Poetry: Selected Poems

By Jack Fitzgerald

Experiencing A Social Contract

Beside the waves there is a trail

leading into town.

A little red moon shining down

I walked overhead and underground into town.

I was there to have a look.

In town I ate for this I know,

outside again I screamed.

For yes, yesterday and oh today,

Red moon, white surf, the path, the fault.

Crashing, rolling, wet.

photo: Jack Fitzgerald

Gilles Deleuze, On Spinoza

A Philosopher can reside in various states, he can frequent various milieus, but he does so in the manner of a hermit, a shadow, a traveler or boarding house lodger…For, wherever he goes he only asks, demands, with greater or smaller chance success, to be tolerated, himself and his uncommon aims, and from this tolerance he judges concerning the degree of democracy, the degree of truth, which a society can bear, or on the contrary, concerning the danger that threatens all men.

Sailing Alone Around the Room – II

There are so many here that my little apartment has become quite overrun.

They stand in steep rows along my shelves.

Some are alive still, most are long dead, but all have gained immortality.

They are here, after all, in my one room apartment, and a few could be within arms reach of you, too.

From their faded bindings alone I know their stories.

I see them standing politely just on the other side of a thin piece of white paper tangled in a snaking mess of black letters.

There is Huck Finn deciding that he will go to hell while he drifts silently under a soaring canopy of stars.

On trial in the court of the absurd, Kafka, the apple of discord stuck firmly in his back, has begun his great metamorphosis.

Upon hearing word of his wife’s death, Macbeth cries down the aisle to Faulkner, and to anyone else who has listened, that, “Life is but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and is heard from no more; it is a tale told by an idiot, full of the sound and the fury, signifying nothing.”

Milton, in his cold windowless room, shouts blindly up and down the river of time.

He asks me to believe, once more, in heroes.

A parent’s tears, a child’s hunger; sin and redemption; falsities and lies corrupting mankind.

Maybe Satan, with his great wings and fiery sword, was right to revolt.

Over white peaked waves, Ahab is fighting the demons in his soul.

And whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp drizzly November in my soul, then, I, too, account it is high time that I got back to sea as soon as possible.

Nabokov has invited me to his beheading later this afternoon.

It must be in a country with especial strict rules on child molestation.

For a parting gift he has given me a copy of Lermontov’s “A Hero of our Time,” which he and his son, Dmitri, have just finished translating from Russian. “It is a dream of a poet,” he tells me.

Suppose they had shot Dostoevsky?

He stood at the wall, firing squad ready, and then he got a reprieve.

I suppose it would not have mattered, not directly.

There are billions of people that have never read him and never will, but for me, he unbolted a room that I may never leave.

He lifted me high into the night and put me down in better place.

For Mac and the other boys still living on Tortilla Flat it is always Sweet Thursday.

They pass me the bottle and tell, once more, of how Danny home from the war found himself an heir, and how he swore to protect the helpless.

Sometimes when I’m out, away from these stories, I wonder if the books in my absents could, themselves, have made their way off my shelves and into an armchair.

As I walk through the windy corridors of this city, I like to imagine that all of those great writers from another time are gathering, in their immortality, for a late afternoon drink in my apartment.

I can see it now, Twain has just topped off Faulkner’s glass, and they’re getting along splendidly, debating the unpredictability of the Mississippi river in March.

Melville is finding that he has a lot in common with his new friend Tennessee Williams.

“You were saying about conflict?” he asks, as Tennessee offers him a cigar from a personally monographed case.


Cleaning his glasses, Chekhov nods his head in agreement to what Euripides is saying about the stage not being the place to idealize the aristocracy.

Quoting Sophocles, Chekhov adds, “’It’s about showing people not as they ought to be, but as the actually are.’”

Raymond Carver, who happened to be pouring himself another drink, adds, “Ordinary people trying to live ordinary lives, and failing at that. That’s what I learned from the two of you.”

Down the hall Steinbeck and Hemingway are trying to decide if they had every actually met before.

While, Tolstoy, whether he is willing to admit it or not, keeps trying to catch a glimpse up Silvia Plath’s skirt.

Solzhenitsyn somehow got wind of this little soirée, and has made the trip down from Vermont.

He and Dostoevsky are sitting quietly together in the front room.

It is getting late now.

I feel like a child who has who has fought off sleep in order to be like one of grown-ups, and now I’m simply too tired to keep my eyes open.

Alone, again, at my desk I can feel myself slipping off to sleep, and the last thing I remember is Gogol spreading his worn overcoat across my shoulders.