James Cummins continues to fuck himself over on a daily basis in Cincinnati, Ohio.  As far as the future of the Fuck You poem goes, he feels as long as there are Angles and Saxons and Jutes – especially those fucking Jutes – there will be Fuck You poems.







In 1971 I went to study in Marvin Gardens,
but I probably should've gone to New York Avenue.
Some people wanted to see the Dead Man in jail
even then, but there was no justice. (Don was in Atlantic
City, I guess, taking a short break on the Boardwalk.
He had that gambler's vision of Park Place.)

Marvin swore they wouldn't let HIM move to Park Place,
so he made his garage over into Marvin's Gardens.
There he could turn the recollections of any bored walk
into poems he tried to peddle on New York Avenue:
"Hashish? Suffering?" Walking along the Atlantic,
he felt sad and gray, and wise, like Oscar Wilde in jail.

I was writing "The Ballad of Reading (Railroad) Gaol"–
trying to be funny. I was from Porkopolis, "Pork Place";
I had to be funny. Funny was my ticket out, to the Atlantic
smorgasbord: bucks, tenure. The King of Marvin Gardens
wanted so awfully to be King of New York Avenue,
too: he'd swagger his tiny little torso into a Bard's walk,

around campus ... Don ground a butt into the Boardwalk,
turned back to the blackjack game. "Go directly to jail,
Toto!" some Dorothy shouted on New York Avenue,
remembering Kansas. Marvin kept his little perks in place:
the young women trying to graduate from Marvin Gardens.
I watched a lot of movies–RULES OF THE GAME, L'ATALANTE–

while classmates got poems published in THE ATLANTIC
MONTHLY. I took a job working for the Board of Walks;
I had a mouth to feed. I wanted out of Marvin Gardens,
badly. I'd spent most of my life in some sort of jail–
too much Baltic Avenue, and not enough Park Place!
I scanned the VOICE, but the rents on New York Avenue

seemed so high: how could I afford New York Avenue?
Something was pouring bean green over blue in the Atlantic–
but it's not ME, I swore over and over to the Park police.
"Not I," they smirked, as they hauled me off to Boardwalk,
where they made me take the long way around to jail ...
All the world's a stage, leaving at noon for Marvin Gardens.

I came home to Pork Place. I'd seen the lights of Boardwalk,
New York Avenue; I'd smelled the gray tang of the Atlantic.
But coveting is a jail. And your cellmate is Marvin Gardens.




from Euphony, Vol. 1, No. 2, Spring 2001 (University of Chicago)









On Watching a PBS Special on Poetry


The pretty, pampered poet in middle age

is telling us we've lost our sense of smell.

But my olfactory tube works rather well,

reading his latest offerings on the page.




from The Epigrammatist, Vol. I, No. 1, 1990.