From the James Tate Tribute


Dear Jim, Thank you for that grin
the last time I saw you Hello
we’re still alive. For the blue
mansion constantly under construction.
For the bear at the birdfeeder.
The little plastic parachutist
on Emily Dickinson’s grave.
For welcoming the Witnesses in,
giving them a cookie and getting excited
about the end of their world.
For, I heard from Mary, a Thanksgiving
with 9 pies. I can’t remember
ever not reading your poems.
You were a pyromaniac pioneer.
No, you were a silver marlin.
No, you were who you were
I was thrilled to meet in Bloomington, Indiana
after some nitwit grad student
didn’t pick you up at the airport.
Everything I’ve written is attempting
to rewrite your “Saturdays Are for Bathing Betsy.”
Sometimes the going is slow where
oblivion piles up as snow but
I promise to try like you to write
up to the last grain falling through,
last pump and turn of the fire wheel.
I remember Iowa, the lasagna.
Dara gave me a giraffe that collapsed
when you pushed on the bottom
then magically rectified itself.
I gave you a praying mantis chrysalis.
You signed my birth certificate.

Dean Young is the author of numerous collections of poetry, most recently Shock by Shock (2015) and Fall Higher (2011). He teaches at the University of Texas at Austin, where he holds the William Livingston Chair of Poetry.