Tim Dlugos
It Used to Be More Fun

It used to be more fun to be a poet

start the day with coffee and a sense

of bowling over people in a public space

with words that tell how I’m bowled over

this minute by the light

that pours across the city and its various shoes

and uniforms of occupation

troops whose ways of life I’d never share

but for the spaces

we separately passed through

I thought that I was different as I filled

those yellow pads with words

written in the styles of heroes

I wanted to be famous as, but younger,

the New York Ingenue School

of poetry and life but now I know

that saying that I’m different

from the rest because I make a poem

instead of shoes and uniforms

is how I drove my car toward death

too long—it wasn’t sloth

or lust or self-absorption

that put me where I ended up,

I was a poet, the same excuse

and boast my heroes used—the one

who was too drunk to see

the headlights coming, the one

who never left his bed, the connoisseur

of cure and re-addiction, the messed-up

child it used to be more fun before I knew

that what I thought I was and wanted

was death and my embroidery a shroud.

Say it loud, I’m not proud

of handiwork like that. I used to think

that poetry could serve the revolution

and that the revolution would transform

the world because the only way

that I could see things ever

changing was from outside

so I hitched my fortune to a threadbare star.

It was more fun to write against the war

when we thought the gifts our heroes

the downtrodden of the world

bore were truth and justice

instead of one more scam in Vietnam

my poems and self-righteous voice

helped give birth to boat people in Cambodia

to unspeakable crimes and now

my “US Out of Nicaragua” rap gives succor

to another ominous bunch of agrarian

reformers, this one with a top cop

whose first name is “Lenin,” a touch

straight out of a darkly funny novel

by Naipaul or Evelyn Waugh

It used to be more fun when other places

seemed better and more noble than America

even the obsessive money-grubbing swamp

of sanctimony that’s America these days

it used to be more fun when poetry

didn’t cost so much and when I didn’t need

the government to give me money to write poems

I liked what poetry could do

to street life, even and especially

when it came from the streets I liked

the poise and energy and grace

of black poets and gay poets and Dadaists

and unschooled natural artists

who fell into the workshops through the open doors

it was more fun before the mass

of canny grant recipients of many hues

took over it was more fun in my director’s chair

writing poems in an attic

than as a director, hurting friends

regretfully in the service of collective goals

it was more fun before I knew

my poetry could never be a spaceship

to speed me far away, or that I’d always be

outside it, like a parent,

seeing its resemblance to

my old intentions but unable

to make it work

and trusting it less

for the truths it told

than for the lies it didn’t

Found In Volume 39, No. 04
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Tim Dlugos
About the Author

Tim Dlugos (1950-1990) was a prominent younger poet who was active in both the Mass Transit poetry scene in Washington,D.C. in the early 1970s and New York’s downtown literary scene in the late seventies and eighties.  His books include Je Suis Ein Americano (Little Caesar Press, 1979), A Fast Life (Sherwood Press, 1982), and Entre Nous (Little Caesar, 1982).  He died of AIDS on December 3, 1990.  In 1996, David Trinidad edited Powerless, Dlugos’s selected poems, for High Risk Books.