I’ll say this: a poem about Stevie has inevitably
to be about Stevie. Not like the others who cared
about Cricket. Not in 1959 when words mattered.
Stevie Smith and women like her still knew a thing
or two, just ask John Lennon’s mum and dad. She
did her writing while Hoovering. Hers was a poetry
of introspection, before the women’s movement.
Stevie was never on the attack but felt she was
under. Besieged by the mundane, attacked by the
obscene. How many men did she tell to go to hell?
She didn’t blame them, but she kept them away
just the same. She was more the poet of the hemorrhoid,
not that she ever wrote about one. That’s Stevie
now, although you better look harder. She was not
waving but drowning. She drank sherry to stay afloat.
Everyone loved Larkin. What a crack-up. He both liked
his women and his books stacked just right. Philip was
a ladies’ man, surely, if not quite a man’s man. Philip
I’d say, had a chip on his shoulder; mind you, nothing like
Korean women forced to put out for Japanese soldiers,
no. No one ever called him a comfort, neither man nor
woman found him that. Larkin’s work sparked interest;
it caught one’s eye. He had that Evelyn Waugh spirit, that
grumpy aptitude, of the sort found in used book shops
among the personnel, the sort who spend all day among
the shelves. Larkin’s interests didn’t include other people
and that was why he never got too far into writing fiction.
He was too fucked up; ask him. He blamed his mum and
dad, even if they were not at fault. He clung to the is and
to the nothing that is not, and that was enough.
My man was Wallace Stevens, a man who’d have preferred
to change his name. He kept his name but changed everything
else, including that jar in the blue hills of Tennessee, beneath
the undergrowth that is called kudzu. He found marriage tough.
He was no salesman; he was an attorney. Wallace was
hoping to get out alive but ended up at the Hartford. The poet
brought back palm trees from his frequent trips to parts un-
known but they were always in Florida. Once there he got
punched in the nose by Hemingway and got a cone from
the emperor of ice cream. That’s how things were. That’s how
things are. He preferred the tropical, but liked snowmen.
Somehow, he managed to achieve what so few dare attempt; he
lived alone while with another. If he was married, and he was, he
never told his wife. And, it seems, she never told him. Instead of
love, he found poetry.
Thomas Stearns, you get right back here. Yes, ma’am. The man
we know as T. S. Eliot was once a little boy named Thomas. How
do you like that? Notice how much he had in common with that
other poet from St. Louis, and I don’t mean Ike Turner. That other
Tom who lived among things easily broken. Both the prodigy
of preachers. Both raised by formidable women, a boy and then,
a man who couldn’t help overhearing women walking the halls,
talking of Michelangelo. Did Anna Mae Bullock read The Wasteland?
He wasn’t hired by Faber to write poetry, but to sit among the file
cabinets and the swivel chairs. He did a bit more than push papers.
He always remembered to feed the cats. He was not the sort to spend
his days at the racetrack. He would not have dug online dating. One
can’t imagine Eliot looking for a piece of ass on Craigslist. The River
Thames, in the end, was no better than the Mississippi. Eliot should
have crossed that river and looked for Miles Davis.
David Lohrey’s plays have been produced in Switzerland, Canada, and Lithuania. His poems can be found at The Dead Mule School, Expat Press, Terror House, and New Orleans Review, along with the University of Alabama, Illinois State, and Michigan State University. His fiction appears in Storgy Magazine, Terror House Magazine, and Literally Stories. David’s first collection of poetry, Machiavelli’s Backyard, was published in 2017. His newest collection, Bluff City, appeared this month, published by Terror House Press.