Return to the City of White Donkeys: Poems

Return to the City of White Donkeys: Poems

by James Tate


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780060750022
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Publication date: 11/01/2005
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 706,488
Product dimensions: 6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x 0.48(d)

About the Author

James Tate was born in Kansas City, Missouri, in 1943. He is the author of seventeen books of poetry, including Worshipful Company of Fletchers, which won the National Book Award in 1994; Selected Poems, which won the Pulitzer Prize and the William Carlos Williams Award in 1991; and The Lost Pilot, which was selected by Dudley Fitts for the Yale Series of Younger Poets. He has also published a novel and a collection of short stories, as well as edited The 1997 Best American Poetry Anthology. His honors include a National Institute of Arts and Letters Award for Poetry, the Tanning Prize, the Pulitzer Prize, the National Book Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts. He teaches at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

Read an Excerpt

Return to the City of White Donkeys

By James Tate

HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright © 2005 James Tate
All right reserved.

ISBN: 0060750022

Long-Term Memory

I was sitting in the park feeding pigeons
when a man came over to me and scrutinized my
face right up close. "There's a statue of you
over there," he said. "You should be dead. What
did you do to deserve a statue?" "I've never seen
a statue of me," I said. "There can't be a statue
of me. I've never done anything to deserve a
statue. And I'm definitely not dead." "Well,
go look for yourself. It's you alright, there's
no mistaking that," he said. I got up and walked
over where it was. It was me alright. I looked
like I was gazing off into the distance, or the
future, like those statues of pioneers. It didn't
have my name on it or anything, but it was me.
A lady came up to me and said, "You're looking at
your own statue. Isn't that against the law, or
something?" "It should be," I said, "but this is
my first offense. Maybe they'll let me off light."
"It's against nature, too," she said, "and bad
manners, I think." "I couldn't agree with you
more," I said. "I'm walking away right now, sorry."
I went back to my bench. The man was sitting there.
"Maybe you're a war hero. Maybe you died in the
war," he said. "Never been a soldier," I said.
"Maybe you founded this town three hundred years
ago," he said. "Well, if I did, I don't remember
it now," I said. "That's a long time ago," he
said, "you coulda forgot." I went back to feeding
the pigeons. Oh, yes, founding the town. It was
coming back to me now. It was on a Wednesday.
A light rain, my horse slowed . . .

The Memories of Fish

Stanley took a day off from the office
and spent the whole day talking to fish in
his aquarium. To the little catfish scuttling
along the bottom he said, "Vacuum that scum,
boy. Suck it up, that's your job." The skinny
pencil fish swam by and he said, "Scribble,
scribble, scribble. Write me a novel, needle-
nose." The angel executed a particularly
masterful left turn and Stanley said, "You're
no angel, but you sure can drive." Then he broke
for lunch and made himself a tuna fish sandwich,
the irony of which did not escape him. Oh no,
he wallowed in it, savoring every bite. Then
he returned to his chair in front of the aquarium.
A swarm of tiny neons amused him. "What do you
think this is, Times Square!" he shouted. And
so it went long into the night. The next morning
Stanley was horribly embarrassed by his behavior
and he apologized to the fish several times,
but they never really forgave him. He had mocked
their very fishiness, and for this there can be
no forgiveness.

The Beautiful Shoeshine

There was no one in the airport. I
couldn't believe it, so I walked down hallway
after hallway. No passengers, no airline
personnel, no one in the little shops and
restaurants. It was spooky. I had a plane
to catch. I had to get to Chicago. But
actually that was a minor detail compared
to the overwhelming sense of otherworldliness
I was experiencing being alone in this huge
terminal, which is always bustling with
hordes of travelers and employees.
Finally, I saw a shoeshine man sitting alone
on his stand. I walked up to him and he
smiled and said, "Shoeshine, Mister?"
"Sure," I said. "You must be having kind of
a slow day," I added. "I'm doing fine," he
said. "It just seems the more people fly
the harder it is to see them." I looked
around. Some blurs were dashing
for the gates, others were asking the time
in high squeaky voices. It must be my fault,
just not flying enough.


Excerpted from Return to the City of White Donkeys by James Tate Copyright © 2005 by James Tate. Excerpted by permission.
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Return to the City of White Donkeys 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
abirdman on LibraryThing 5 months ago
A fine collection, in this case of mostly short prose poems, with this poet's trademark wit and impish humor. There's enough darkness to be real without being threatening. Tate is a wonderful poet.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago