the poetry that matters

Duane Locke 

Duane Locke, Ph. D. (Metaphysical Poetry) lives in rural Lakeland, Florida, and has had published extensively in print and e-zines as well as having 17 print and e-books published.

Duane Locke is also a exhibited widely painter and photographer, a discussion of his work appears in Gary Monroe’s Extraordinary Interpretations (U of Fla press). Recent exhibition, “Outsider Art” at Polk Museum. Is listed in Who’s Who in America (Marquis)





The summer drizzle’s
Translucent hemispheres
Wobbled on
          My old,
Time-creased eyelids.


My eyes are cold,
A blue-bruise cold.


This chill, unreal,
A bodily chill, an anachronism.
No flesh left
To feel the cold kiss of water.
My senses are gone.


I have no eyelids,
I have no eyes.
I have no orchids.
I have only bones.


I cannot recall who I was,
What was my name.


Was my name, Troilus.
I was not Aeneas, for I
Would have never left Dido
To pursuit a lie, the State.
What was my name:
Orestes, Orpheus, Oscar,


Orozco, Ovid, Octavius,


Charles Olson.




Could my name have been
The name that sounded so strange
To García Lorca.


Or Plato, Marcus Aurelius,
Andrew Marvell, Blaise Pascal,
Or Gilgamesh.


Perhaps, my name
Was Tom, or Frank, or Charles,
Or Duane.


I have no ears, only holes
In a skull,
But I hear a loud voice,
A frantic, agitated voice,
A voice shouting from behind bars,
The bars
Segment her face into fragments,
My mad sister
Rants about the dangers of gifts,
A horse made of wood.


I see Venus, a boy struggles
Out of her embrace
To kill a wild boar,
Venus is being murdered
As reported by Swinburne
By a Galilean. Or is she
Being murdered by
Double-entry bookkeeping.
I see a sylvan god with hooves
For feet playing an ivory flute.
He has seaweed hair, starfish hands.
Each toe is an octopus.
I see all this, but I have no eyes.
I only have
Empty eye sockets
In a cracked skull.




Where is Cressid? Where is Diomed?


My bones are browning,
Brown, green-spotted,
Amoeba-shaped, constantly changing.
I see sandpipers on a shoreline
Scurrying away from the foam
That tips the incoming waves.
I recall a line from a Robert Lowell letter:
“Elizabeth Bishop is about to visit
Here for two days…..the dog
Must be sent away
Because of her asthma.”
I see insects with lavender eyes,
Wire-thin amber legs,
Writing in red, poems
On the empty spaces
Of the holes that were
Once my ears.
A short sentence from Jacques Derrida
Comes into my mind,
Or whatever it is that makes
The dead have thoughts,
“I live as if it were possible.”


I asked without speaking, I asked
Something that passed,
“Are you, Heurtebise, if so,
Where is Jean Cocteau.”
“Perhaps, you are Beatrice,
Dante is probably somewhere
In a white rose.”


“There are no white roses here,”
She answered and disappeared.









A week ago there was a white rose
In a white vase
Placed on the slab, white marble,
That covers my coffin.
The white rose was placed
On the slab by mistake.
Some girl thought my grave
Was the grave of her dead lover,
Her lover
Who had died from AIDs.
Her hand shook, she
Spasmodically cried
When she placed the white rose
On the wrong slab.
The white rose is wilted now,
A brown, stiff stem
Whose skin is peeling away
To a new whiteness.
The petals, the leaves
Have fallen, are gone.


But I long for Cressid,
I know she is in the arms of Diomed,
But I still love Cressid.


While longing for the return
Of Cressid,
I had a vision, a vision
That I was Boethius
Translating Aristotle into Latin.
My now sepia, skeletal hand
Held a peacock-feathered pen
That dripped drops
Of dark gold ink.


My Boethius, or my Troilus,
Or my Cruson Ronn translation




Was copied on an ivory-tinted
Rough-textured, rice scroll.
While copying calligraphically
In dark gold ink, I had the insight
That my name while I existed
On earth among the living dead
Was Cruson Ronn, I was a lawyer
Like Franz Kafka who worked
For an insurance company,
Not in Prague, but in
Mobile, Alabama.


I lived not in Ancient Greece,
Ancient Rome, but during
The Dark Ages
When learning was discredited
And ridiculed,
When poetry, art, and music
Were unknown,
I lived during the twentieth-century.


I preferred not to be Cruson Ronn,
Lawyer for an insurance company,
I preferred to be Troilus
In an ancient age when love existed,
Longing for Cressid,
Or Boethius translating Aristotle
Into Latin.


So now freed from the living dead,
I sat on a raw wood stool
Translating into Latin, Aristotle,
My Latin, pure, discreet, No Tully,
Cicero, Ulpian at their best.


But even in death there are
Vestiges from when alive
Among the living dead
To pollute the purest intentions.
The Freudian pleasure principle






Transmogrified my pledge of purity.
My translations became
Subjective annotations,
Solipsistic commentaries,
Even decks of playing cards
Shuffled by Proclus
And cut by Plotinus.


Another Neo-Platonist,
Ammonius, stared
Over my shoulder.
His elbow bone
Had become dislocated
And scraped against
My backbone.
Gazed at the hand of cards
I held and signaled
The contents to my opponents.
But being cheated
Did not upset me
Now that I am dead
As it did when I alive.


The tranquility that Democritus,
Epicurus, Lucretius
Strove so agitatedly to have
Is easy to possess when dead.









Now, the apparition
With the beautiful bones
Returned. But she was
Wrapped in mummy cloth,
As if she had been buried in Egypt.
I could tell it was her
By her shape
That formed the contours
Of the mummy wrapping.


She tore off a scrap
Of her mummy cloth,
Wrapped it over
Ammonius empty eye sockets
So he could not see
What cards I held in my hand.
When alive I hated poker,
Thought it a trivial pastime,
A waste of life,
The pleasure of the living dead.
But here, I had no life to waste,
As I had
When I was alive among the living dead,
But still poker playing
Seemed a waste of death.
Jejune living beings waste
Their lives in trifles and trivia.
When Ammonius, the Neo-Platonist,
Was blindfolded,
He enjoyed being blindfolded,
For the mummy cloth
Over his empty eye sockets
Shut out the sensible world,
Thus he could contemplate
Without distraction the supersensible,




I tried to explain to Ammonius
There were no sensible
Or supersensible in this
Spaceless-timeless region
Where we the dead existed,
He quoted Socrates
That after life people become pure forms,
For all souls in all people are the same,
All souls bend in the universal soul,
Or else there would not be
Enough space to contain
All the souls of all the people who died.
I said to Ammonius,
Can you see, there is no space here.
Space is a concept of the living dead on earth.
You are dead now, there is no space.
But to show his contempt
For my comment,
He stood in the Yogin
Tree position, placed
A finger in the middle
Of his forehead
And proceed doing
Parnayama, but he
Soon stopped, started
Talking, with much
Paronomasia, about
Hegel’s pantology.


Then his bones
Completely changed,
Changed from the bones
Of Ammonius, the Neo-Platonists,
To bones of Apemantus,
The Cynic philosopher.
As Apemantus, he was silent
For he could find
Nothing to criticized
In the nothingness
Of this realm of the dead.




As the change
From Ammonius to Apemantus
Took place,
The card players,
Who exactly resembled
The card players
In a Cézanne painting,


It was then I realized
That on earth
In the world of the living dead
My name
Was not Cruson Ronn,
It was Carson Annerson,
And I was a clerk
Behind a car rental counter
In the Tampa International airport.


It was a boring job,
But I amused myself
By an intense concentration
On the inhalation
And exhalation or my breath.
Also, I observed intensely
The bending back and forth
Of my fingers.











Now the apparitions
Of Ammonius, Apemantus,
The Card Players, and the apples
Had disappeared.


Before the Card Players
Vanished, the Card Players
Were transformed into apples.


Now, all that remained in this
Spaceless, timeless realm
Was my bones
And the beautifully shaped mummy.


The mummy started unwrapping
Her wrappings,
It took a long time,
Although there is no sense of time here.
The discarded wrappings
Piled behind her,
Looked like the Swiss Alps.


Snow flakes began to fall
On my arm bones,
And I now stood on ice
Frozen over black dirt.
I could see the black dirt
Beneath the ice covering,
I could see specks
Of black dirt scattered throughout
The white ice above the black dirt


I felt cold,
Although I had no senses.




The mummy was now naked.
I thought she would be bones,
But no,
She had the apparition
Of human flesh.
She resembled exactly
Olympia in the painting
By Manet,
But instead of being prone,
She was standing upright,
Wore silver slippers.
I looked for the fat maid
Holding the embroidered pillow,
But she was not present..


Olympia stood naked.


I asked her if she
Were cold.
She did not answer
But looked at me
As if I were an idiot.


I quickly defended myself,
No, I am not
Prince Nikoláevich Mýshkin,
I am Troilus from Troy.
You know my father, Priam,
And my brothers, Hector,
Paris, Deiphobus and Helenus,
Don’t you, Olympia.


Yes, I know, your father
And your brothers, but I
Am not Olmypia.
I am Una, who rode a white mule.


I thought it was a white donkey.


No, it was a white mule.


Well, whatever, no
Great matter now.
Do you remember
The Red Crosse Knight?


No, not all.
We have no personal identities
In this spaceless-timeless realm,
And having no personal identities
Sometimes becomes confusing.


I always felt the same way
That no one had any personal identities
When I was alive among the living dead.
The resurrection of the body
Was just another lie believed by the living dead,
Although you Olympia,
I mean Una,
Have the apparition of a naked live body.
It seems only women in this realm of the dead
Have these apparitional bodies.
The men are only bones, and rendered
No more to be phallocentric.
I also heard, although I have no ears here,
That those once women
Among the living dead
Cannot see in this place,
Although it is no place,
These apparitional bodies of women,
Unless the women were lesbians
When alive among the living dead.
Gertrude Stein can see Alice.
The resurrection of the body
Was a lie conceived by sad hedonists
Among living dead, these sad hedonists
Who lived a “Buried Life”
Buried in the sense of Matthew Arnold,
Henry James and the latest interpretation
Of T. S. Eliot.
I gazed at her nudity,
Pale olive-tinted skin.
She was completely naked






Except for an ankle bracelet
Of simulated gold
And a thin simulated gold twisted cord
Shaped to resemble mistletoe
Hanging loose below her navel
Around her slender waist.


I addressed her as “Una,”
But she quickly corrected me,
Saying she was Thais,
And to prove that she was Thais,
She turned to show on her back
The scars left from self-flagellation
When she mortified her flesh
After being converted to Christianity
When alive among the living dead.
The scars are fading away, she said,
From my apparitional body
Since I am no longer alive.
There are no flagellations
In this realm of the dead,
Only among the living dead,


I know who you really are,
You are Cressid.


She disappeared.









The unwrapped mummy
Appeared again, still nude.


The waist chain, the ankle bracelets
Were missing.


She had blue faience eye shadows,
The same blue as the sacred hippo.


This time she was Carol Octnova,
Who was still alive and a novelist.


She had written sixty four novels
About a swamp goddess in the underwater Atlantis.


I gazed at her exciting pale red hair,
Her pale emerald eyes,


What are you doing here,
You are still alive.


She replied, I’m not here.


You’re not here.


No, I am not here.
I am on vacation at Sanibel Island


With my lawyer husband
And our six red-headed children.


I keep gazing at her,
Gazing at her nudity.


I wished she would go away.
It is so tranquil here among the dead.




She would not go away.
She just stood there.


I walked around her,
Observing her body


From different positions
Of perspective.


This was strange since
I had no eyes, had no brain.


I still wished she would go away,
For her presence,


So supremely exalting,
So life-enhancing,


Reminded me
Of how much I had wasted my life.


This is the first time
I had ever had


A vital relationship with the other.
It never happened


When I was one
Of the living death on earth.


Living is such a waste.
There are too many personae in us.


I kept walking around her
And gazing.


She was pure splendor,
But this splendor was


Tarnished, degraded,




Polluted by popular


And prevalent opinion
Of living dead on our earth.


The living dead with their values,
Beliefs destroy


All life exaltations,
All life enhancement.


I asked her, Do you remember me,
Recognize me now that I am dead.
You know, we were once ardent lovers,
Recall Locarno, Montepulciano, Orvieto.


She answered, I don’t know who
You are. How can I remember you
No, I don’t recognize you.
I was never in Locarno,
Montepulciano, Orvieto.


All I see is a skeleton
Standing upright.







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