Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Guitar Recitativos - A.R. Ammons

 Of all of A.R. Ammons' (1926-2001) poems, this is hands-down my favorite and also on my "all-star" poems list.  Awards and honors (of which he had many: two National Book Awards, a McArthur "genius' award, the Bollingen) are at once meaningful and meaningless: it's the poems themselves that count.  And if there is ONE poem in this blog that will serve you well with a lover, THIS one is it.  So, follow these instructions.  First, read it enough times to feel as though you wrote it, then practice reading it aloud.  Treat it like a jazz piece, each verse a riff on the theme.  Don't be afraid to read it LARGE, with feeling: it's a joyful, lively, happy poem.  Your tone should be conversational, not oratorical or stentorian, as though it's just YOU talking to HIM/HER.  When you are ready to share and, depending on the season and weather: a) pack a picnic, including a bottle of sparkling wine and head to a place of beauty and quiet, or b) stay home, cook their favorite meal, leave the clean-up for the morning.  When you are ready, in either scenario, charge your glasses, make sure he/she is comfortable, and start.... You can thank me later.  (P.S. For the florally challenged - of which I am one - "clicking" on words highlighted will take you to images of the flowers.  For extra points, you could make a bouquet to have at hand...)
Guitar Recitativos


I know you love me, baby
I know it by the way you carry on around here certain times
         of the day and night
I can make the distinction between the willing and the
That’s not what I’m talking about
That’s not what I need
What I mean is could you just peel me a few of those grapes
         over there
I want to lie here cool and accumulate
Oh say about half a bunch
That’s what I need – flick out those little seed –
Just drop them in here one at a time
I’m not going anyplace, baby, not today
Relax – sneak the skin off a few of those grapes for me, will you?


Baby, you been stomping round on my toes so long
they breaking out in black and blue hyacinths,
well-knit forget-me-nots
Geraniums are flopping out over the tops of my shoes
tendril leaves coming out along the edges of my shoelaces
Gladioli are steering out of the small of my back
strumming those cool stalks up  my spine
Zinnias radiating from the crock of my neck
and petunias swinging down bells from my earlobes
All this stomping around on me you been doing, baby,
I’m gonna break out in a colorful reaction
I’m gonna wade right through you
with the thorns of all these big red roses


I’m tired of the you-and-me thing
I am for more research in to the nature of the amorous bond
the discovery of catalysts for speeding-up, wearing out,
         and getting it over with
or for slowing it down to allow long intervals of looseness

Baby, there are times when the mixture becomes immiscible
and other times we get so stirred up I can’t tell
whether I’m you or me
and then I have this fear of a surprising reaction in which
we both turn into something else

powdery or gaseous or slight metallic
What I means is this whole relationship is, lacking further
knowledge, risky: while there’s still time, why
don’t you get yourself together and I’ll

get myself together and then we’ll sort of shy out
of each other’s gravitational field, unstring the
electromagnetism, and then sort of just drop this
whole orientation, baby


I can tell you what I think of your beauty, baby,
you have it, it’s keen and fast, there’s this
glittery sword whipping about your head all day
and, baby, you make people snap – you condescend

and a surprised little heart splatters or you turn your
cold head away and a tiny freeze kills a few
cells in some man’s brain – I mean, baby, you
may be kind but your beauty, sweetie, is such

many a man would run himself through for
hating your guts every minute that he died for you


You come in and I turn on:
freon purrs and the
refrigerator breaks out with hives of ice:
the Westinghouse portable electric fan flushes
my papers all over the room:
the waffle-iron whacks down sizzling imaginary waffles:
one paper glues itself and billows to the back of the fan,
my nerves nervous as newspapers:

I tell you, you are a walking calamity
and when you sit down there is hardly less activity:
the alarm clock breaks out raging its held cry
and the oven in the kitchen sets itself for broil:
I mean the gas-jet in the incinerator bloops on
and, frankly, the mechanisms in my legs – I hope you
         never find out – jerk:
Oh, beauty, beauty is so disturbingly nice.

                                                                                       A.R. Ammons - American

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