the remnant of a vast, oceanic
bruise (wound delivered early and long ago)

was in you purity and
sweetness self-gathered, CHOSEN

                                • 

When I tried to find words for the moral sense that unifies
and sweetens the country voices in your collage The Friendly Way,

you said It's a code.

You were a code
I yearned to decipher.—

In the end, the plague that full swift runs by
took you, broke you;—

                                           in the end, could not
                                           take you, did not break you—

you had somehow erased within you not only
meanness, but anger, the desire to punish
the universe for everything

not achieved, not tasted, seen again, touched—;

. . . the undecipherable
code unbroken even as the soul

learns once again the body it loves and hates is
made of earth, and will betray it.


  • Frank Bidart, "In Memory of Joe Brainard" from Desire. Copyright © 1997 by Frank Bidart. Used by permission of Farrar, Straus & Giroux, LLC, www.fsgbooks.com. All rights reserved.

    Caution: Users are warned that this work is protected under copyright laws and downloading is strictly prohibited. The right to reproduce or transfer the work via any medium must be secured with Farrar, Straus and Giroux, LLC.

  • Source: Desire (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997)

Poet Bio

What People are Saying

"I cannot say enough about Poetry Out Loud and what the program has done for my colleagues and our students. I have seen what this amazing program does for poetry lovers and poetry skeptics alike."
Craig Lawrence
2014 IL POL Champion Teacher