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Five Poems
The Weather-Trumpets

sick and smiling he remembers dances long ago on the shore

and the man or woman who gave him the necklace

touching his ear because it reminds him of his father

the lingam flashes on and off

it doesn’t know why I am looking in that direction

hostile light suddenly shifts and becomes permissive

no help from Henry Higgins or Titania tending her blossoms

he must tiptoe across the pink room

must not destroy the shells heroically laid on the ground

anthills and locusts encircled by trinkets

and then a different locale emerges

tout de suite with spotches

shoes and dioramas and halcyon tour operators


Hagia Sophia took a walk

Hagia Sophia took a walk

if a building, a holy building, may be said

to take a walk

its meanings moved

in a circle

after long hibernation

I tried to ignore the building’s ambulation

the edifice itself wasn’t moving

its significance was walking in a new direction

toward me

though I remained on my ordinary route

I vowed not to alter my path

despite the building’s variation and nearness

eventually its new meanings disappeared

I therefore decided my interlude of stasis had ended

now it was time for my significance to shift

in a pattern corresponding to the mutation I had witnessed


Empty Vinegar Bottle
(to view a multimedia reading of this poem, click here!)

I took an empty vinegar bottle

filled it with tap water

and slowly emptied it

searching for an allegory

I settled for a purge

again I filled the bottle with water

and emptied it

this time I interrupted the emptying

to savor momentary cessation

commiserating with the bottle

I felt a passing fondness

the raspberry vinegar the bottle had once contained

smelled like last summer

or like my idea of what last summer should have smelled like

therein lies my untidy story


Posing Naked with Boxing Gloves

not as pink as the actual purchased hothouse flowers

waiting for no-show acolytes-in-training

no plasticity no carapace

no judgment no amour

despite being, primarily, cream

as if the sweater were masculine

a nude sketch of the twenty minutes lost

under the fingernail on the dream porch

with a sliver through it

stolen time in a shiny booklet

as sung by Vanessa Redgrave

variegated strokes on newsprint

but not the egregious red sunglasses bought in a Baltimore hotel

a pillow formed of words to symbolize breasts

with the correct pronunciation of the singer’s first name

a German 1950s scarf with triangles perturbed the penis

like the storm window I forgot to lower


I never know how to wear my hair
(to view a multimedia reading of this poem, click here!)

I never know how to behave prudently

or style my hair conventionally

or use language or a camera

or wear a white dress and toss my head insouciantly

or wait patiently to be kissed

or understand your disappearance

Yvette Mimieux

Time Machine’s star

riding the film backward to its premiere

I never know how to behave like someone named Rod

I’m not quite capable of 1960

not quite capable of reproducing the loose mark made by 1960

an equivocal curlicue on the empty theater’s screen

Wayne Koestenbaum is a poet, critic, fiction-writer, artist, filmmaker, and performer. His newest book, Ultramarine, the third volume of his trance trilogy, comes out this month from Nightboat. He has published 21 other books, including The Cheerful Scapegoat, Figure It Out, Camp Marmalade, My 1980s & Other Essays, The Anatomy of Harpo Marx, Humiliation, Hotel Theory, Circus, Andy Warhol, Jackie Under My Skin, and The Queen’s Throat (nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award).  His first feature-length film, The Collective, premiered at UnionDocs (New York) in 2021. In 2020 he received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. Yale’s Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library acquired his literary archive in 2019. He is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the City University of New York Graduate Center.