david lerner | why rimbaud went to afrika

poetry isn’t literary
poetry isn’t sure which fork to
poetry can’t name the parts of speech
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poetry doesn’t like cappuccino
poetry doesn’t want to be printed in a
small press edition with its name on the
cover and get reviewed in 2 little magazines
read by 3 people
argued over by 8

poetry doesn’t care about glory
glory is nice but poetry figures it’s
poetry doesn’t want to get laid
poetry might want to get drunk but
that’s only self defense

poetry doesn’t want to traipse around Europe
and collect stray bits of wisdom
from ruined empires
that it can show like slides when it gets home
poetry has a headache

poetry is a better slingshot
a war you can carry in your pocket
a better way to die
the kind of fire that never goes out
and never gives an inch

poetry wants to be on every street corner
hissing from the cracks in the sidewalks
from the columns of print in the newspapers
on the lips of people on buses going to their
miserable jobs in the morning

poetry wants to be
in the prayers of dogs and the
screams of acrobats
in the terror of politicians
and the dreams of beautiful women

poetry wants to be
an eye through which the world will see itself and

poetry doesn’t want to
die in the gutter
it already knows how

poetry doesn’t want to sparechange strolling professors
and millionaires
wear anything but blood

have conversations with college students about
the meaning of life

because a bad wind is coming
you can smell it in the air

the pollution of the cities
mixed with the odor of rotting souls

the wind will climb

it will have little sense of humor
it will not want a cappuccino
or reviews
or girlfriends
or anything else

except the death of
everything we love

From: The Last Five Miles to Grace by David Lerner. Thanks to Bruce Isaacson for allowing me the use of this poem on this site.

The Last Five Miles to Grace

David Lerner

“Lerner was a broken-down saint if there ever was one. He was an eloquent screamer, a soft-spoken rageoholic, a madman with a great manuscript. His poetry will always be a reminder of a time when poetry in the Mission was spontaneous, magical, and more than a little bit dangerous.” — Bucky Sinister, San Francisco Bay Guardian

David Lerner and I were friends, and he’s gone. David and Julia Vinograd and I were in the first round of Zeitgeist books, 1987. But Zeitgeist had books today that needed to be in the world. Julia Vinograd’s work continues to appear on Zeitgeist, and my new book, Ghosts Among the Neon… well, it had been 15 years since the last one.

And Lerner’s The Last Five Miles to Grace needed to be published. Not only had his three Zeitgeist books sold out, but used copies were selling for $70 and up on Amazon. There are still hundreds of pages of unpublished Lerner poems. So the new book has both a Selected Works and 50 pages of new poems.

And since his death, Lerner’s poetry seems more relevant and important than when it was written. It’s a book of faith and tragedy and brilliant longing, set at the cragged edges of the American dream. I don’t think you’ll see anything similar anywhere else, and that’s a healthy mission for a press. There are other unique books we’ve wanted to do, and I hope we’ll go on doing unique things. Bruce Isaacson. Please read the complete interview with Bruce Isaacson here…

ISBN: 0-929730-72-0 | Copyright 2005

Please click on the covers for bigger image sizes. All photos taken from the book The Last Five Miles to Grace by David Lerner. Zeitgeist Press

Buy Zeitgeist – The Last Five Miles to Grace – David Lerner here.

More books from the Zeitgeist catalogue are available here…

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