The Poetry Section: Wayne Koestenbaum

by Mark Bibbins, Editor

The Poetry Section

This week, three new poems from Wayne Koestenbaum.

The Bitter Tears of Alexander Scriabin

A novel begins here
but I’m too tired to write it.

I caught a computer virus
while googling “James Caan nude.”

His hairy chest-Lady in a Cage-interrupts
Olivia de Haviland’s neurasthenic woundedness.

Scriabin, pugilistic and naïve,
tastes briny. A bird

shat on my head as I crossed 9th Avenue.
Don’t be so inhibited! My bedspread

in Baltimore was a tablecloth
in a long-ago story no one liked, though I polished

its language. At a funeral
I met my great-uncle Melville,

an arbitrageur, a forbidden planet
no astronomer can find. Petrarchan

means the impossible predicament
of a male lover addressing the precipice

while veiling his voice’s
aperture. Hair patterns

of porn stars are too stylized. No
topiary, please! Transpose me, klepto shaman.

Archaic Awe

My name is Bossyboots.
Liza Minnelli chose me for audience

participation guinea
pig. On a pad

I doodled
Fallopian detours. Later

Liza escaped on a daisy-
festooned tangerine

bike, handlebars
shrink-wrapped, while eating a water biscuit.

Dossier of Irretrievables

Last night at Bar 6
I asked an Icelandic superstar

how to say “I have always depended on the kindness
of strangers” in Icelandic and she told me how.


My father forewarned me
about Simone Weil’s club foot.

In a green Chevy-
the only possible tabernacle

for communicating facts
of disease and deprivation-

he insisted: be nice to Simone,
play with Simone.

An envy molecule,
she will save you from time’s encroachment.


Unfortunately, in a failed
screen test for Rebecca,

Vivien Leigh wore no makeup and revealed
melancholy ordinariness-

uncast Mrs. De Winter,
vulnerable on Waterloo Bridge.


Dr. Schreber’s butt slid away
or offered hairy contiguity.

Dr. Schreber’s butt entered
my house as death ambassador

offering AIDS brotherliness
as surveillance lollipop

to snobs (c’est moi)
with rhinestone glasses and Kabuki macquillage.


I am a flat, white, tongued,
funereal flower

associated with a fried chicken restaurant.
I am a jade tree-

150 years old-traditional
and eligible

for dessert. I am
the palsied boy who annexes the entire yard,

his identity uncertain-troublemaker,
gardener, narcoleptic, dentist?


Hush… Hush, Sweet Colonoscopy
Hush… Hush, Sweet Spam

Hush… Hush, Sweet Careerist
Hush… Hush, Sweet Untimely Death


I dreamt about my typewriter
from Beethoven’s point of view-

a fat man or a man
becoming heavy, wading in bloomers,

his unquestionable testicles a cloud
of implication near seaweed.

Fingering my hole, he became
a suicidal crêche

at high noon, no mother in sight-
merely schmutz on a mono Missa Solemnis.

Wayne Koestenbaum has published five books of poetry: Best-Selling Jewish Porn Films, Model Homes, The Milk of Inquiry, Rhapsodies of a Repeat Offender and Ode to Anna Moffo and Other Poems. He has also published a novel, Moira Orfei in Aigues-Mortes, and five books of nonfiction: Andy Warhol, Cleavage, Jackie Under My Skin, The Queen’s Throat (a National Book Critics Circle Award finalist) and Double Talk. His newest book, Hotel Theory, is a hybrid of fiction and nonfiction. He is a Distinguished Professor of English at the CUNY Graduate Center.

You may contact the editor of The Poetry Section at

Would you like to read more? Visit our vast archive of poetry!