“Elegy with Surrealist Proverbs as Refrain” — Dana Gioia

“Elegy with Surrealist Proverbs as Refrain” by Dana Gioia—

“Poetry must lead somewhere,” declared Breton.
He carried a rose inside his coat each day
to give a beautiful stranger—“Better to die of love
than love without regret.” And those who loved him
soon learned regret. “The simplest surreal act
is running through the street with a revolver
firing at random.” Old and famous, he seemed démodé.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.

Wounded Apollinaire wore a small steel plate
inserted in his skull. “I so loved art,” he smiled,
“I joined the artillery.” His friends were asked to wait
while his widow laid a crucifix across his chest.
Picasso hated death. The funeral left him so distressed
he painted a self-portrait. “It’s always other people,”
remarked Duchamp, “who do the dying.”
I came. I sat down. I went away.

Dali dreamed of Hitler as a white-skinned girl—
impossibly pale, luminous and lifeless as the moon.
Wealthy Roussel taught his poodle to smoke a pipe.
“When I write, I am surrounded by radiance.
My glory is like a great bomb waiting to explode.”
When his valet refused to slash his wrists,
the bankrupt writer took an overdose of pills.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.

Breton considered suicide the truest art,
though life seemed hardly worth the trouble to discard.
The German colonels strolled the Île de la Cité—
some to the Louvre, some to the Place Pigalle.
“The loneliness of poets has been erased,” cried Éluard,
in praise of Stalin. “Burn all the books,” said dying Hugo Ball.
There is always a skeleton on the buffet.
I came. I sat down. I went away.

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3 comments

  1. atavicpoetry · July 16, 2013

    Thank you for posting this! Gioia has such a good way with words.

    Like

  2. igtard · July 16, 2013

    As for me I choose life.

    Like

  3. Patrick T. · July 16, 2013

    Wonderful!

    Like

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