Love Among the Bins*


Think, in this battered Caravanserai
Whose Portals are alternate Night and Day,
     How Sultan after Sultan with his Pomp
Abode his destined Hour, and went his way.

It was only a minute between bins (searching
     For the will I am to be the will that is Shakespeare),
Amid the critically grey patches of C.P. Snow
     And/or the redundantly anthological: Ancient American
British Byzantine Greek Modern Oriental Women World . . .

I was singing down bargain barrows and stalls,
     Intoning e.e. cummings, refraining A.A. Milne,
Reading stormy pages from Lear to hear the fear
     Of the real in his nonsense and the queer nonsense
Of the real in fools, kings, verses, hearses, pussies and owls…

But as if out of those untitled leaves of time,
     You came to sift the bins with crisp feminine whispers
That feather-fingered in litany down my spine,
     Searching for Early This, Late That, or Posthumous The Other
And the forgotten period allusions of Last Name Only:

“He is the most important of the Fitzgeralds,
     After all,” you declaimed ambiguously to Children.
Then, after hovering like a muse in Religion,
     You genuflected briefly at Travel. “He may have written
Something about Algiers and Alexandria, at that time, as well.”

You can what you’re able to do, O Lex
     Legendi! In pencil skirt and penciled eyes,
You index finger put to crimson lips collects
     By their purse the pebbled pearls of Demosthenes,
While other letters scatter, inspirited by your catalog

Of silence. Thus, overdue, my love was indexed:
     Like the frank contents in an earnest table;
The sincerely erotic in the merely episodic;
     The Dick Diver in my translation, the Calypso in yours;
Never again to leave this lovely, enchanted, bookmarked aisle.

*I tried to post this on Rufus McCain’s Facebook Page in honor of his being put in charge of the prison library and license plate pressings. Naturally, I made a hash of it – so hopefully he’ll see this and post it himself on his page…



  1. Quin Finnegan says

    I like the last word especially … it’s a hoot!

    Much of what goes before it is beyond me. I grok many, even most of the individual references within each stanza—C.P. Snow, Dick Diver, and everything in between, but somehow I can’t get much purchase on the whole thing. I’ll keep trying.

    • Most of it is word play – although the references have within the word play an ultimate part to play in the poem. C.P. Snow, the ultimate academic novelist, etc. It’s gentle satire, of course, as the librarian I had in mind, who I’d run into in college (almost literally – my high pile of books and her rolling book cart came close to rehearsing the Tragedy of the Cunard Liner and the Iceberg). This event took place before I was married. Due to her beauty and depths, she was more an object of flirtation than skewering…


      • Er, I meant White Star liner…


      • Quin Finnegan says

        Well, I feel much better now … there’s no way I could have known that. I was trying to turn it into a Zelda/Francis thing, and I couldn’t figure out which end to pick up first.

        • Well, it is at heart still an accessible love poem (I hope!) – or crush poem, I guess.

          Or maybe not.

          “I’m a poet!” (Fail.)


          • Quin Finnegan says

            Certainly … it’s just that you have written a number of poems with fictional voice (that one set in ancient Egypt comes to mind, but there are a number of others), so without context and with so many references, I start looking around within the poem for clues to who might be speaking.

        • As I think about it – I wrote this a long time ago – it’s also an attempt to work the Decons into the poem – which Fitzgerald is the true Fitzgerald – the translator of Omar (Edward), the translator of Homer (Robert), or the translator of No More (F.S.)?

          The center does not hold unless love be it…? Something like that, anyway.


  2. Quin Finnegan says

    That fellow underneath the poem actually looks a little like McCain. It’s the same goatee, if not quite the same haircut.

  3. Quin Finnegan says

    At the Girard conference this summer, the scholar who followed me did a Girardian reading of the Great Gatsby, which worked pretty well. This Side of Paradise would have worked well, too, although I can’t help but think the whole psychiatric enterprise has tripped up many a half decent writer. Ross MacDonald is another example. There’s maybe one novelist who has the chops to handle the material well, and we all know who that is.

    • Quin Finnegan says

      Well, Nabokov as well, so that’s two. And I’m sure there are others.

      This is babbling, and has no real bearing on your poem. Which I like, no matter how much I fail to understand!

      I’m hoping to draw Louise into this conversation …

  4. Big Jon Bully says

    Amazing poem and exchange, thanks so much.

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