Adam Fitzgerald was my student at Arts High in New Jersey in 2001. Even at the age of seventeen, Fitzgerald was suspicious of the status of meaning in poetry—especially the sort that came from the “art as uplift” crowd—and rightly so. This was before he had read many contemporary poets or, for that matter, much poetry of any kind. He seemed more interested in Bob Dylan, especially Dylan as an artist who resisted definition. In a sense, the resistance to definition is at the core of Fitzgerald’s poetry. Years after his time at Arts High, his intense study of Emily Dickinson and Hart Crane gave him a firmer ground for his aesthetic of intense suggestion, which may seem like a contradiction in terms, but I believe is accurate to the work at hand. It isn’t an ambiguity of meanings but a fire dance around meaning itself that drives Fitzgerald’s poems forward: “I felt around / for honey, or whatever my memory of / honey was like.” The intensity of his equivocations and evasions and the finesse with which he moves among them give his poetry its distinctive structure and compelling force. He seeks to apprehend rather than to know. At the same time, Fitzgerald knows how to “sit out,” as Jazz musicians call it: allow an occasional direct and even blunt statement to pass among and offset the verbal pyrotechnics. He knows not to scatter a thousand notes where four would do nicely. Still, his poems are thick and lush with sound and are best read out loud, only not in the hyper-expressive spoken-word tradition, but as one would read to experience language come into its own. In this respect, Fitzgerald is a pure rhetorician—pure in the Keatsian sense, which is to say he resists mere meaning in order to render language’s more troubled tones, its more ecstatic sonorities.

—Joe Weil



My ode to failure begins like a girl who awakens in a dream
and realizes the surface of her sleep over ungroomed clouds,
suspended in a vague pleasure of doubt. It continues on then
like a train departing from its track, sluicing invisible foam

and realizes the surface of . . . Her sleep over ungroomed clouds
troubled me. She failed too, the pungent musk of her hair
like a train departing from its track, sluicing invisible foam.
I don’t care about any of this. I miss the person inside who

troubled me (she failed too). The pungent musk of her hair
is all that matters in the lobby where I slept, vacantly foraging.
I don’t care about any of this. I miss the person inside who
hears nothing but the tracing of loss, some minor addenda.

Is all that matters in the lobby where I slept, vacantly foraging,
your shadow? Like cut pink fruit? A sudden shaft of sun?
Hear nothing but the tracing of loss, some minor addenda.
Or hear something, if you want, casually, a crevice in a name.

Your shadow like a cut of pink fruit, a sudden shaft of sun.
But that was before, when we could share our fumbled sex,
hearing something we wanted, casually, a crevice in a name,
in a room of lost boots, where the plum wallpaper was kind.

But that was before, when we could share our fumbled sex.
My ode to failure begins like a girl who awakens in a dream,
in a room of lost boots, where the plum wallpaper was kind.
Suspended in a vague pleasure of doubt, it continues on then.



I was shipwrecked on an island of clouds.
The sun’s pillars bored me though, so I
      set foot on a small indigo place
below orange falls and hexagonal flowers.

I was able to stay there a fortnight,
restlessly roaming the buttered air
      inside tropical rock enclosures,
caves of foliage that canopied dankness.

The humming water and fetid air felt nice.
But gentle leisure—itching, staring—
      distracted me. I frequented streets
in dreams, or in the paintings of dreams.

Large sidewalks of canvassed sunlight
concealed almost a city under the city
      while rivers waved in the distance:
the more you gazed, the more you saw

they didn’t move. I plumbed down
and let that valve go and opened
      a drain of some voice. I felt around
for honey, or whatever my memory of

honey was like. I scratched at things.
Not much scratched back. Everyday
      fantasy became my fantasy, so I
searched my steps in the mist of having

only this loopy world to attend to.
The doors, common and empty, took
      on within the avenues a mindless
smell of applause. I soon returned to

my crazy charting, often zigzagging
between azure doorways. Copulating
      clouds floated overhead. I rested
my head, too. When it came time,

I knew you’d be expecting me though we’ve
never met and hardly a shadow goes by
      without reminding I’m your shadow.
In short, I’ve little to report. The coop-hatch

with its slant roof and missing bolt
misses you. Even so, our childhood sets
      haven’t been drawn yet. How
could they be? You’re still knee-deep

in a brewery, a concoction of mine that
proved you existed. Icecaps are melting
      they tell me. The sea’s loosening its
girdle. The night has lost its prescription.

Newspapers blow up and down the streets.
I confess I knew you had better things
      to do. I didn’t mind, nor thought
of myself as left behind, assuming fate

or chance had set us this way, fragments
on a map, drawn together, tilted apart,
      with only a body of water to connect us
to all those carated memories I imagined.



The moody set quieted down. The assembly
Reminded me of a token seen somewhere.

Anemones and anomies shared their gasp.
Someone lovely broke down signs. Spring’s

On the tele; big daffodilies; ink reliquaries;
Printer plates readying for Summer Fest soon.

Like a saint, I carried your presumptions
To see what was ‘run off’ and what ‘me.’

That object you had moved into the rear
Came priced: to watch a lover’s long nap.

Yet I hate what impinges Easterful nuance,
Gamboling niceness or stemming our talk.

Placards were placed over the corpse-body.
A salutary banister defeated each porpoise.

Then what? A mule strains for pitted reach.
My mysterious speech has one gallery left.

Stewards no longer wizen on high-heels away
To Chelsea, Stockholm and storage supplies.

If cunning is my laughter, as it sees naked X,
how would I ever see you then yourself again?

In the range of the orange pony, a flower
Weighs more than the banality of names.

Daft helicopters wave to stations behind us.
Militant mums pound drums of their dreams.

God bless you. Tucked away, carted away,
And sitting by sprouts in goodly kind fate,

I have a prayer that weakens this treasuring,
Specked with the debris of your wonderment.



Quatrains, peaches and rivers had once
been the clock of his invariable hours.
A swift green apron of someone’s desire
and perishing fire. The city went on.

A crescent tugged at his stolid eye.
Veils of leaves laundered his step.
A thirst in lake-bright avenues meant
nothing. The trout moon dropped.

But now, after all this time and absence,
after the beautiful motors of dusk and night,
after the thrifty nakedness of sleep and day,
how could he account for simple water?

The scent was like a body left behind.
Memory some feeling nibbling his eyes.
Yet that was when he could be located.
And the city, a wealth of fire, went on.



You were living in a thimble situated by a coast
That didn’t have a sea. You fixated on the idea of toast,
a purely epistemological pleasure. It felt riveting:
a bright spectacle of lashes left out on a ledge.

Soon the invasive eyes of another commenting dimension
became the voice of your novel, the tear-sleeted sheet
of “feeling more,” dealing less, the length of a décor
you could peer into for the shortest time, a passage

like a length of loose knots found soft to touch, almost
fitted, longer than theater, being entire and brittle
as the “heroes of the possible.” Chance had its
narration, the way our story continually evolves against

iterations—Germanic in origin, infecting, ruminatory
and perhaps for a sweet morsel that’s still dinted
along a bedpost (sometime), sanctioned in the sleevelessness
that besets us best. What do you think of this postcard,

Emil? In an op-ed I penned sometime in the mid-’80s,
I decreed I would never stanchion myself in either tether
true enough to feel elected to yet another altered ego,
the construction of a lauded poise, the thousand extras

that dillydallied with swaggering polity. Just then you
leaned from my dream-soup, describing “the detail”
like it was your own conservative work-week: epicene,
agile, stupendously frowned upon but lifted up. Akin.

Hooplets, ceilings with oatmeal plushy frames. Orchid
tube-socks with florid handle-bars. Lovely and sedentary,
we said, though better to grimace, puerile as freedom
in the can-opened night with its barbaric embrace. Oh,

for we supposed our love will be as love—a scimitar.



Why do we enlist such innermost privacy?
The pivots of the sea are few and far between.

From cloudy bangs comes some recompense
And folly fluted with large margins of ease.

You were falsetto and harangued with mirth,
Bell-bottoms worn at the top of your skirt.

Gazing Cupid wore bastardly cloths in misting
Parks: salutations of breath and pestilence.

Blank as an abstraction is the abstraction I am.
Or the abstraction I would be if held like a light

In a glass of water up to light in a water of light.
I washed some of the beauty out that dumb day.

Your sobriquet sobered me up. Summer whistled
The laundry away, taking my number, arranging

Dyed shorts, taping my postcardlike friendships
Until a plow became weepily miniscule in bed.

Cloaks, clogs, lionish spittle of stock tenures—
All was yours, so I opened the rugs of my arms.

A city of mint julep crushed in my lavatory ear.
Combing your voice, I came back somewhat.

But in the scrubbed canvas of indoor waterfalls
One must say how this changes and that stays,

Hearing on the lawn the pink flamingo’s call.
Whatever gives green girth is gobbled away.

If you’re happily flanked, then you’re all set.
If you’re tender-loined, then you sun the best.

Even so, cowling at iniquity, a vacuum-cleaner,
One of your sad titles, is still scratching my jaw.



Just as one surfaces upstream to see what one
had been consuming these many churlish,
gulag-y years, so too did I sweep myself up
in clammy quiet unplanned before hence.

At random, I investigate “timers,” deterred vetoes,
plucking an orator’s mug down from the shelf,
examining patchwork on the reverse side of a portrait,
hell-raising not seldom over the tire-farm outside.

Old films, and affectionate bugles that fettle
neatly in a concave dream, they were there, too.
All spit and rust in abiding hum. But I, I had
a new momentum to achieve. A turtled sense, call it.

Bleak striations that had mattered for little in
the great gray suburb—that one time or another,
everyone lives in—suddenly grew luminary, even
as luxury meant rugged oxygen, a conceit of time.

What do you think medicine is about? Is it
about finding a way along other people, those
more lost? Surgeon projectiles? Inexplicable love
of tentacled wetness? Modern gills & frills, etc.?

Whatever atmosphere you are going to live in now
it will be jerrybuilt by programmed discourses,
a diurnal trustiness that comes from splitting
the body, its sententious comb-over. A grave wax.

Yet I’m a person. And thanks to the court’s wandering
sentence, I’ve bagatelles to dispatch, maids’ alarums
to surfeit as much as famish. I dally. I seek proper
chevrons, though these environs are but tame junk.