Cathleen Calbert Poems




John Koetheís Brains


Years ago, I got to go to one of

those dinners, you know, one of those dinners

that you think will change your life because they

take place in New York City and every-

oneís drinking martinis and saying nice

things about your poetry and what I

mean by everyone are poets a lot

more successful than you though your hair looks

good, your dress looks good, itís your night, baby,

except the evening ends with lipsticky

kisses on the menís cheeks and hotel sex

with the husband, and then itís back to the

usual schlumping along for what seems

to be the rest of your worthless earthly

existence. You get the picture. That night

was my chance to try a bite of John Koetheís

brains. He sat to my left and kindly made

the offer. I declined, Iím sad to say.

I donít eat brains. They sound like something my

Belgian father would have made along with

his frogsí legs and beef tongue, but it was nice

to be asked. And now I think, yes, I would

like a bite of John Koetheís brains. I think

I could use that. It would be interesting

to taste the life of the mind, to share the

mind of a man who thinks deeply, who is

thinking deeply, I bet, even as I

write this. I admire how his poems

spool lengthily onto each page as he

winds his way through the maze of thinking one

thought, then the next, and though thereís sadness in

this, the loneliness of thinking, I think,

youíve got that, youíve got this companion, like

a bright little dog in your head, a brain

that doubles oneís experience into

reflection like a refractive light

deepens a boring day in the park, say,

whereas Iím bleeding, Iím masturbating,

full of the body, my womanhood, men,

which is okay, but I think a bite of

John Koetheís brains would do me good right now.



Death Reads Poetry



the mother of beauty

ship going out to sea


without pride

without sting

with no dominion

a fine and private place

a sleep

a chance to dream

that good night

where the swan goes

after many a summer

where we are free

an art

like everything else





Cathleen Calbert is the author of two books of poetry: Lessons in Space (University of Florida Press) and Bad Judgment (Sarabande Books). Individually, her poems have appeared in Ms., The New Republic, Paris Review, Ploughshares, Poetry, The Womenís Review of Books, and elsewhere. She has been awarded The Nation Discovery Prize and a Pushcart Prize. Currently, she is a Professor of English at Rhode Island College.





Archived at