Columns » Penny Post by Andrei Codrescu

Poetry Instead


This time, instead of my usually cogent blather, I offer three poems I wrote during the past three years. They answer the questions my readers ask most often: 1) How did you get to America?; 2) How was it being young in the 20th century?; and 3) What the heck is poetry anyway?

Thank you, Andrei.

for Kris, who really knows

I swam over a barbed wire fence.

There was a hair curtain & I scaled it.

Then we closed the window.

A rabbi hid me in his black skirt.

A priest lent me a cassock.

I dressed in a cow skin & munched near the border:

when the bull came I ran like hell.

They traded me for a couple of spies.

I got a pass-key to the Western World.

I made a fake ceiling in the Bucharest-Vienna Express

& curled in there with two of my best friends

& a bar of chocolate. The train went to Athens

instead & we died.

I wrote a letter to the President of America

& he sent Jimmy Carter to get me

with a diplomatic pouch just big enough

if I curled up real tight.

There was a little war in the southern Carpathians

and some of us were catapulted into Yugoslavia.

I married an extremely rich traveler

looking for her roots in my neighborhood.

At about 10 PM on January 1965

I got inside the transistor radio and surfed

the Voice of America to Detroit.

I wrapped my hand around the handle

of my broom and said the magic words:

take me to the highs, save me from the lows!

But how I really got to America

only Kris knows.

Have 20th century

hangover in change

jars good American

change while paper

in denominations

of one million per

square toiletroll

size fills the empty

dreams of Romanians

with numbers not much

else certainly not

sausages on a grill

with new wine in love

in let's say 1965

when nothing not even

communism could stop

the sap from overcoming

the ballyhooed and now

forgotten curtain

I had a youth once

I was very good at it

That nervous energy

is called poetry

when you can't stand

either still or the world

it's that groove

even half asleep

because the pharmacy

of control the chemical

frame around the window

of liberty is stealing

away half the energy

even then the nervous

half-asleep energy

is still poetry

in full bloom

the window open

you crawl through

to get to the bar

and to the girls

is really open to poetry

so this year go there

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