The Villa of the Mysteries

Many poets take you by the hand, and with great care, show you their world and their wisdom, a great gift no doubt.

But, James Tate affords the reader more opportunity than that, his poems present themselves, as if he has swung open his arms and said, “Here is what I see! Now, what do you think of that?” One can wander the rooms of his vision for years, seeing marvels anew and gaining fresh insights. His world never recedes, never dulls. This week I recite from his masterful book, Distance From Loved Ones.
Hear it here! On my Ytube channel.


Saturdays are for Bathing Betsy
by James Tate


I am thinking about Betsy almost all the time now.
I am also thinking about the relationship between
a man and his watch. I am amazed at how each sort
of animal and plant manages to keep its kind alive.
Shocking poultry. Maybe there’s a movie playing
downtown about a dotty fat woman with a long knife
who dismembers innocent ducks and chickens. But it’s
he reconstruction of the villa of the mysteries
that is killing me. How each sort of animal
and plant prevents itself from returning to dust
just a little while longer while I transfer some
assets to a region where there are no thinking creatures,
just worshiping ones. They oscillate along like magicians,
deranged seaweed creatures and their gals, a Nile landscape
littered with Pygmies. I’m lolling in the banks.
I am not just a bunch of white stuff inside my skull.
No, there is this villa, and in the villa there is
a bathing pool, and on Saturdays Betsy always visits.
I am not the first rational man, but my tongue
does resemble a transmitter. And, when wet, she
is a triangle. And when she’s wet, time has a fluff-
iness about it, and that has me trotting about,
loathing any locomotion not yoked to her own.

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