Duane Locke


The hole in the lapel now had only a stem,
A carnation stem.
The carnation believed in, lived by the categorical imperative.

The carnation went to assemblies and slept.
The carnation wanted to wear a hood,
But the request was denied.

The carnation admired the red fringe
On the tips of its ruffled petals.
No one ever noticed the red.

No one ever noticed the white.
No one ever noticed the ruffles.
The carnation stop believing the categorical imperative.



The poem germinated from seeing a carnation in a cut-glass vase on the table of an imitation Italian ristorante. I don't like to think my poems have ideas, but my poems always do. What I really mean is that I do not like to have ideas substituted for my poem, or my poem reduced to an idea. I want my poems read or heard as motions without stopping points and as verbal and auditory textures and with no conclusion.

The underlying view, a view that permeates my poem, is the Jacques Lacan view that people are spoken by others and never speak themselves. What is spoken by others is a language of lies, for people speak a language of lies. I have said the purpose of the poet is to take the language of lies that people speak and live by and turn this language into a language of truth.