ISBN-10:
0393320189
ISBN-13:
2900393320182
Pub. Date:
06/17/2000
Publisher:
Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Vice: New and Selected Poems / Edition 1

Vice: New and Selected Poems / Edition 1

by Ai

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 2900393320182
Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/17/2000
Edition description: NE
Pages: 272
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.80(d)

About the Author

Ai (1947-2010) is the author of eight books of poetry, including the National Book Award–winning Vice. In 2009 she was named a United States Artist Ford Fellow. She was a professor at Oklahoma State University.

Read an Excerpt




Chapter One


    TWENTY-YEAR MARRIAGE


You keep me waiting in a truck
with its one good wheel stuck in the ditch,
while you piss against the south side of a tree.
Hurry. I've got nothing on under my skirt tonight.
That still excites you, but this pickup has no windows
and the seat, one fake leather thigh,
pressed close to mine is cold.
I'm the same size, shape, make as twenty years ago,
but get inside me, start the engine;
you'll have the strength, the will to move.
I'll pull, you push, we'll tear each other in half.
Come on, baby, lay me down on my back.
Pretend you don't owe me a thing
and maybe we'll roll out of here,
leaving the past stacked up behind us;
old newspapers nobody's ever got to read again.


    ABORTION


Coming home, I find you still in bed,
but when I pull back the blanket,
I see your stomach is flat as an iron.
You've done it, as you warned me you would
and left the fetus wrapped in wax paper
for me to look at. My son.
Woman, loving you no matter what you do,
what can I say, except that I've heard
the poor have no children, just small people
and there is room only for one man in this house.


    THE COUNTRY MIDWIFE: A DAY


I bend over the woman.
This is the third time between abortions.
I dip a towel into a bucket of hot water
and catch the first bit of blood,
as the blue-pink dome of a head breaks through.
A scraggy, redchild comes out of her into my hands
like warehouse ice sliding down the chute.


It's done, the stink of birth, Old Grizzly
rears up on his hind legs in front of me
and I want to go outside,
but the air smells the same there too.
The woman's left eye twitches
and beneath her, a stain as orange as sunrise
spreads over the sheet.
I lift my short, blunt fingers to my face
and I let her bleed, Lord, I let her bleed.


    CRUELTY


The hoof-marks on the dead wildcat
gleam in the dark.
You are naked, as you drag it up on the porch.
That won't work either.
Drinking ice water hasn't,
nor having the bedsprings snap fingers
to help us keep rhythm.
I've never once felt anything
that might get close. Can't you see?
The thing I want most is hard,
running toward my own teeth
and it bites back.


    THE TENANT FARMER


Hailstones puncture the ground,
as I sit at the table, rubbing a fork.
My woman slides a knife across her lips,
then lays it beside a cup of water.
Each day she bites another notch in her thumb
and I pretend relief is coming
as the smooth black tire, Earth,
wheels around the sun without its patch of topsoil
and my mouth speaks: wheat, barley, red cabbage,
roll on home to Jesus,
it's too late now you're dead
.


    WHY CAN'T I LEAVE YOU?


You stand behind the old black mare,
dressed as always in that red shirt,
stained from sweat, the crying of the armpits,
that will not stop for anything,
stroking her rump, while the barley goes unplanted.
I pick up my suitcase and set it down,
as I try to leave you again.
I smooth the hair back from your forehead.
I think with your laziness and the drought too,
you'll be needing my help more than ever.
You take my hands, I nod
and go to the house to unpack,
having found another reason to stay.


I undress, then put on my white lace slip
for you to take off, because you like that
and when you come in, you pull down the straps
and I unbutton your shirt.
I know we can't give each other any more
or any less than what we have.
There is safety in that, so much
that I can never get past the packing,
the begging you to please, if I can't make you happy,
come close between my thighs
and let me laugh for you from my second mouth.


    I HAVE GOT TO STOP LOVING YOU
SO I HAVE KILLED MY BLACK GOAT


His kidney floats in a bowl,
a beige, flat fish, around whom parasites, slices of lemon,
break through the surface of hot broth, then sink below,
as I bend, face down in the steam, breathing in.
I hear this will cure anything.


When I am finished, I walk up to him.
He hangs from a short wooden post,
tongue stuck out of his mouth,
tasting the hay-flavored air.
A bib of flies gather at his throat
and further down, where he is open
and bare of all his organs,
I put my hand in, stroke him once,
then taking it out, look at the sky.
The stormclouds there break open
and raindrops, yellow as black cats' eyes, come down
each a tiny river, hateful and alone.


Wishing I could get out of this alive, I hug myself.
It is hard to remember if he suffered much.

Table of Contents

from Curelty (1973)
Twenty-Year Marriage3
Abortion4
The Country Midwife: A Day5
Cruelty6
The Tenant Farmer7
Why Can't I Leave You?8
I Have Got to Stop Loving You9
Young Farm Woman Alone10
One Man Down11
Hangman12
The Sweet13
The Hitchhiker14
Cuba, 196215
Child Beater16
Everything: Eloy, Arizona, 195617
from Killing Floor (1979)
Killing Floor21
Nothing but Color24
Talking to His Reflection in a Shallow Pond27
29 (A Dream in Two Parts)29
She Didn't Even Wave30
Ice32
The Ravine34
The Kid36
I Can't Get Started38
Pentecost40
The Gilded Man42
from Sin (1986)
Two Brothers47
Blue Suede Shoes52
The Prisoner58
Conversation61
More63
The Good Shepherd: Atlanta, 198165
The Mother's Tale67
The Priest's Confession69
Elegy74
The Testimony of J. Robert Oppenheimer77
The Detective80
The Journalist85
from Fate (1991)
Go93
Jimmy Hoffa's Odyssey97
Boys and Girls, Lenny Bruce, or Back from the Dead102
General George Armstrong Custer: My Life in the Theater107
Interview with a Policeman110
James Dean113
Reunions with a Ghost116
Capture118
Evidence: From a Reporter's Notebook122
The Cockfighter's Daughter129
from Greed (1993)
Riot Act, April 29, 1992137
Hoover, Edgar J.140
Hoover Trismegistus145
Jack Ruby on Ice149
Oswald Incognito & Astral Travels156
Miracle in Manila161
Finished165
Life Story168
Penis Envy176
Greed180
New Poems
Rapture189
False Witness192
Sleeping Beauty196
Charisma199
The Antihero201
Rwanda206
Stalking Memory210
The Paparazzi213
Afterschool Lessons from a Hitman215
Chance218
Knock, Knock220
Blood in the Water223
Back in the World226
Flashback230
Momento Mori237
Visitation240
Star Vehicle (My Senior Year in High School)242
Passing Through247
Index253

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Vice: New and Selected Poems 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
plenilune on LibraryThing 1 days ago
Ai is the master of persona poetry. I prefer the work in Vice that comes from her earlier collections. It is blunt, bold, and true to each persona. In the latter works, she uses more rhyme, mainly of the internal and slant varieties, that to me feels disingenuous with both the subject matter and the speaker. A possible exception to that is in the poem (and forgive me if I don't have this title exactly right as I don't have the book in front of me) "Paparazzi" where it works to light-speed staccato effect. Overall a stunning collection demonstrative of a stunning (and missed!) talent.
Guest More than 1 year ago
winning the national book award alone is good enough reason to pick this collection up. 'Child Beater' is another. Ai's early poems are without a doubt her best work. as she got older, her poems just lost most of the skill she exhibited in her earlier collection.