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Sat, Oct. 22nd, 2005, 03:06 pm
The Standup Comedian's Poem

I dub this poem "The Standup Comedian's Poem." This poem is the poet's response to people asking him how he's coping with being the U.S. Poet Laureate.

Success

I feel the thick, yellow fat of applause
in my arteries, friends.
Yet I go on, a fool for adoration.
Do I care that when it sloughs off
it is likely to go straight to the brain?

I am already showing the first signs of poetic aphasia,
the words coming hard,
the synapses of metaphor no longer connecting.
But look at me,
down on my knees next to the podium,
lapping the last drops,
then rolling in the stain like a dog.
Getting the smell in my good tweed sportcoat,
the grease on my suede elbow patches,
and for what?

Well, for the women I walk past the next morning,
the ones in the terminal,
wheeling their luggage,
looking so beautifully earnest.
All for the hope that they will
suddenly dilate their nostrils,
squeeze the hard, carry-on handles,
and rise to the ripening odor of praise
with which I have basted myself,
stinking to heaven.

"Success", 2005, Ted Kooser (transcribed from audio)