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Payne Whitney Poems

TRIP

Wigging in, wigging out:
when I stop to think
the wires in my head
cross: kaboom. How
many trips
by ambulance (two,
count them two),
claustrated, pill addiction,
in and out of mental
hospitals,
the suicidalness (once
I almost made it)
but—I go on?
Tell you all of it?
I can’t. When I think
of that, that at
only fifty-one I,
Jim the Jerk, am
still alive and breathing
deeply, that I think
is a miracle.

ARCHES

of buildings, this building,
frame a stream of windows
framed in white brick. This
building is fire proof; or else
it isn’t: the furnishings first
to go: no, the patients. Patients
on Sundays walk in a small garden.
Today some go out on a group
pass. To stroll the streets and shop.
So what else is new? The sky
slowly/swiftly went blue to gray.
A gray in which some smoke stands.

FEBRUARY 13th, 1975

Tomorrow is St. Valentine’s:
tomorrow I’ll think about
that. Always nervous, even
after a good sleep I’d like
to climb back into. The sun
shines on yesterday’s new
fallen snow and yestereven
it turned the world to pink
and rose and steel blue
buildings. Helene is restless:
leaving soon. And what then
will I do with myself? Some-
one is watching morning
TV. I’m not reduced to that
yet. I wish one could press
snowflakes in a book like flowers.

SLEEP

The friends who come to see you
and the friends who don’t.
The weather in the window.
A pierced ear.
The mounting tension and the spasm.
A paper lace doily on a small plate.
Tangerines.
A day in February: heart
shaped cookies on St Valentine’s.
Like Christopher, a discarded saint.
A tough woman with black hair.
“I got to set my wig straight.”
A gold and silver day begins to wane.
A crescent moon.
Ice on the window.
Give my love to, oh, anybody.

WHAT

What’s in those pills?
After lunch and I can
hardly keep my eyes
open. Oh for someone to
talk small talk with.
Even a dog would do.

Why are they hammering
iron outside? And what
is that generator whose
fierce hum comes in
the window? What is a
poem, anyway.

The daffodils, the heather
and the freesias all
speak to me. I speak
back, like St Francis
and the wolf of Gubbio.

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