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By James Tate

The blue booby lives

on the bare rocks

of Galápagos

and fears nothing.

It is a simple life:

they live on fish,

and there are few predators.   

Also, the males do not   

make fools of themselves   

chasing after the young   

ladies. Rather,

they gather the blue

objects of the world

and construct from them


a nest—an occasional   

Gaulois package,

a string of beads,

a piece of cloth from   

a sailor’s suit. This   

replaces the need for   

dazzling plumage;   

in fact, in the past   

fifty million years

the male has grown

considerably duller,   

nor can he sing well.   

The female, though,


asks little of him—

the blue satisfies her   

completely, has   

a magical effect

on her. When she returns

from her day of

gossip and shopping,

she sees he has found her   

a new shred of blue foil:   

for this she rewards him   

with her dark body,

the stars turn slowly

in the blue foil beside them   

like the eyes of a mild savior.


James Tate, “The Blue Booby” from Selected Poems. Copyright © 1991 by James Tate. Reprinted with the permission of Wesleyan University Press.

Source: Selected Poems (Wesleyan University Press, 1991)

  • Living
  • Nature
  • Relationships

Poet Bio

James Tate
James Tate was born in 1943 in Kansas City, Missouri. He earned a BA from Kansas State College and an MFA from the Iowa Writers' Workshop. Tate’s poems have been described as tragic, comic, absurdist, ironic, hopeful, haunting, lonely, and surreal. Many of his poems are character driven, featuring a narrator’s various encounters with a gnome, a goat, an insurance agent. See More By This Poet

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