sitting next to me on the bus,
reading a copy of Flight Handbook.

He has one of the largest
thumbnails I've ever seen.

As he dreams of bird-like mannerisms,
I stare at this thumb.


Mouths that kissed
in the hot ashes of Pompeii
     are returning
and eyes that could adore their beloved only
in the fires of Pompeii
     are returning
and locked bodies that squirmed in ecstasy
in the lava of Pompeii
     are returning
and lovers who found their perfect passion
in the death of Pompeii
     are returning,
and they're letting themselves in
again with the names of your sons
and your daughters.

Textual References
"Pompeii": Italian city destroyed by the sudden eruption of Mount Vesuvius in 79. Erotic frescoes of the type Brautigan describes have been excavated.

First Published
San Francisco Express Times, vol. 1, no. 27, 24 July 1968, p. 7.
Published weekly from 24 January 1968 (vol. 1, no. 1) to 24 December 1968 (vol. 1, no. 49) as San Francisco Express Times. Continued after as Good Times. Published at 15 Lafayette Street, San Francisco by the Trystero Company. Printed by Waller Press.

Selected Reprints
Sun, no. 9, 7 Aug. 1968.
Five unbound 8.5" x 11" sheets, folded for mailing.
Published at 1510 Hill Street in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A John Sinclair Trans-Love Energies publication.

Included two poems by Brautigan: "Mouths That Kissed in the Hot Ashes of Pompeii" (source credited as "in the San Francisco Express Times," vol. 1, no. 27, July 24, 1968, p. 7) and "All Watched over by Machines of Loving Grace" (source credited as "in the digger papers").

Also included work by Jack Kerouac and David Sinclair and news about the "long-awaited Youth International Party (YIPPIE) Festival of Life" which occurred 25-30 August 1968, simultaneously with the YIPPIE festival in Chicago, itself simultaneous with the Democratic National Convention.


As the bruises fade, the lightning aches.
Last week, making love, you bit me.
Now the blue and dark have gone
and yellow bruises grow toward pale daffodils,
then paler to become until my body
is all my own and what that ever got me.

Background
Written for Valerie Estes in celebration of their robust sexual relations.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Included six poems by Brautigan from Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt: "Jules Verne Zucchini," "Propelled by Portals Whose Only Shame," "Donner Party," "In Her Sweetness Where She Folds My Wounds," "The Elbow of a Dead Duck," and "As the Bruises Fade, the Lightning Aches," as well as an essay, "Old Lady," and a bibliographical checklist prepared by Brautigan. One of several reference books focusing on Brautigan.

Shake the Kaleidoscope: A New Anthology of Modern Poetry. Edited by Milton Klonsky. Simon & Schuster, 1973, pp. 274-276.
Included six poems by Brautigan: "To England," "November 3," "A Mid-February Sky Dance," "Mating Saliva," "Romeo and Juliet," and "As the Bruises Fade, the Lightning Aches." A transparent bridge across
the elbow of a dead duck
beckons, friends, like a boiled
     radio station
toward a better understanding
of yourself in these crisis-ridden
     times.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971. 293-97, 304-305.
Learn more


Pretty: except for the
puncture bruises on her
arm. Also, she's a little
     thin.


The alarm-colored shadow of a frightened ant
wants to make friends with you, learn all about
your childhood, cry together, come live with
     you.


That's where I
see your face,
baby, on a tank
all around the
     cannon.


33-1/3 sized
lions are roaring at the black gates of Fame
with jaws that look like record company courtesans
     brushing their teeth
with would-be rock and roll stars
     in motel bathrooms
with a perfect view of hot car roofs
     in the just-signed-up
          afternoon.


     Hilda,
I keep wanting to write a poem
in praise of your beautiful energy
and because I like the Virgo grace
     of your ways.
Funky as it is: I'm sorry,
forgive me, I guess this is
     that poem.

Textual References
"Hilda": Hilda Hoffman, the woman who appears with Brautigan on the front cover of In Watermelon Sugar.


A lyrical want, an endocrine gland fancy,
a telescope that I thought had no thorns
have led me to a pain that I cannot pronounce.
It gathers around me like a convention of translators
for a language that does not exist with all those meetings
     to attend.

Textual References
"Endocrine gland": A gland in the human body that, like the thyroid or pituitary gland, produces secretions that are distributed throughout the body via the bloodstream.


I sit here, an arch-villain of romance,
thinking about you. Gee, I'm sorry
I made you unhappy, but there was nothing
I could do about it because I have to be free.
Perhaps everything would have been different
if you had stayed at the table or asked me
to go out with you to look at the moon,
instead of getting up and leaving me alone with
     her.


Slow/dark . . . black/seeming
          approach:
a plant by an open window.


Drinking wine this afternoon
I realize the days are getting
     longer.


Too many lifetimes like this one, right?
Hungover, surrounded by general goofiness,
lonely, can't get it up, I feel just like
     a pile of bleached cat shit.


Forget love
I want to die
in your yellow
     hair.


In her sweetness where she folds my wounds
there is a flower that bees cannot afford.
It is too rich for them and would change
their wings into operas and all their honey
into the lonesome maps of a nonexistent
     California county.
When she has finished folding all my wounds
she puts them away in a dresser where the
drawers smell like the ghost of a bicycle.
Afterwards I rage at her: demanding that her
affections always be constant to my questions.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Learn more


I'm sitting here (at a cafe) thinking
about writing a poem. What will I write
about? I don't know. I just feel like it
when suddenly a young man in a hurry
walks up to me and says, "Can I use your
     pen?"
There's an envelope in his hand. "I want
to address this." He takes my pen
and addresses the envelope. He's very serious
about it. He's really using the
     pen.


All the secrets of past tense have just come my way,
but I still don't know what I'm going to do
     next.


Oh well, call it a
     life.


I stare at your tomato plants.
You're not, I'm not pleased with the way
     they are growing.
I try to think of ways to help them.
I study them. What do I know about tomatoes?
     "Perhaps some nitrate," I suggest.
But I don't know anything and now I've taken
to gossiping about them. I'm as shameless
     as their lack of growing.


[No text appeared under this poem title.]


Pity the morning light that refuses to wait for dawn
and rushes foolishly with its mercury pride to challenge
a responsibility that knows only triumph and gently bends
the stars to fit its will and cleans up afterwards all
that poor wasted light, leaving not a trace behind.


Flying East today first to Chicago,
then North Carolina snow makes me sad
below in the mountains of the West.
It is a white sadness that rises
from California, Nevada, Utah
and Colorado to visit the airplane,
to sit here beside me like a snowy 1943
     map of my childhood.


As the bruises fade, the lightning aches.
Last week, making love, you bit me.
Now the blue and dark have gone
and yellow bruises grow toward pale daffodils,
then paler to become until my body
is all my own and what that ever got me.

Background
Written for Valerie Estes in celebration of their robust sexual relations.

Selected Reprints
The San Francisco Poets. Edited by David Meltzer. Ballantine Books, 1971, pp. 293-97, 304-305.
Included six poems by Brautigan from Rommel Drives On Deep into Egypt: "Jules Verne Zucchini," "Propelled by Portals Whose Only Shame," "Donner Party," "In Her Sweetness Where She Folds My Wounds," "The Elbow of a Dead Duck," and "As the Bruises Fade, the Lightning Aches," as well as an essay, "Old Lady," and a bibliographical checklist prepared by Brautigan. One of several reference books focusing on Brautigan.

Shake the Kaleidoscope: A New Anthology of Modern Poetry. Edited by Milton Klonsky. Simon & Schuster, 1973, pp. 274-276.
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I am summoned by a door
but forgotten by the knock
and left standing here alone
in a long silent hall, like
a marble intestine, that knows
     my name.


At last our bodies coincide.
I'll bet you thought this
would never happen. Neither
did I. It's a pleasant
     surprise.


Let us please learn new words that mean as much as direction:
     wife.


Beautiful, sobbing, high-geared fucking
and then to lie silently like deer tracks
in the freshly-fallen snow beside the one
     you love. That's all.

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