Welcome to Poetry Crush’s 3rd annual 10 Dead Poets (I would fuck). Thanks to my deranged contributors– you guys are so messed up: Miracle Jones, Janaka Stucky, Jennifer L. Knox, Todd Colby, Joanna Penn Cooper, Lauren Hunter, Gregory Crosby, Lisa Marie Basile and Gabriel Don— together we make up the clandestine members of the Dead Poets (I Would Fuck) Society (along with past participants: 2011, 2012). Stay spooky! – j. hope stein
1) Shakespeare by J. Hope Stein
ROMEO & JULIET FOR PEACE
In a press conference held in front of Romeo & Juliet for Peace headquarters in downtown Philadelphia, artist / activist / entrepreneur / provocateur Juliet Capulet confirmed there were two deaths in the most recent Romeo & Juliet for Peace demonstrations, when violence erupted after a group of activists, wearing nothing but paint from head to toe of the colors of the Israeli and Palestinian flags conducted orgies throughout Jerusalem and the Gaza strip. “We are still trying to understand what happened. We think there was a personal dispute which led to a fight. What is certain is that we have lost two individuals. A Romeo and Juliet.” Capulet said the names of the deceased will be released once the families have been notified.
Capulet appeared to be holding back tears when she explained, “The point of demonstration ‘SMEAR’ was to show that when we love each other the colors of our flags smear together and war disappears.” Many accuse Capulet of romanticizing the deaths, including one member of the media who shouted as Capulet read her statement– “This isn’t a fairytale, honey. Two young people are dead.”
Capulet said there were 600 activists in total: 300 Palestinians and 300 Israelis, who were positioned at “epicenters of conflict” throughout the region where they were reciting the famous balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet while engaging in group sex.
Romeo & Juliet for Peace began 7 years ago as an international dating website connecting young progressive singles romantically in warring nations in protest of their government and older generations who they viewed as “impotent against the problems of war.” Romeo & Juliet for Peace is free to its members and Capulet, who has cited John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s peace campaigns of the late 1960s, including “War is Over (If you Want it)” as her biggest inspiration, takes no advertisers, only elite sponsors who partner in grassroots campaigns like ‘SMEAR,’ designed to spread her anti-war message.
Within the first year Romeo & Juliet for Peace made a big international splash with its t-shirt line, available in over 50 languages, quoting poignant passages from Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet. But it’s the best-selling t-shirt with the Romeo & Juliet for Peace tagline that made Capulet a multi-millionaire overnight, saying: “We’re going to fuck and fuck and fuck until nobody knows where to point their guns.”
When asked by a member of local media if Capulet will rethink her tactics, in light of the deaths of the two activists, Capulet said the recent violence only strengthens the purpose of her work and that the incident has increased registration to the website in the past 24 hours by over 4000%. “This is the fastest growing website in the world.”
One of the main attractions of The Romeo & Juliet for Peace website is a live tally of the number of registrants, as well as the number of active relationships and babies resulting from the service. There were worldwide celebrations last June when the number of babies surpassed a million. In addition, offshoots: Romeo & Romeo for Peace and Juliet & Juliet for Peace, have both become the go-to dating sites of choice for the international gay community.
When a member of CNN asked – what is your goal? Capulet responded, “Our goal has always been clear: To fuck and fuck and fuck until no one knows where to point their guns and eventually they will point it at their own hatred.”
“I have deployed 60,000 ‘troops’ in dozens of countries targeting high-conflict epicenters worldwide who are ready to put their lives on the line. And they aren’t going to blow themselves up or drop bombs on anyone. They are going to recite Shakespeare and touch until their flag paint smears into the color of one earth.”
Capulet also confirmed that she has received several death threats on herself and her family, adding, “My family is already dead. And if I were killed, another Juliet would take my place. We’ve planned for that scenario.” Very little is known about Capulet herself, including her real name.
Capulet then recited the final lines from Romeo and Juliet and took no more questions:
A glooming peace this morning with it brings;
The sun, for sorrow, will not show his head:
Go hence, to have more talk of these sad things;
Some shall be pardon’d, and some punished:
For never was a story of more woe
Than this of Juliet and her Romeo.
2) Emma Lazarus & Julia Ward Howe by Miracle Jones
“I did not actually invite the two of you here to this bar beneath an extremely cheap boarding house with available rooms to talk about starting up a new reading series in Brooklyn, dearest Julia Ward Howe and most honorable Emma Lazarus.”
“Your duplicity remains the stuff of legend, Mr. Jones!”
“Allow me to introduce the two of you to each other. Actually, both of you need to have a little more O Be Joyful. Here.”
“I never turn down more O Be Joyful.”
“Topping me off is the least you can do, thank you. And I WILL have another tea sandwich.”
“This is Emma Lazarus. She is most famous for writing America’s “Casual Encounters” advertisement, a distinction which both edifies and debases us all in a particularly permanent way. This advertisement sits on the base of the Statue of Liberty and is called “The New Colossus.” It is a sonnet, which is not exactly experimental, but there is something extremely passionate about the entreaties the poem contains. There is, if I may be so bold, a yearning that I find most remarkable, not the least of which because the poem is so quotable. You have really captured something crude and spirited about our young Republic, something which would take a truly labyrinthine — and wicked! — mind to apprehend.”
“Why are you putting on that stovepipe hat and false beard?”
“And this is Mrs. Julia Ward Howe, wife of the honorable Dr. Samuel Gridley Howe. She is also a poet, in addition to being an abolitionist, social activist, women’s rights advocate, and pornographer.”
“AND YOU SAY THIS WITHOUT BURSTING INTO FLAME!”
“YOUR ALLEGATIONS ARE QUITE WITHOUT MERIT!”
“Enough with the charade of high-minded indigination! I read your book “Passion Flowers,” Mrs. Howe. I also read “The Hermaphrodite.” I liked them both. They are both books meant to be read with one hand, if you know what I mean. I also know that you have some championship-class pearl sweat going for Abraham Lincoln. We all read the blog post in “The Atlantic Monthly” that you wrote the night you met him. All that stuff about his awesome shining sword and his big fat truth and how you want him to split you like a serpent, and then rage-fuck you like a dude stomping grapes.”
“YOU ARE USING WORDS THAT MAKE NO SENSE”
“I UNDERSTAND HALF OF THIS BUT I AM ALL THE WAY OFFENDED.”
“I see neither of you have run screaming from the room yet. The door is right there. Do I detect a flush from you, Mrs. Howe? Is that a pretty outlandish understatment? What reason do you have to loosen your dress so flagrantly and with such strong movements, Miss Lazarus?”
“I feel that I must not leave or I shall starve for oxygen. Something in your words transfixes me.”
“You are yearning to breathe free, eh?”
“My own lines! They convict me!”
“And you Mrs. Howe?”
“It is difficult to remain anything but…agitated…while you are wearing that horrible stovepipe hat. Quickly! Do you have any of Mr. Graham’s crackers?”
“YES I TOO DESPARATELY NEED ONE OF MR. GRAHAM’S CRACKERS.”
“There are no Graham crackers here, ladies. Just another bottle of rotgut, an extremely large feather bed, some fresh oranges, a stereoscope full of French daguerrotypes and one that I stole from Andrew Jackson himself, heavy black velvet drapes to block out both the sun and the prying eyes of Le Moyenne Bourgeosie, two blister packs of Plan B, a blacklight poster of Walt Whitman, a whole goddamn tube of KY jelly, snacks from the bodega, the Delmonico’s take-out menu, a length of good Yankee rope, and both a Rebel and Union regular army uniform, which we can take turns wearing.”
“I…………..must be…………..DREAMING. YET I DO NOT WISH TO AWAKEN”
“IF MY HEART BEATS ANY FASTER I FEAR I SHALL HEMORRHAGE”
“Upstairs, ladies! Follow me upstairs! For God and country and poetry and the Golden Door! WE HAVE A UNION TO MAKE, PRESERVE, PERFECT, AND SUSTAIN”
3) Mina Loy by Todd Colby
I don’t know that I’d actually like to have fucked Mina Loy, but I could see myself cuddling with her after we tried on one of her hats, and danced around the room to the Velvet Underground; throwing our bodies through space and just generally feeling that sense of abandonment that is granted to us with another person, but only a few times in our short lives. I see us walking around the Bowery, picking through junk for her collages, schlepping a red wagon stuffed with detritus, carrying it up to her apartment, and then watching with a joyful admiration as she assembled it into something beautiful. I’d walk over to her and kiss her long neck and whisper that she smelled good, and then we’d tumble onto the floor and whisper poems back and forth to each other, lost in a swirl of time and intimacy. She’d laugh as I read her one of my poems and sigh, reaching over to caress my shoulder and then she’d shuffle through one of her manuscripts and read me something she’d just written. I’d smile and feel a warm glow of recognition that a kindred spirit was sitting in front of me and that perhaps the world wasn’t as dark and obscene as I’d been led to believe; that perhaps there were two people in a room, getting along well enough to dance and read poems to one another without worries about insults or recriminations; that it was possible to be in a room with someone as life swirled around us, and we swirled with it.
4) Walt Whitman by Jennifer L. Knox
Why bang one dead poet when you can bang everyone and everything in the cosmos?
The young men bathing at the river, the washer women on the shore draping wet white sheets over the stone banks to dry, the dogs barking at them, the tall ships sailing by, wind flooding their sails with the breath of God, the breath of God, the breath of the sailors aboard those ships, and the sailors—Land a’ Goshen!—all those sailors in their tight blue pants, the color blue, colors, the letters in the word “color,” all the letters in every language that has ever existed, hieroglyphics, the pyramids, everything triangle shaped thing, novelty foam Cheesehead hats, etc.
After Walt had his stroke, he recuperated in a cabin by a stream where he’d bathe in the icy water, stimulate his skin with the bristle end of a hairbrush, and spank his own flanks with the wooden handle. That kind of freakiness cannot be created nor destroyed, only changed into more freakiness. Hey, it’s science.
Every person who has ever known lust is buoyed in the eternal wake of one of Walt’s explosive orgasms, which are still exploding all around us—like the volcanoes dotting the lush green mountains of Hawaii—destined to smother us all in a scalding beard of lava.
I don’t have to “choose” to make love to Walt. He chose to make love to us, long ago, and is humping us right now—every day and night—all of us—in the mouth, etc.
Sometimes I’m like, “Get off me!” but it’s like standing in the checkout line at Trader Joe’s: you just got to relax, breathe, and give into it. Otherwise, you’re gonna choke somebody out.
Everything in America is full of sex but Americans. So open your fire hose of liberty, big daddy. You almost makes me feel like I’m French, or an ancient Roman, or made of light that penetrates clothes. Especially pants. You were never a breast man, but you looked hot in a pirate blouse.
5) Langston Hughes, Claude McKay, Countee Cullen, & Jean Toomer by Lauren Hunter
SOME FANTASY If I woke up one morning in the 1920s I’d hightail it to Harlem, Borrowing my mama’s best dress And last week’s wages I’d obviously be the cause for many fistfights; They’d call me “la Muse d’135th”— La la. I’d split my time generously Spending the spring in red dreaming with Langston
A queen from some long-dead Egyptian night Walks once again
Feeling the beat of the blues with our hands And sending them on their way with our mouths
Come with a blast of trumpets, Jesus!
Come summertime, I’d be Claude’s only, in green We’d burn nights at drink, strolling and watching as Harlem Wrapped us in open arms
Oh, with our love the night is warm and deep!
From the cabaret to the nightclub, to the café to the pool hall
Touching the surface and the depth of things Instinctively responsive unto both Tasting the sweets of being and the stings…. Like a strong tree against a thousand storms.
The fall I’d play young, fast and free Days and nights at dance with Countee What if his glance is bold and free His mouth the lash of whips? Spinning through the careless weather, High on Harlem wine, I’d not mind the coming chill
Its measurement of joy compute With blithe, ecstatic hips.
In the winter, I’d hole myself up in a warm apartment Full of books with Jean. The door locked for the season, We’d read late into the night by lamps
whisper of yellow globes
By day linger in bed, covered in pages
then with your tongue remove the tape and press your lips to mine till they are incandescent
6) Clarice Lispector by Janaka Stucky
The corners of your eyes often return
To me at night when I am working
Spectre of an exorcised dragon
The light and the Light
Catch in the rim where
I could live for centuries amid your black lashes
Clarice the spectre
My story is that I am living without you and I am failing
Watch me fall slowly
Away over years
Your subtle smile poisoning
My every effort to forget
This heroic dream
Clarice the spectre
You look at me and only then
Am I in the world
Filled with this happy instinct for destruction
An abyss I make my home each time we meet in our permanent sleep
REMEMBERING WITH LONGING
IS LIKE SAYING FAREWELL ONCE AGAIN
7) Joe Brainard by Joanna Penn Cooper
I would like to have a short, funny romance with Joe Brainard after he moved from Tulsa to New York, but before he finished coming out. Most of our romance would involve lying around in our underwear on a mattress on the floor, looking at magazines and going into a reverie about things we remember. Then Joe would get up and go to the corner store to get a Pepsi for himself and a Dr. Pepper for me, and we’d stand in the kitchen and eat a cantaloupe I brought over. After that, we’d collaborate on some drawings with words.
Later, I’d go to Europe for a while, then live in a few other states, maybe ending up upstate. We would have settled into a great lifelong friendship by then, exchanging a large number of postcards that were sort of poems and sort of not, some with drawings. The postcards would be like a book just for us and for whoever came to my studio later and seemed worth bringing out the shoebox full of postcards for. There’s one that I particularly like, done in Vermont, with a drawing of one lone shoe. How is the energy of a person left behind in a lone shoe like that, or in a postcard?
[I’m not too far off here in linking heterosexual romance with Joe Brainard. In Joe: A Memoir of Joe Brainard, Ron Padgett writes, “At various times Joe was strongly attracted some of his smart, beautiful, talented women friends.” In fact, in 1972, Joe wrote, “One thing I want to do before I die is to make it with Anne Waldman, without offending Michael Brownstein [her boyfriend]. The old have your cake and eat it too bit. The story of my life. And now that I think about it, making it with Michael Brownstein, without offending Anne Waldman, wouldn’t be bad either.”]
8) William Blake and Christina Rossetti by Gabriel Don
9) Louise Bogan by Gregory Crosby
No more pronouncements on lousy verse. No more hidden competition. No more struggling not to be a square. Not square, but severe. They hang the word restrained round your white neck like a choker, but an elegant one, simple, black. Lace-curtain Irish, mother unstable; romantic & preoccupied with sexual betrayal. At midnight tears run into ears. I would like to kiss them away, but I wouldn’t presume. The blue estuary of your skepticism, a fire cold as flame. The satisfaction & trap of minor perfection. The drudgery of book reviewing. No more pronouncements… When was the last time someone mentioned you? I’d like to take the arm of “Medusa,” “Cassandra,” your “Women,” & promenade down the boulevard of poetry fierce & nearly forgotten. Did Ted Roethke have you in mind when he said I knew a woman, lovely in her bones? I bet your bones glowed. Especially in the dark. I bet you didn’t suffer fools, least of all yourself. I can’t help but think “Epitaph for a Romantic Woman” is your own. I bet your smile was something to behold, a private supernova of surprise, like a kiss bestowed on the undeserved… I cannot believe that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering; surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy.
10) Marosa di Giorgio by Lisa Marie Basile
Letter to Marosa
Marosa, have you thought of me since we last met? Have you thought of the time I wore my hair like yours? I doubt it. I wore my hair like yours to say, “here, take this as transcendence.” I became a growth, an orchid, a nightshade. A woman. In the end I closed my eyes and plunged my hands into the bucket of the garden and pulled something out; you; sweet and angelic and instant as the sky. I knew it was too late to chase you, you had gone, and I was left at the vanity mirror with my legs open hoping the city would understand: I don’t mean to sexualize you or our world. I mean to let you crawl inside me. So I can give birth to you, or through you, so I can make things like you-like a woman-lantern, a mâché of the self, an in-loveness with the world as it isn’t and is. I fondled the night. I let loose my hair from it’s kindly bun, spoke in a frazzled Spanish and watched the rain fall. Someone told me a monster walked past me, right behind, like a door opening, intentions and all. And I believed them, because you would. Because the ivy growing up the side of the yard house wouldn’t have done that if it didn’t want to own something. I’m owned by something, someone. I’m owned by the world around me like a garden glove. It helps to imagine my own seedlings sprinkled, it helps to imagine us kissing. You’re old and I’m young and it can be very beautiful. Tell me to keep seeing the world this way, because everything else is alone, and my tongue falls nicely into your tongue, because I was born wayward and green. As a letter Unsent. I mythologized you because I saw the spirit carrying her tray of floral candies, and when everyone said, “sleep” I needed someone to say, “it’s ok, this forsaken town is just broken.” We will make love in the centro. We won’t mind the Catholics. They say they see the angels but we know we do.