David Gewanter
"It was just your type of dream,
jumpy, a movie out-take

the masked surgeon drags
his son to the operating

and hands him a scalpel
saying, Kid, it's never too late
      to learn...

the guy under the sheet
is beaming, his eyes watery
      with pride,

So nice of you, he murmurs,
My children ignore me-:

the kid knifes him open, blood
blooms on the sheet,
      the pulpy

red of borscht, too red
for real life, it's just a

gag...except that
when the director yells

You're killing 'em
no one, not even the body
      sitting up

cracks a smile, so the joke
keeps looping the set, a kind
      of intestine...

when comics need new gags
they squeeze their families
      for material,

squeeze till something nasty
pops out-: It isn't
      cinéma vérité,

more like a steamboat
burning its cabin-planks
      for fuel:

Should we call it art
just because real people
      get hurt?"

Revenger Sonnets

    David Gewanter
Achilles, dragging Hector's corpse
round the dusty plains of Troy, grew bored.


"A cowboy shoots Iago in the ass;
      in Brooklyn, the audience yells at Lear, Throw
      those rotten girls out!
American know-how
would solve tragedy, no revenger's black

smile here, tooth for a tooth for a tooth gone--
      here, we can calibrate both suffering
      and crime: cash for tears, cash for a chopped-off hand;
our balance-needle trembles toward heaven,

a calculus for love.... Still, there's more lust
      in payback: tongues cut for a word, your child
      split for my mother. The day the Wall fell

my friends sobbed-- One Deutschland and Europe's dead.
      They never bought German, not even a pill.
      And the pill granules-German too? It's just

a slurry of revenge for them, formless...


Hitler hugged the Volkswagon-but he also
      called Henry Ford his hero, nailed his photo
      above his desk, got him a medal too.
Corn we eat grows from shit. The man who

invented the electric can-opener
      gives the Aryan Nation millions a year:
      does every opened can kill a Jew? Once,
I sublet my place to a Dresden student

(nice kid), and panicked: would my Nazi books
      upset him? I boxed them up, Auschwitz, Speer,
German shame had become mine:

we'd never square things. --Bothered me all year,
      a stew rattling the lid. My neighbors took
      him to church, gospel ladies clapping time,

the clink-clink as his change hit the plate...."

David Gewanter's first book of poems, "In the Belly" (Chicago, 1997), won the John Zacharis Award from "Ploughshares". His new volume, "The Sleep of Reason", also from Chicago, is due out in 2003, as is "The Collected Poems of Robert Lowell" (FSG) which he is editing with Frank Bidart. He was a Witter Bynner Fellow at the Library of Congress, and teaches at Georgetown.


In Posse: Potentially, might be ...