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Sample Poems by John Talbot

Middlesex Eclogues: May

Blowsy these curlicues that blow caresses
Freshening through graveyard marble. O puritan
Spring, they do not know your languors, who
Poolside harden under Santa Ana
Winds or, strewing limbs of kiwi-skin
Hue and roughage, baste in tropic zones,
Exiles from statues as from statutes both.

I know those snowbirds know this equipoise,
This buttery kiss on winter’s lips, will go
Blink between pelts of pebbled semi-sleet.
Sweet, though, the interval, for being doomed.
There was no Deacon Haynes or Captain Noyes
At Concord, who’d not rather reign in hail
Than swerve in some convertible in heaven.


Sandy, last night I left you as you slept.
Spiral notebook. Plastic ballpoint pen.
Lamplight. And gingerly—not to disrupt
Your dreaming—made this little harp. I spun

Fourteen lines out. Squared the flimsy frame.
Not much, I know, but now it’s made, there’s hope
That when some other age of man has come,
One of the digging breed will pick it up,

Pluck it, and say: “It makes an antique sound.
About the one who made it, not a trace
Survives. Time has put down its frothing glass

And wiped its lips of him. But now this ‘Sandy’:
What mix she must have been of grace and sass
That made him boast to us that she was his.”

After the Latin (12)

Say it has disconcerted me, this spate—
Eros redux in high middle age.
Anyone would think I’m mimicking
The old Horatian trope. But there’s a reason
Late Yeats wondered at the vim that goaded
The dying animal, or even Philip Roth,
Whose latelife brio I’d thought mere perversion—
It may have been perversion—or a stunt
To guarantee the sales you need to get
From Barnes and Noble types. And yet: can I
Address you, Venus? Whether it’s to thank
Your Ladyship for late unlooked-for grace,
Or plead with you to call a truce to war
And beg you to unstring me, you tell me.

(Horace Odes 4.2)

After the Latin (13)

Tomorrow jarred. It made its noise. It woke you.
Okay, I shrugged, and tried to soothe you. What
Noise is it Tomorrow makes? It’s like
The whoosh, you said, of all the doors of all
Advent calendars everywhere blown open
Together. That, or like the thud of June
Snow on the cinder-path. Or else the noiseless
Scuffles of question marks in the aquarium
In the blind oncologist’s library after dark.

(Horace Odes 1.11)

Middlesex Eclogues: November

Done, I’d thought, that freshness of arrival—
Love’s coming, I mean. Love, long come to leaf,
Now tuned its toothed and dactyled brittleness
To shivering, for all its varnished gold.
The expected turn, I’d thought. I’d thought, Those maple
Syrup bottles now flying off the shelves
In Bennington and Stowe, they underwrite
New Yorker tourists’ tropes: that growing old

Means ripening to decantered dulcetude.
Sonnets turn. The end is near. But no: old love
Runs on to an America, a new
Found land, to Puritans warmed in Indian Summer,
Thanksgiving’s superflux of hush and press,
Where ripeness sighs and lets green rushes come.