From Seventy-Eight Sonnets (1978)
Poet Paul Grams turned 30 in 1978. His self-published Seventy-Eight Sonnets gathered more than two years of his work, written, organized, edited, and ushered through publication by Paul himself. It was a limited edition of 500 copies, underwritten by 17 sponsors and many more friends and family. The poems, Paul wrote, “are guaranteed to be sonnets, strong-rhymed or worse ... Love, daring, a thunderstorm, anti-intellectual fervor and numerous other themes are gathered here — some trouble for your scrutiny has been planned: undoubtedly they, like many of our dreams, are nothing whose meaning is not double.”
Out of the Deep
Mud-green and somnolent, the lengthy pike
surveys his realm with rhadamanthine eye,
holds sway the waters, does just as he likes:
his intellect austere, his manner wry.
The lesser catfish pay him court and preen;
the diligent and striate bass recede.
He passes like a governored machine,
draws backward his soritic length through weeds.
“Hegemony,” he muses, “implicates;
fishes and waters bow to me because
my state is interwoven with their states —
they are leviathan; I am his jaws,
stern first of fish.” He grins an antique grin,
and all the water-borne make smiles for him.
Another Great War
From well to gearing the great chain of oil
which drives this whole damn enterprise rolls on;
from Black Sea Basin to the battle’s roil
at Kursk oil has impelled us, ridden our guns.
For unctuous hydrocarbons we will die
as the biota died which linked them up:
consume the whole earth’s rare reliquiae
and keep our vigil lit with burning crops.
Priests and high chemists wave their greasy hands;
with maddened gear, arms locked, we go to war
to drive the torch of culture from our land:
thick-blooded vigilantes. Oil is more
and not enough: always we miss the point:
Hitler we cremate, Truman we anoint.
The Consciousness Addict Relates His Experience
You tell yourself that you can always sleep
tomorrow or the next day or the next;
you jerk your gaze back from the scree and steep;
you do arithmetic to stay perplexed.
Even the most far-flung mentation pleases:
name yourself county seats or hum a song —
my best was what a friend I had in Jesus —
and any notion’s useful if it’s long.
From dawn to dawn I hiked myself to thinking,
riddle and drivel, monkey in my mind;
to muffle me I set myself a-drinking,
stupor the only resting I could find.
Geography is fate: upon that cliff
each day rises broken, a bloodshot if.