Thursday, October 22, 2015

"Oh, So You're a Comedian," He Said. "Yes, I'm a Comedian," I said. "Well, You're Not Very Good," He Said. "I Know," I Said.


James Tate

       People were going about their chores. Some were eating
lunch. Others, like me, were just standing around doing nothing,
just taking in the scene. I saw a dozen ducks fly over low
on their way to the pond. A policeman walked by swinging his
club. The firemen were washing their fire truck. Margie walked
out of a shoe store and saw me. She walked up to me and said,
"Have you heard the news? Rosie and Larry broke up." "Why?
They were the best darn couple I knew," I said. "I agree.
They had everything going for them," she said. "Did you talk
to her?" I said. "She said he thinks he's an armadillo. He
eats insects and mud and dug a burrow in the back of the house,"
she said. "He didn't look like an armadillo. I thought he was
a very good-looking guy, always very nice to me," I said. "Whatever
the case, I'll miss their parties. The were always such fun,"
she said. "They were the best," I said. "I've got to run, nice
to see you, Tim," she said. I walked over to the drugstore and
bought myself some toothpaste. When I came out, a light spring
rain had started. The pigeons on the bank took off and flew in
circles around the town. A man walked up to me and said, "Do
you know where the Dome of the Hidden Temple is?" I said, "Yes,
but I can't tell you. It's a secret." "But I'm supposed to meet
somebody there," he said. "Then that person should have told
you how to get there," I said. "I guess he thought I knew," he
said. "Almost nobody knows," I said. "Then why do you know?"
he said. "Because I am the Priest of Nothingness," I said.
"Are you really?" he said. "No, I just made that up," I said.
"Oh, so you're a comedian," he said. "Yes, I'm a comedian," I
said. "Well, you're not very good," he said. "I know," I said.


From Tate's final collection. released less than a month after his death last July, I finally remembered to buy it, fuck me. Click here for many more of Tate's poems.



James Tate

       I sat down at my desk and wrote myself a letter. And
then I threw it away. I wrote my grandfather a letter and
I tore that one up also. I wrote my mother a letter, but
I kept that one. I was exhausted. Three letters in one
sitting. I had myself a schnapps. I looked out the window.
It was snowing. A mother and father went jogging up the
street pushing a baby carriage. A hawk was circling
overhead. My grandfather was dead and so was my mother.
But that didn't mean we couldn't communicate. At least
I could share my thoughts with them. They didn't answer,
of course, but that didn't matter. My mother had been a
nurse and, of course, that helped. My grandfather sawed
lumber and that didn't help, but who cared. He was a kind
man. He made model airplanes in his spare time. I went into
the living room and sat down on the sofa. My father ran away
from home when I was three. My mother never told me why.
We never heard from him again. But I don't think about
any of this. It was a beautiful day outside. Three little
mice tiptoed across the lawn. One of them had its arm
in a sling.


  1. This is interesting: At My Place Of Employ©, I'd saved a link to yr post about Tate's leaving -- and was just re-reading it, only to click to the Top O' The Blog and then see... James Tate.

    We live in one, funky universe, man; and while he's not in it, the poems are, still -- but are not still.

  2. A)speaking of family members, some deceased, as Tate's I WROTE MYSELF A LETTER does, reminds me of a graphic memoir i read this week, Fun House by Alison Bechdel - remarkable - there are a lot of quotes from letters from deceased family members in it - and not just quotes from, but reproductions of the handwriting/typewriting of the actual letter - as has been said, We live in one, funky universe, man

    B)personal annotations relating my own life to tate's dome of the hidden temple

    line 3/4 - here in montgomery village, it is geese who fly by on their way to lake whetstone

    line 4 - our police go by in cars

    armadillo - we have no armadillos here, but at stedwick and watkins mill - the corner opposite the post office - we have "groundhog corner", with a larger and a smaller groundhog currently in residence - about their diet, one source says: "Mostly herbivorous, groundhogs primarily eat wild grasses and other vegetation, including berries and agricultural crops, when available. Groundhogs also eat grubs, grasshoppers, insects, snails and other small animals, but are not as omnivorous as many other Sciuridae. Like squirrels, they also have been observed sitting up eating nuts such as shagbark hickory, but unlike squirrels, do not bury them for future use."

    line 17 - toothpaste - typically i buy pepsodent

    last lines - is our narrator really 'the priest of nothingness'? he asserts it, then denies it - is it the assertion, or the denial, that is the "not very good" joke? does our narrator ("Tim") know where the dome of the hidden temple is, or not? and if our inquiring seeker did somehow find his way there, who is the somebody he would meet? we have here, once again, a poem by tate which is, metaphorically, a rope ladder to the moon - which also happens to be the title of a 1969 documentary film about jack bruce

    1. Thanks as always. Wish you had a blog.

      Yes, he's the priest of nothingness.