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On Reading John Hollander’s Poem “Breadth. Circle. Desert. Monarch. Month. Wisdom. (For Which There Are No Rhymes)” Part Two.

by George Starbuck


I liked that when I wrote it. By the time it got to bilge,
It even had a moral. All of that! And out of bilge!
It made me so blamed proud I bought some i-beams from the store
And welded me a Sculpture to bestride my study door:
A five-piece ten-foot Sculpture spelling out forevermore
B-I-L-G-E BILGE, to match the Late-Pop-Art decor.

I stood back to admire the thing. I beamed, but not before
I started to detect a tapping at my study door—
A featheriest tapping, tapping, at my study door.

Imagine my surprise. It was John Hollander. He wore
The quizzical expression of the vanquished, but he bore
No malice. Quite the contrary. He said, “What perfect bilge!
Something of yours?”
                                             “You know,” he said, “it’s curious, but bilge Once struck me as unrhymable. A lead-pipe cinch like bilge.”

“You killjoy!” I exploded. I snatched up* the B in BILGE
And went for him. He countered with a well-aimed I from ILGE,
But his next words were his last words: “No don’t! I’m not a killj—”


* Literalists may question this. Not even a Mad Turk
Could “snatch” four hundred pounds of monumental ironwork.
Snatch is poetic license. It was more a clean-and-jerk.

George Starbuck’s long-awaited new book, Desparate Measures, is due out this spring, from Godine. (Spring 1978)


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