Word For/Word [ Issue 17: Summer, 2010 ] [ Previous ] [ Next ] [ Notes ]

Anthony Madrid

I Shall Make Me a Book

WHAT a pleasure, to explore by myself these virgin haunts of the Muses!
What a joy to kneel and drink deep at these completely un-fucked-with fountains!


I shall make me a book that can only be read by natural light.  A book wherein
The Devil will have his due, and the Angel his comeuppance.


O tiny rhombus of glitter stuck to the cheek of my beloved!
You were born in a good hour to come to such an auspicious end!


I am like a girl in love, a girl from India or ancient Greece.  Indeed,
I am physically shriveling like the sexy witch in the Pharmaceutria.


Sa’di, that saintly sheik, says if a woman speaks good things,
You are not to think homely or not homely, but marry her.


My dragon-bearded tetrameters! how dare you speak of marriage?
What need have you or I for a polluted exchange of covenants?


Am I supernaturally eloquent?  Yes, if you’ll give me a minute.  I have to
Confer with my favorite author: John of Patmos.


Madrid is just now examining Scripture with certain of the Lord’s children. 
Pull up a chair—


For, if hearing a single verse of the Diamond Sutra was enough to enlighten Hui Neng,
Imagine what listening to the whole thing’ll do for a bright guy like you.




Too Well I Know My Fate

TOO well I know my fate.  I am slated to be the darling
Of an army of ambitious nonentities.


I was brought up by wild animals, yet I speak this exemplary English.
I shall forever be lapped by the orange flames of my self-inflicted glory.


What does it mean, this desire, this lust, for revenging oneself on fools?
Innocent fools! and trusting! with smiling, angelic faces!


I have gone in for reviling nature, especially reviling it to girls.
I have maligned the delicate spadix on the Asian skunk cabbage blossom.


They are worried I have designs on her?  Well! and who can blame ’em?
And indeed I dó have designs—but only of the purest sort.


I am the purest man in Rome, for all the good it does me.
I said one wrong thing a year ago, and I’ve been punished ever since.


I have been fined, whipped, pilloried, imprisoned, and threatened with things even worse.
They want to make me listen to their theory of literary translation . . .


Ah, write poetry, Madrid.  For you will not find in all World Literature
A half dozen lines together that will satisfy your soul.




He Will Make a Fine Lookout

HE will make a fine lookout, for his attention can never flag, who waits
With eyes locked on a doorway through which his black-haired beloved must pass.


Take a look at the different geometric shapes; it’ll do your heart a world of good.
For any ten objects in tandem are a jigsaw of the human body.


A windmill is a distressed motorist: he waves his arms at the passing traffic.
But the highbeams of the oncoming atoms only serve to illuminate his despair.


These long-bearded tetrameters have not saved me from this indignity.
I am bubbling away as venomously as a certain famous, thwarted witch.


My tutor told me as he was dying that I too would have to die.
And now here I am, a hundred years later, dying of wounded vanity.


“I leave the brutal honesty to the brutes.”—That was my motto.
But now, I must admit, the saintly thing of it is quite faded . . .


At the end of the Iliad, Hektor, Breaker of Horses, loses his nerve:
And at the end of the Ramayana, King Rama doubts his Sita . . .


—Conclusions evilly disappointing!  But this is exactly why

Homer and Valmiki are considered artists of the first rank.



To Pass Sentence on the Earth

WE have no word in English for lust without desire.
Yet it is the state in which I have lived half my life.


At my first taste of glory, I became a poetry machine.  And I spent
The better part of every weekday, rewriting famous poems . . .


I wrote: “Praise to the Creator! and to His mode of thinking,
For He has given me in all things a catholic taste . . . ”


How attractive these twenty-year-old girls are, with circles under their eyes!
Tired, worn-out, divorced-looking, how attractive they are!


But somebody tell me what it means, that poem that pleases them so.
All these kids seem to understand it, so who am I to question?


To pass sentence on the earth, I could always just turn over, stay in bed. 
These degenerates want me to sentence the earth without ever having understood it!


But if I die tomorrow, I’ll think: “Madrid, you did OK.” 

But if I live—?  If I live, I don’t know what I’m going to do.