Three Poems by Tony Towle

If you still have charm
you have been underutilized;

but tell us, which do you love more,
your dagger or the moon?

Now withdraw the question and the dagger both
from the eye of the beholder

and return to the symposium
being held on a rock

somewhere in the sea. Do not allow
the dark impending shapes

to obscure the presentations completely,
and take in the wisdom of the supervising mermaid:

It is only the false penguin that will seek
to count your fish rather than eat them.



Portraits of Three Ladies
Her body was a temple,
where the miniature tinkling of bells would persist
until the visitor’s attention was fully engaged.


Her body was a temple,
on the breathtaking altar of which
human sacrifice was not uncommon.


Her body was a temple,
in which several B’nai Brith meetings
were being carried on at once.



Portraits of Three Gentlemen
On any given subject,
when encouraged by the absence of his wife,
he would squeak with complete authority.


There on the plinth of self-gratification,
attended by sloth and disarray,
his tamest dreams came true.


After a strenuous lifetime spent punching the air
in a permanent sparring with fact and sentiment,
he retired to his identical estate.




If there is a New York School of Poetry, Tony Towle has been involved in it for almost 50 years, having taken workshops with Kenneth Koch and Frank O’Hara at the New School in 1963. In 1970, he received the Frank O’Hara Award, in conjunction with which his first major collection, North, was published. The History of the Invitation: New & Selected Poems 1963-2000 was published by Hanging Loose Press in 2001. Memoir 1960-1963 (Faux Press, 2001) is the story of Towle’s early years as a poet. His latest book of poems, Winter Journey, was published by Hanging Loose in 2008.

Leave a Reply