the ghost


The Ghost
Frank Bidart

You must not think that what I have
accomplished through you

could have been accomplished by any other means.

Each of us is to himself
indelible. I had to become that which could not

be, by time, from human memory, erased.

I had to burn my hungry, unappeasable
furious spirit

so inconsolably into you

you would without cease
write to bring me rest.

Bring us rest. Guilt is fecund. I knew

nothing I made
myself had enough steel in it to survive.

I tried: I made beautiful
paintings, beautiful poems. Fluff. Garbage.

The inextricability of love and hate?

If I had merely made you
love me you could not have saved me.

Photo by Yaoqi on Unsplash

heart beat


Heart Beat
Frank Bidart

ear early tuned to hear beneath the call to end
eating flesh, sentient suffering beings (creatures

bred now for slaughter will
then never be bred)   less   life   less   life   tuned to hear

still the vow solemn and implacable I made as a kid

walking a sidewalk in Bakersfield

never to have a child, condemn a creature
to this hell     as the prisoner

chorus in wonder is released into the sun, ear early tuned to hear
beneath the melody the ground-bass   less   life   less   life

Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

to the dead


To the Dead
Frank Bidart

What I hope (when I hope) is that we'll
see each other again,--

. . . and again reach the VEIN

in which we loved each other . .
It existed. It existed.

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . for, like the detectives (the Ritz Brothers)
in The Gorilla,

once we'd been battered by the gorilla

we searched the walls, the intricately carved
impenetrable paneling

for a button, lever, latch

that unlocks a secret door that
reveals at last the secret chambers,


(the disenthralling, necessary, dreamed structure
beneath the structure we see,)

that is the HOUSE within the HOUSE . . .

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . there were (for example) months when I seemed only
to displease, frustrate,

disappoint you--; then, something triggered

a drunk lasting for days, and as you
slowly and shakily sobered up,

sick, throbbing with remorse and self-loathing,

insight like ashes: clung
to; useless; hated . . .

This was the viewing of the power of the waters

while the waters were asleep:--
secrets, histories of loves, betrayals, double-binds

not fit (you thought) for the light of day . . .

There is a NIGHT within the NIGHT,--

. . . for, there at times at night, still we
inhabit the secret place together . . .

Is this wisdom, or self-pity?--

The love I've known is the love of
two people staring

not at each other, but in the same direction.

Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash



Frank Bidart

You wear your body as if without
illusions. You speak of former lovers with some

contempt for their interest in sex.
Wisdom of the spirit, you

imply, lies in condescension and poise.

… Fucking, I can feel
the valve opening, the flood is too much.

Or too little. I am
insatiable, famished by repetition.

Now all you see is that I am luggage

that smiles as it is moved from here
to there. We could have had ecstasies.

In your stray moments, as now in
mine, may what was not

rise like grief before you.

Photo by Caroline Selfors on Unsplash

against rage


Against Rage
Frank Bidart

He had not been denied the world. Terrible
scenes that he clung to because they taught him

the world will at last be buried with him.
As well as the exhilarations. Now,

he thinks each new one will be the last one.
The last new page. The last sex. Each human

being’s story, he tells nobody, is a boat
cutting through the night
. As starless blackness

approaches, the soul reverses itself, in
the eerie acceptance of finitude.

Photo by Ahmed Zayan on Unsplash


cannot rest


You Cannot Rest
Frank Bidart

The trick was to give yourself only to what
could not receive what you had to give,

leaving you as you wished, free.
Still you court the world by enacting yet once

more the ecstatic rituals of enthrallment.
You cannot rest. The great grounding

events in your life (weight lodged past
change, like the sweetest, most fantastical myth

enshrining yet enslaving promise), the great
grounding events that left you so changed

you cannot conceive your face without their
happening, happened when someone

could receive. Just as she once did, he did—past
judgment of pain or cost. Could receive. Did.

Photo by Kiwihug on Unsplash




The Poem is a Veil
Frank Bidart

V E I L,— as if silk that you in fury must thrust repeatedly
high at what the eye, your eye, naked cannot see

catches, clinging to its physiognomy.

stone hammer


Frank Bidart

The stone arm raising a stone hammer

dreams it can descend upon itself.

When the quest is indecipherable, —

… what is left is a career.


What once was apprehended in passion

survives as opinion.

To be both author of

this statue, and the statue itself.