On July 8, 2015, the world lost a great poet. Pulitzer Prize winner James Tate, a professor at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, died at the age of 71. An article regarding Mr. Tate and his passing may be found here. An interview with Mr. Tate, by The Paris Review, may be found here.
We at The Austin Review are honored to have published work of Mr. Tate, and as a small tribute, we've reproduced below one of his poems from our third print issue. We hope you learn more about, and enjoy, the important work Mr. Tate has left behind.
MY DOCTOR’S APPOINTMENT
The doctor looked at me and said, “Have you ever stubbed
your toe?” “Well, yes, I suppose I have,” I said. “That could
be the answer right there. Have you ever hummed in public?”
he said. “At some point in my life I must have,” I said. “There,
you see it’s coming together. Have you ever thought of the
Queen of England naked?” he said. “No, not once, not in all my
life,” I said. “There’s definitely something wrong with you. My
guess is that your manganese is off kilter. Have you ever bitten
the head off a chipmunk?” he said. “Maybe once when I was a small
child,” I said. “Ah ha, it is coming together now. Have you
ever masturbated to a picture of Doris Day?” he said. “Are you
crazy?” I said. “I take that to mean you haven’t. That’s very
abnormal for a man of your age. Do you sleep on long train rides?”
he said. “I never sleep on trains,” I said. “Remind me to check
on your pituitary gland. Do you eat watermelon with a knife
and fork,” he said. “I would never do that. You’d have to be
insane to do that,” I said. “Perhaps you are insane. Do elephants
ever chase you in a dream?” he said. “Almost every night,” i
said. “Well, that’s good news, at least. Have you ever wanted
to throttle a panda?” he said. “I know no pandas,” I said.
“That’s very unusual. Has a U.F.O. ever landed in your backyard?”
he said. “Not to my knowledge,” I said. “Very interesting.
Do you wish one would?” he said. “I have no opinion on the
matter,” I said. “Most peculiar. Are you tormented by humming-
birds?” he said. “I quite like hummingbirds,” I said. “That’s
it. I’m afraid there’s nothing I can do for you. You’re a
hopeless case,” he said. “Thank you, doctor. You’re very kind.
This has been very helpful to me. I’ll find my way out,” I said.
He laughed. Half-way down the corridor I was attacked by a
mongoose. I tried to shake him, but I couldn’t. It was the
doctor’s own pet.