The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

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APRIL 2020 Issue


      In Progress

   We adjust the background
   so that I am still in a forest
   but of the more traditional kind,
   not made of brick, steel, cement and glass,
   but composed primarily of wood
   and auxiliary vegetal matter,
   aerated with avian sonorities,
   and partially obscured
   by “air products,” such as mist or fog;
   but there is a spacing between predators
   so generous that our Paleolithic relatives,
   wherever they might be watching from,
   would think that life in our world
   was a safe and wonderful thing.

   I pause in the mist or fog, because
   this is where one runs across things
   good for supplementing the present with —
   or what’s left of the present
   after the morning news
   has finished its dismemberment —

   and I found something: When Phil Niekro
   retired from the Atlanta Braves
   there was no longer a player
   in major league baseball
   older than I was. He achieved
   this distinction in 1987
   and has never relinquished it.

   What has happened since then?

   Honestly, I don’t keep track of him.
   Oh, you mean to me? Well, lots of things
   of course, but I’ll maybe get to them later,
   since I’ve been admonished
   for living too much in the past,
   though by whom is lost in the past.
   The Phil Niekro discovery
   came from one of the newspapers
   I perused during the eons of down time
   consequent to proofreading at Forbes,
   where in two years my only good “catch”
   was pointing out that Luxemburg
   was not a principality — as written, a synonym
   for minuscule polities — but a grand duchy.
   Maybe two weeks later, while
   still resting easily on my laurels,
   I missed a typo so egregious that my luster
   was tarnished beyond reclamation.

   So, back to the present —or what’s
   left of the present after the evening news
   has finished gnawing on it —
   where there is no further word
   on the Somali pirates
   who attempted to seize my poems
   and hold them hostage.

   What were your poems doing
   in the Strait of Hormuz?

   You mean the Gulf of Aden.
   You may well ask.
   I wish I were at liberty to say.


So that’s as far as I got with the first draft on my laptop,
while sitting unnoticed for an hour in the shoe store
except by the guy in the chair on the other side of the aisle,
who was keeping an eye on me until my contact showed up —
2 o’clock was that approaching hour — and then he abruptly left
a minute before she, the no-nonsense-taking Mrs. Blackstone,
walked in from my long-past-due assignment;
and when I mentioned the departed observer, she said
that he wasn’t one of hers; and I looked down at my watch
to evade the stare that italicized my blunder,
and saw that it was quarter to three — I had just lost 45 minutes!
but in fact it was 55 years that I needed to go back and fix;
and those alterations would never fit in the space at the end of the file,
but they could offer reflections enough to beguile the obfuscating eye.

                           Tony Towle


Recipe courtesy Greed & Prejudice: Today’s Republican

    The McConnell Sour

Select despicable behaviors and muddle thoroughly;
self-dealing and hypocrisy are customary, but condescension
and duplicity are time-honored as well — be creative.
Blend ingredients until opaque; add bourbon until palatable.
Garnish with pomposity; serve with a cynical smirk.
Note: Furtive dollops of vodka make it a Moscow Mitch.


Tony Towle

Tony Towle began his connection to the New York School of Poetry in 1963, when he took workshops at the New School with Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara. In 1970, Towle received the Frank O’Hara Award, in conjunction with which his first major collection, North, was published. He worked at renowned print publisher Universal Limited Art Editions (ULAE) from 1964 to 1981, as founder Tatyana Grosman’s administrative assistant. Towle has received fellowships from the National Foundation of the Arts and the New York State Council on the Arts, and an award in Poetry from the Foundation for Contemporary Arts, among other honors and prizes. His thirteenth book of poems, Noir, was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2017.


The Brooklyn Rail

APRIL 2020

All Issues