3 Poems of Adolescent Love & Hazing by Robert Lowell

Bobby Delano

The labor to breathe that younger, rawer air:
St. Mark’s last football game with Groton lost on the ice-crust,
the sunlight gilding the golden polo coats
of boys with country seats on the Upper Hudson.
Why does that stale light stay? First Form hazing,
first day being sent on errands by an oldboy,
Bobby Delano, cousin of Franklin Delano Roosevelt –
deported soused off the Presidential yacht
baritoning You’re the cream in my coffee
his football, hockey, baseball letter at 15;
at 15, expelled. He dug my ass with a compass,
forced me to say “My mother is a whore.
My freshman year, he shot himself in Rio,
odious, unknowable, inspired as Ajax.


The Well

The stones of the well were sullenly unhewn,
none could deny their leechlike will to stay –
no dwelling near and our square miles of waste,
pale grass diversified by wounds of sand,
weeds as hard as rock and squeezed by winter,
each well-stone an illrounded ostrich egg,
amateurish for nature’s artless hand…
a kind of dead chimney. Any furtive boy
was free to pitch the bucket, drinking glass
and funnel down the well … thin black hoops
of standing water. That well is bottomless;
plenty of elbowroom for the scuttled gear,
room at bottom for us to lie, undented….
It’s not the crowds, but crowding kills the soul.



I look back to you, and cherish what I wanted:
your flashing superiority to failure,
hair of yellow oak leaves, the arrogant
tanned brunt in the snow-starch of a loosened shirt –
your bullying half-erotic rollicking….
The white bluffs rise above the old rock piers,
wrecked past insuring by two hurricanes.
As a boy I climbed those scattered blocks and left
the sultry Sunday seaside crowd behind,
seeking landsend, with my bending fishing rod
a small thread slighter than the dark arc of your eyebrow….
Back at school, alone and wanting you,
I scratched my four initials, R.T.S.L.
like a dirty word across my bare, blond desk.



5 replies »

  1. When he’s good he great, tho I felt ambivalent about him for a long time. I saw in his huge & uneven output a manic depressive who couldn’t stop writing because it was the only thing that kept him level. But to some extent now I see that’s what most poets are doing anyway, & he at least bottled lightning more than the rest of us. It’ll be fun to post more of him, I dunno if I’ll lean more towards the early gothic encrusted formal poems or the later looser autobiographies like this

    Liked by 1 person

  2. i’m familiar, only with Lord Weary & the Mills, & Life Studies; i also read his Prometheus Bound. i never had a Complete Poems of Lowell. So i don’t know much of his later stuff.
    It’s funny that you say you were “ambivalent” because of his “uneven output” which really hinged more on experience & a coping mechanism for that. Don’t we all really do that? i wonder what it is about a certain over-indulgence in personal experience that bothers us at times? It’s as if we want this universality from our poets, as if that is a thing that they should focus on to deliver. If there is a local as universal for place, can there be the same logic applied to person?

    Liked by 1 person

  3. It took me a long time to realize what you just said. I thought the same thing about Dylan, an endless career in the public eye with endless, sometimes terrible, albums. (I’m sure that reaction is mostly jealousy that I haven’t had the chance to do th same, even to fail more in public.) But the basic realization came with somebody like Stevens: his essential poems to me are no doubt different from what you’d say, or somebody else. In this sense everyone’s uneven. Nowadays I’m content to let a poet do what he will, whatever it is, just keep writing. The final chips won’t fall for generations anyway. There’s only the trying & the making.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. i don’t listen to anything by Dylan after Desire, just isn’t worth it.

    Seems a poet can’t know the exact recipe every time to make people see the poem they wrote as essential. i think the context of a collection helps. This is why i don’t like unpublished poems, they don’t have that background context poems that belong to a collection have. This is why, for my own benefit really, i always write with a title, subject, theme or some such in mind, broad enough to let me move, but restricted enough to establish that, at some point, the pursuit will organically come to exhaustion.
    Poets have to be uneven or they might just end up churning out the same poem in a different order. Its all a sort of trial & error: so long as they write they might just get that right alchemical solution that produces something of value, but if they are too timid to write for fear of failure, then what chance is there?

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