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THE PROSE POEM, AUGUST 1, 2009

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JAMES TATE

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HER SILHOUETTE AGAINST THE ALPENGLOW

Climbing a mountain is very hard work so we just sat at the bottom of it and ate our picnic. Others came along and actually started to climb it. They were tough and strong but we still thought they were foolish, but refrained from telling them so. They were loaded down with so much equipment they could barely walk on level ground- ropes, sleeping bags, tents, hammers, pitons, lamps, food supplies, ice axes, oxygen masks-whereas for a picnic you can get everything you need into a basket-wine, cheese, salami, bread, napkins. "Marie," I said, "Do you still love me?" "Chuck you, Farley," she said, "and your whole famn damily. You know I'll always love you. All's hotsie-dandy here, thank you very much."

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HONEY, CAN YOU HEAR ME

Alison stared into the mirror and combed her hair. How beautiful she was! "I look awful," she said. I bent down and tied my shoe and hit my head on the coffee table on the way up."Ouch," I said. "What did you say, honey?" she said. "I said we ought to buy a new couch," I said. "I thought we just bought one," she said. "We could buy another one so we'd have a backup in case anything happens to this one," I said. She didn't answer me, but continued to brush her hair. I stared down at my shoes and said, "Something is so wrong there." "What did you say, honey?" she said. I said, "It will be wonderful to be there tonight." "Where's that, honey?" she said. "Wherever it is that we're going," I said. "We're not going anywhere," she said. "I meant here. It will be wonderful to be here tonight," I said. "A little romantic night at home," she said. What did she mean by "nomadic"? A little nomadic night at home. There were times when I worried about Alison. She hovered right on the borderline, about to cross over into her own private realm, where nothing she sees or hears corresponds to anything in the known world. I live with this fear daily. My shoes are on the wrong feet, or so it seems to me now.     

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 "Honey, Can You Hear Me" by James Tate, from The Ghost Soldiers. © Harper Collins, 2008.

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James Tate is an American poet noted for the surreal imagery and ironic stance of his poetry.

In the 25 years after publication of The Lost Pilot, Tate published more than two dozen books of verse, including The Oblivion Ha-Ha (1970), Absences (1972), Riven Doggeries (1979), Constant Defender (1983), and Reckoner (1986). His Selected Poems won the 1992 Pulitzer Prize , and Worshipful Company of Fletchers received the 1994 National Book Award .

Tate's poetry combines lyrical rhythms, surreal imagery, and ironic detachment to confront the sources of modern despair and what he calls "the agony of communication."

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