WR Alum Wayne Koestenbaum in Pen America

A shout out to recent WR alum, Wayne Koestenbaum (librettist of the Opera Jackie, O, whose poetry was featured in Pen American’s Poetry Series.

 

This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features Trance Notebook #15 by Wayne Koestenbaum.

 

 

Trance Notebook #15

                                           [the opposite of Tupperware]

pallid and underage
Oscar Meyer
Weiner cocktail
hot dogs in their
stinky liquor—

__________

cruelty inflicted
in Oscar Meyer pigpens?

__________

two-year-old boy died of
leukemia after being
Best Man at his
parents’ wedding—

__________

I sent my mother
a subscription to the
New York Times,
large-print edition,
though I’m not sure
she can read—

__________

guy without a shirt, red
hair, pants falling down,
backpack, Woodstock
generation nudist

__________

lay on floor for half hour,
googled “nervous breakdown
symptoms,” discovered
that I always have
the symptoms of a
nervous breakdown—

__________

fell into a reverie about
asking the interviewer
to pose nude for me or
somehow making it
clear that he could
invite himself to strip—

__________

I wonder what my
father would say about
nervous breakdowns,
the type of subject
that fuels his eloquence—

__________

don’t overuse
the word “rape” as
(manic)
metaphor for my own
writerly rapaciousness—

__________

tomorrow draw
another crucifixion

__________

sexy guy entering
café thinks I’m over-ogling
him and resembles icy-
demeanored artist
whose neck I hovered
near in pursuit of musk—

__________

eviscerating envy
of sailor
hat akimbo
on crew-cut head

__________

Li’l Abner “I’m
past my prime”—why do
I find that song so haunting?

__________

because I
don’t remember the singer’s name?
because she isn’t past
her prime?

__________

what is a prime,
anyway?

__________

and why did I already
feel past my prime when
I was seven years old?

__________

outdoor hunk
with tight green shorts
rides away
on black bike and
wasn’t aware of my
existence—

__________

we talked about
Lana’s daughter Cheryl
Crane—“our younger listeners
probably don’t know
who Lana Turner is—”

__________

learning
how to make cursive
capital T’s and Z’s
in elementary school—
I never made the
Z correctly—
we rarely
have recourse to a
capital cursive Z—

__________

haunted by Liza with a
Z and other renounced,
betrayed Z’s—

__________

one symptom of a
nervous breakdown is
social avoidance, my
specialty—

__________

my father maybe
relieved to leave Venezuela
in an era before
international long-distance calls
were affordable—

__________

teaching me how
to urinate standing up

__________

why did we call it
a pee-pee-thing?
an ordinary
suburban locution?

__________

Twinkie defense,
Listeria, handjob,
God going commando

__________

—God’s
love affair with Otto Rank,
God’s love affair with
Simone de Beauvoir—

__________

God’s revisions of Kafka’s
“Penal Colony” before
Kafka finished writing it

__________

Miss Paul was my
second-grade teacher,
Miss Paul a funny
name, like
Miss Joe or Miss
Bob or Miss Peter

__________

masturbate on the top
bunk if you’re a girl,
on the bottom
if you’re a boy—

__________

every time I ask
permission she
looks aggrieved—
says “are you
eating celery?”

__________

despite the taboo against
cannibalism

__________

it depends
what fish are used
in the gefilte fish—

__________

death’s
interpreter, I’m
a fat man leaning on
the same bannister
Kafka’s uptight
virile father
leaned on

__________

if he’s so famous
why do I need to ask
this question?

__________

the answer is Pink Floyd

__________

Thomas
Bernhard, My Prizes:
“The problem is
always to get work done
while thinking that work
will never get done
and nothing will ever
get done…”

__________

—the raminer
club—raminer the
phrase Anna Moffo
sings in Debussy’s
“La Mort des Amants”—
to reanimate

__________

profound divas
like Tupperware
or like the opposite
of Tupperware

__________

flowers like escalators

__________

“using” means
rubbing my eyes, their
chalcedony derrières

__________

Kirk Douglas’s “slippage,”
my eagerness to talk
about Kirk’s slippage

__________

one night we had roseate
nipples and blue mistletoe,
one night we were slapped
by our Baltimore painter
boyfriends at a bar

__________

like a long orgasm in
Dynagroove

__________

“Sempre libera” backwards
like Paul McCartney’s death
revealed by playing
“Revolution 9” backwards—

__________

who taught
me that trick?

__________

rescued or adopted by
a queer on Mission
Street in pursuit of
his perfect éclair,
his Patricia Neal
impersonation

__________

inègale Baroque music in
Death Valley

__________

simple indigo
riposte to mystical
cupcake-pink boxes,
Maurice’s Bakery

__________

their glazed
French twists
an untimely message
never measured 

Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems). 

See the original post at the Pen America website HERE.