Aaron Kunin’s poems are literally outrageous. They are 1) a: exceeding the limits of what is normal or tolerable, b: not conventional; 2) violent or unrestrained in action or emotion; and (sometimes) 3) offensive. At the same time they are filled with the proper concerns of poetry. They are interested in divinity and accident, physical beauty and romantic love. They are inventive but not narrowly so. They are cutting without being ironic; they have pathos without sentimentality. In short, Kunin’s poems belong to the great tradition of the tragicomic. Jack Spicer once wrote that “A really perfect poem has an infinitely small vocabulary,” and Aaron Kunin has outrageously written an entire book using no more than two hundred words. In other words, he has created a drama for two hundred players, a world teetering brilliantly between containment and chaos. Anything can happen here—and does.


For Pleasure 

“Sigh no more,” moron, sigh no more! 
Let laughter have voice, for a change; 
Let there be pleasure, let there be goodness; 
Be kind, be kind and be knowing! 

Let like keep with like, and no more 
Weeping; let rats dance with rats and 
Not be sorry; let laughter last 
Longer than weeping. 

And Jesus will appear to sort out 
The good rats from the rats 
That are left, and the god 
Will say with loud voice: “Be rats! 

And I will be hard with you, for all 
That you complain: may the earth 
Be sore with you upon it; 
May the earth always be in your way.”


The Sore Throat 

     Last to know, and out of the mind, always. 
     Just as you yourself must know, n’est-ce pas? 
     Out of the mind, and wrong from the start. 

Here is the earth, and you are on it. The earth is great: it’s wide and narrow and easy and hard. Here is a throat for you to keep: it contains a voice. I am here: I am a good boy, I am a good moron. What you demanded from the earth, you now have, and there is a god. I wonder why you are weeping. 

     I no longer wish to remember 
     Seeing you gasp with laughter. 

Here is the earth: what’s on it nowadays, I wonder? It’s a pleasure to be on the earth in the age of talking rats. What’s wrong with you is that you always complain about the loud moron. 

     A change in the habits of rats— 
     Rats of the mind, that is. 
Is there a moron? But how would you desire to say it? You have a choice. It’s for your throat. Your talking habits are no good. I will always sigh for myself, for I know that I am the moron. I am sure of it. 

     It is hard to hear the voice of god; 
     It seems so narrow now. 
     But the last of the rats 
     Will remember it with pleasure. 
Now the talking will begin. Jesus will do the talking, and the rats will do the weeping. But hear the voice of the moron: “The eyes of god are upon you.” How much longer will the moron be talking, can you guess? 

And you know—you are dear to all rats. The god of the rats would say—“Don’t be sorry. For pleasure is in the mind, and it is a god.” How great is the goodness of the god of the rats—how good, how wise and kind! But remember the narrow way of Jesus: “Dance and be easy with yourself, but god will damn you for it.” 

     Oh boy, oh brother, oh dear, my dear, 
     It won’t be easy and can’t be a pleasure. 

Always begin weeping: the rats are weeping. Begin in wonder: the rats are weeping and sobbing. But there will be good habits and so on: the rats will be longer. The rats demanded a change. But the rats will always say: “We have no choice.” Jesus cannot remember why; Jesus is wrong. 

     I have to know about the dance 
     Of the good rats. 

You are good for seeing and pleasure; your good habits are talking and laughter. I wonder why you are weeping with your brother, the moron.


The Sore Throat 

The throat is 
sore for a 
word. It is 
sore with word- 

desire, desire 
for the word “she.” 
The word "she": will 
it appear? Will 

she appear? 
(Is the word 
“she” a she?) 
She is a 

word I always, 
without knowing, 
had in my mind. 
Once, to my shame, 

I had no 
what to do 
with the word 

“she”; now it seems 
like I don’t know 
any other 
word. It seems like 

is a she, 
money is 
a she (you’re 

so complete you 
don’t have to think 
about money! 
You have so much 

money you 
don’t know what 
knowing is!), 
knowing is 

a she, and in 
heaven, god is 
a she. No more 
Herr Gott, from now 

on, no more 
seigneur, no 
more boy-god: 
the end! But 

won’t she start to 
wonder: “If there’s 
no word for ‘he,’ 
if everything 

is a she, 
why would we 
have to have 
a word for 

it? If this word 
appears every- 
where, it won’t mean 
anything." And 

at last she 
may say to 
you: “You are 
my own good 

boy. For me 
there’s no choice: 
no other 
boy will do.”


The Sore Throat 

I’m inventing a machine 
for concealing my desire. 
And I’m inventing another 
machine for concealing the 
machine. It’s a two-machine 
system, and it sounded like 
laughter. And I’m inventing 
a machine for concealing 
the sound. You, to me: “Why are 
you concealing the beauty 
of your machine?” Every machine 
has more beauty than the last, 
for everything whose purpose 
is to conceal seems to change, 
in the end, into a sign 
of what it’s concealing. And 
now the sound that once sounded 
like laughter is so loud that 
it seems more like sobbing or 
laughter concealing sobbing. 
All my inventing is a 
complete disaster. It’s not 
concealing my desire, it’s 
talking about my desire 
to conceal my desire, like 
a voice on a message machine 
that would say: “Hello. About 
desire, I’d like to say a 
word or two. It’s not your eyes, 
it’s not the word you say, it’s 
not your complaining voice that 
I desire. All I desire 
is your applause.” It’s hard not 
to hear what the message is 
saying, also it’s hard to 
keep myself from inventing 
another machine to keep 
from hearing it. So invent 
a machine for disinventing. 
This will be the last machine 
I ever invent, and its 
purpose will just be to change 
every machine into shit. 
No more inventing (for me). 
—What a shame. It once was a 
wonder of a machine; now 
it’s more like a disaster. 
—I think he left a message . . . 
—You’re wrong: he just left a mess.


Asshole, Dickhead, Shit-For-Brains 

Dear, if you change, I’m left without a choice; 
Change, if you doubt, for me there is no doubt; 
Doubt, if you’re wrong, I’ll think all thinking mindless; 
Wrong, if you wish, I’ll wish myself in two. 
     Dear asshole, wise moron, don’t toy with me: 
     Wish, wish 

Earth up to heaven, heaven down to hell; 
Hell a body of shameless pleasure, 
And hell is everywhere. Narrow eyes change 
To wide: idea change to fact; fact change 
     To word; word “change” change word to thing. So sure,