Alice Notley – « As Good as Anything »

I don’t see the point of

remembering you; you’re too boring,

Iowa City, Iowa,

much duller topologically than

Needles, California. I’m here

in the Rebel Motel, with

my grape-colored sweater

and maté tea, whose smoky odor’s

bound up with first rooms and foods here

sex and snow I

write about Needles

Herman and rocks, the story’s called

“As Good as Anything”, and in it

daft Herman – true local

of Needles – says

“Rocks is as good as anything.”

I figured that out summer after

first love affair in New York:

hung out, home, at a rock shop

inspecting geodes and thunder eggs

Arsenic samples and petrified

dinosaur dung.

What can I say about Iowa City

everyone’s an academic poetry

groupie, I haven’t yet written a poem,

there’s a bar where for 25 cents a

meal of boiled eggs and tiny beer

Really I don’t know what kind of poetry –

what’s the name of the make they

use here – or what kinds of

poetry live people write in the world.

Is there a right and wrong poetry, one might

still ask as I patronize,

retrospectively, the Iowa style,

characterized, as I remember,

by the assumption of desperation

boredom behind two-story houses

divorces, income, fields, pigs,

getting into plants, well not really

in poems, well no “wells” and all

in the costive mode

of men who – and the suicidal women –

want to be culpable for something,

settle for being mean to their wives

and writing dour stanzas. God this is bitchy

I modeled for art classes

that’s rather interesting

the hypocrizy nobody needs

to paint nude women

they just like to. So here I am

naked for art, which is a lot of

dumb fucks I already know,

same with poetry

Written and judged by Those befoibled guys

who think – you know –

the poetic moment’s a pocket in

a pool; where can I publish it; what can

I do to my second or third wife now

Nothing happens in Iowa, so

can I myself change here? Yes

I can start to become contemptuous

is that good or bad, probably bad.

In New York I’d had developed a philosophy

of sympathy and spiritual equality

out the window, easily, upon

my first meeting real assholes.

“A rock’s as good as anything”

there are no rocks in Iowa

shit-black soil, a tree or two,

no mountain or tall edifice,

University drabs, peeping Toms, anti-war

riots, visiting poets

treated like royalty, especially if

they fuck the locals or have a record

of fighting colorfully with their wives.

You can go to the movies once a week,

like in Needles. You can fuck

a visiting poet; you can be paraded before

a visiting poet as fuckable but not fuck.

You can write your first poems

thinking you might as well

since the most stupid people in the universe

are writing their five hundredth here.

I’m doing that now. What

difference does it make.

I like my poems. They’re

as good as rocks.

– from Mysteries of small houses, 1998

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