Ben Mazer


I shall not need your arms in heaven,
nor gem-light singular of your eyes,
before I come to six or seven,
to lure me with much keener lies.

I shall not need your legs in heaven,
you dangled bonny by my side,
but forward all things shall be riven,
eternity we shall abide.

I shall not use your eyes in heaven
to steer me forth into the sun,
but as when conversation’s done,
shall be unto the darkness given.


* * *

When it hails in the morning, I remember,
while others aren’t up, before dawn,
the emotions of other people walking
in earlier decades, in time that is gone.
Why is it the striking hail,
rattling like thoughts at the window,
swept up by the perpetual wind
in the groaning echo of the showering years,
should fix a fine point of conversation
between two conspirators on the wasted plane,
into a pattern, a brocaded tapestry,
of obsolescence, trailing about the heart.


* * *

The poet does his finest work in sin,
travelling across the world to kill his love,
real beauty’s on the outside looking in,
at what each year spring to the pollen does,
at tides of granite whirling to new cause,
new steadiments aligning to new pause,
but love is heated by the same old sun,
true beauty’s on the outside looking in.
The noon’s bazaar, with hazing to be won,
indifference to how each customer ticks,
they flood the streets of Sydney, or are done
with dust for cafe by the blow of six,
the main thing is protect the potato bin,
on this assignment, outside looking in.

Suppose she falters, crushed between the hand
like paper that a flame extinguishes,
let rice and poppies blow across the land
to sing her praises, buried with the fishes,
time’s truth is darkness, and the dark is vicious,
even poets must confess their sin,
observing Christmas dinner from the bushes,
a pas de trois, and outside looking in.
The punts of April chafe Ophelia,
pierced by a silver Buddha on a pin;
who splits the spectrum will contrive to steal you;
and though no greater beauty come again,
and blaze like towers while the absent spin,
let God himself be outside looking in.


* * *

The slender nymph dips toward the slender pool,
but I am not that way. The dark scar harms.
Tell me about Europe and her charms.
Leave ruined cities for another day,
and come out where the evening’s bright and cool.
The festival, you've got to pay and pay.
No, I am not complete. My contracts say
that I shall be required to play the fool,
that rice is meat, that anything at all
might be my intellectual property.
The glass piano falters on the wall.
I thumb my roses at the Medici,
and quiver like a web at Botticelli.
The earth emerges fresh and clean in spring.
Disorder is the beauty of the thing.


* * *

In summer I coil in my serpent’s nest,
and read Anne Dick was in the Hound & Horn
(she wasn’t); I no longer hope for rest,
the brood’s pride, castling among the oaks,
untethered, phrases from emotions torn.
Like an old couple, we sit by the docks
an hour or two, objectiveless, and worn,
considering the many summers spent
dodging parlours, stopping to attest
the glint of sunlight on a well wrought rail.
How many courtyards, places we have stood,
ebb in the fierce desire to procure
some form of permanence that needn’t fail,
a way of loving which is always good.


* * *

Which crazy mental patient are you?
I’m Robert Lowell. I have no particular goal
except to fool the doctors here and there.
I like to act as if I do not care,
and chop up art with razor blades, and then
confound all issues with the question when.
Now, they say, but now is not the time
the building scattered as the bricks all fell,
the time that I grew intimate with hell,
what’s more, now isn’t the pervasive swirl
of absences. The bedsheets make the girl
when it comes time for group theatricals.
The intern stands beside me and he pulls
hard on the hem of my espaliers.
My knowledge slides to light, and I feel worse.
Leftover gargoyles watch and are our curse.



Ben Mazer was born in New York City in 1964. He was raised around Cambridge, where he soaked up the lore of men who had known Robert Lowell, Tate, T.S. Eliot. At Harvard he studied with Seamus and Heaney and William Alfred, then he moved on and did a Ph.D. in textual scholarship under Sir Christopher Ricks and Archie Burnett at the Editorial Institute, Boston University. His doctoral dissertation, a critical edition of the poems of Frederick Goddard Tuckerman, was published by Harvard University Press in 2010. His critical edition of the complete poems of John Crowe Ransom is forthcoming from Boston’s Un-Gyve Press. Mazer’s poems have appeared in many periodicals, here and abroad, including Verse, Stand, Agenda, Poetry Wales, The Wolf, Fulcrum, Jacket, The Boston Review, Harvard Review, Pequod, and Harvard Magazine. His new collection of poems is NEW POEMS (Pen & Anvil Press, 2013), and his previous collections include POEMS (Pen & Anvil Press, 2010), JANUARY 2008 (Dark Sky Books, 2010), and WHITE CITIES (Barbara Matteau Editions, 1995). Mazer lives in Cambridge, and is the Editor of THE BATTERSEA REVIEW.


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MadHat, Issue 15, Winter 2013-2014