Oct 2013
The Four Gentlemen and their Footman by Roger Weingarten
Posted in Conte Presents by Tavel at 4:46 pm | 22 Comments »


Pre-Posthumous 6-word Memoiresque in the Key of W


Picture: daydream rowing backwards into reeds.

Remember: moonlit frost on cracked windowpane.

Eyeball: short sleeve, snapped bra strap.

Portray: bad guy of her dreams.

Open: side door of burning house.

Shoot: floored knees weeping infidelity. Nevertheless,


Trace: injured heart’s last-minute tenderness.

Hold: her belly while she heaves.

Undo:  bamboo buttons down her blouse.

Mazel: blocked coronary artery’s acid rain.

Odorize: everything is nothing swimming upstream.

Unhitch: breathless from her booby trap.


Start: confused; depart: doffing fool’s cap.

69ed: whose life? Read on, unless

Words venereal aren’t your ice cream.

Overlap: brother’s M.S./my heart disease

Rogered by overlapping medicated stents’ refrain:

Daddyo Dearest Deposited: into granite sarcophagus.


Marital bliss: albino silky pocket mouse

Ejaculated from corporate ed’s bull crap.

Madre sends hearse to Padre’s domain:

Outmaneuvered: over decades of stepmotherly nastiness.

I love you. I’m sorry. Please

Release me. Gracias.  Bucket of steamy


Excrement’s renewal options: husband bamboozled midstream

Selah! Mom’s Multiple Systems Atrophy houses

Question Dad’s feigned deafness didn’t supersede:

Early warnings of a choke strap?

Inquest: Rogerio’s aint’ hanky-panky nobody’s business?

Nonetheless: love, found and lost, daisy-chained


Through semi-adulterous decades of addlebrained

Horniness. Poet by another name pipe-dreamed

Ecstatic near beaver palace. Bored reckless

Kid scared shitless. Dad leaves house.

Eleven penicillin shots to tush. Clapped

Yen for yoni to poems’ feverweed,


Overspill: chest pains—O spousal beefs

Force de frapped: inside daydreams, regardless.

Warts venereal: ghost-thoughts. Adios, puta madre.


Side Effects That May Occur While Reading This


Dad lost nipple. Married beauty queen. Late ‘45:

On her back, Mom: legs elevated. Forceps.

Upstairs, closeted. Downstairs, Dad, moil: bris

Beneath Grandpa’s leonine Rushmore nose. Furious

Liberated Mom attacks Rabbi inhaling schnapps. Tushy

Effigy’s grainy black and white: Ra Pha El posing


Laid in wait for newborn brother Jeff–suppose

I’d bashed him with Johnson’s powder can? In ’47:

Flung unpinned diaper loaded ala Jackson Pollack’s squushiest

Effect. Tonsillectomy meal wouldn’t fly. O Nurse’s footsteps.

Grandma’s sunlit candied orange slice on glass smiled victorious.

Lightheaded ’73: hallucination of wife’s affair.  Inform pharmacist


Or wipe ass in ‘49 with poison ivy kiss?

Risk: suicidal thoughts. Trick: suicidal flight frozen

In shooting distance, ‘59, of iced-over quarry: lovesick-serious

Or merely trying to drown self pity alive?

Undercover, under bed, Wicked Witch’s fingers crept

Stiffly toward toddler’s bobbing Adam’s apple. Backfiring tush,


Dry mouth, dizziness, bizarre behavior: talking gooseberry bush

Enraged at ‘68’s exaggerated feeling of apotheosis.

Check with doc. Contact shrink. Irritable, hostile missteps

Exalt self-hating randiness in ’96—insomniac suspicions arose.

Psyched caregiver closely observes Ra Pha El nosedive

This swelling of the mouth’s itchy, circumlocutious


Ill-at-ease hodgepodge that refused the family business.

Offspring: Sarah, Jonah, Eli—no close-ups of tush.

Note: You left me with Mom crazed in ’73,

Wendy cries. What brother abandons sister with this

Epic witch? Chased with broom in ‘59, I froze.

If you, my visitant, wouldn’t mind, take a giant step


North toward memory’s rat-tooth-grasping forceps;

Go to town on decreased sexual desire’s luxurious

Allergic reaction to this hybrid formula’s polyphonic prose,  

Reader Dearest. Black or bloody stools?  Shush…

Tranced-out boomer extracted by specialist from oceanic abyss’s

Eureka step number one: Birth canal interruptus? Slow diving


Nipper proven unreal yet present even so. It’s late

’45. Forceps. Bris. Glorious tushy, posed plum blossoms conjure

Son of Mike who talked to strangers. Gone dark.


Curtain Lecture Reversal         


Chloe, your eyelids clenched under the pillow’s marital undress rehearsal,

And your right cheek, like an orchid, blushed if I said a bad word.

Relive your plot to reveal we were quits over a twist-off bottle

Of muscatel, then, keeping chattel and cats, turn away, once more, to screw.

Listing my offenses and your love for Professor X. in an ex post facto dispatch,

You gave that Father of Four two more before his clenched heart failed.


Night of the skunk attacking ducks; morning, our match an old wives’ betrayal

Parked in a nightstand drawer. For what I stole before we met, this terse

Address: through that crowd our eyes locked; our divorce, a shoestring catch.

Lastly, does your mom’s it’ll all come out in the wash refrain still seem absurd?

Deb in a ’69-Chevy-knees-tucked-into a bucket-seat-July-fifth debut:

In a disarray of arms we kissed. Suck my blood, you blurted.


Note the interior light above the marriage of our freckled constellations as skin bristled

At the light breeze over the pond. You undid a chartreuse tie-dyed affair. I inhaled:

Every electric window your portrait; that clawed scar beneath your eye a crescent moon.

Note the years, my rictal vis à vis turning rage into a hurled cereal box’s free verse.

Exhume your 2 a.m. I hate your guts declaration hissed to the dark that spurred

My getaway. Putting up with occasional sex: play me like a cello, you’d recite detached.


You cut my hair before I fled, not my throat. The so there and so long of our mismatch.

Elise, I—goatdrunk, but still finifugaling with Deb—chased you full throttle.

Love, a loose meat sandwich, held until your lust dubbed me Summer Bird.

Lust, a hot chick on a stick, fell apart. Me too. Fidelity to a bedswerving draggle-tail 

Ewe shepherded me to divorce court numéro trois where I couldn’t forgive the unforgivable.

Now, while you fard with concealer, we shmooze about our offspring. Time scoots


By voilà: you, divorced again, and I, wed—winds that blew

Out the padlocked window between us. Your canine houseful, my murder of cats,

Those calls when you’re upset, and hell-bent hikes over woodland trails led to a reappraisal.

How long dear friend since we weren’t speaking, in litigation, or hostile?

Kefira—from an Island-off-British-Columbia phone booth—you assailed

All my long distance dancing around your questions as weasel words.


That you leapt a continent, ditched a robust life to join my theater of the absurd,

Endured this frostbitten heart, enemy’s stratagems, or kids’ ill will, is no ballyhoo.

Remember Bingham Falls, your serenade? Surprise nightingale

Above moonlit roots and water pounding rocks—my grasp of beauty had to start from scratch.

Desire married twice grew under the red-tailed hawk that flew over our carousal

I—bearded gobemouche beguiled—believed would heal the world as we submersed.


Another walk in the dark: trespassing a Florida golf course, wood stork asleep on one leg,

Nonpareil meteor shower, your arms fugling in the humid air. Let’s leave

These failed espousals and extinct words dispatched in a dreamed-up bottle. God, I love you.


Lives of a Moonshine Formalist

     for Adam Tavel


In one, I scraped horsedookie: off the riding boots of a dwarf tag team wrestler.

When Leithauser excreted “Metrical Illiteracy” into The New Criterion every

jackleg poet had The New: Formalism like a cold sore on their lips. My schoolmate

Vladislov and I snowshoed forever up: the ramp of a handicapped lean-to.

When I came clean to not: being an ice-veined private dick or a former one-legged

sous chef or: a Romanian underwater chicken dancer, you can see how a 36


and a 1/2-year old virgin posing as a latent: Republican must: have wished

she had known that the night before. Even your junk mail’s restless,

said Perry the ill-willy: mailman in disgust as he bounded bandy-legged

down the steps, while I tipped a brown: swiss and the mum into a reverie

of falling face first into a drift before a stepladder hammered: my pate. Did I mean to

get a boner, let a big: one, and projectile-sneeze while spinning a soup plate


at an after-school audition for the part: of Captain von Trapp? In Kuwait

City, tensions peaked in 1896 when I, The Sheik, assassinated my brother, The Emir. Annex

the emirate, cried: Saddam in 1990, destroying the National Museum’s sfumato

slide collection. When I, stone: mason and the sickly Christian Doppler’s

papa, dropped a trowel: of hod over his foot, he muttered, Autsch, the Popover Effect. It varies,

I answered in a dream when my animus asked, do: you want your throat slit on a three-legged


stool or a rolled: and tufted burgundy leather couch? Was El Nuevo Formalismo a wooden leg

tennis court Republicans used to chastise themselves for lack of imagination? Did they self-asphyxiate

in heroic couplets?  Above the Corkscrew: Swamp Sanctuary boardwalk, a feathery

creature screamed, Who cooks for you? God, I posited, while: a gator bellowed & slapped with his dick

and a tri-colored night heron guarded his mate warming a clutch: of eggs in her nest.

In ’59, inside: the Carlos and Kay School of Dance, now a kosher butcher’s, Miriam’s elbow careened to


her left and broke: my nose. In the alley, letting me unbutton: her blouse, she boasted she’d been to

Marrakesh with her mama who left her in the hands of a peg-legged

maid who painted her feet with henna, fed: her figs and hashish. Before Miriam nestled

her right hand in my: unzipped pants, I woke on Cold Island in ‘65 to spiders dangling: over my face.

In ’66, Borges’ Labyrinths set me on fire; in ‘69: Rogellio, I married my childhood: sweetheart, Nixon’s

bad as Peron, tell me what you’re writing or: make it up. New World Order humbuggery,


cried Saddam to a chrysanthemum. Leithauser admired Jésus: Levine halfheartedly.

1803, I’m a crow shot flying off with a cheese from a dairy window; 1955, a military pronunciamento

called me to the throne. After: Watergate, La Contortionista Real grabbed my nixon

with her toes, and declared that I should execute: the three-legged

pistolet for La Reina. A midsummer mushroom: my pileus enlarged tore my volva into areolate

patches. I left the world believing Emptiness is: key to enlightenment. Long after Nagarjuna wrestled


nirvana and samsara into one: vessel brimming with nonduality, schoolmate Vladislov,

handing me a flask, of moonshine and a curate’s egg, proclaimed, Hereunto my name: is Ralph. Sometimes,

at 56, old pal, I countered, her: saltiness and my lechery knew no bounds.


Self-Portrait as The Magnificent Frigatebird


This kleptoparasite, a.k.a. Man O’War, silent at sea, all darkness through under parts,

head and back feathers: sunlit and fluffed into iridescence.

En route to Woman Key, sanctuary for shipwrecked whore, I swallow baby turtle climbing a thermal.

Maybe I’ll press my scarlet throat pouch against a white breast, upwind from coral reef.

Aerial pirate, Messerschmitt, I force great birds to disgorge flying fish scrap.

Gathering: a reed in my straight hooked bill for mate number four to weave a frail nest archipelago


nights and days I peer into the wake of Triton’s horses. Highjacker in the clear,

I never alight; I can’t—weak-legged glider—dive through that ultramarine crust.

Frégate superbe, I slap my bent wings against talking drum of my red gular sac to beguile her.

Invertebrate-eater, I dip and snatch squid and jellyfish. Fregata

colonials vulnerable to attack steal mates, nesting materials, eggs and young. I,

Elvis impersonator reincarnated as magnificent—flow from grace, chipper softly, headshake side-to-side at


nesting ground—kack kack to attract another from wheeling overhead regatta.

This Elvis knockoff abandons mate and half-grown chick to molt and breed with others.

Fledgling number one wanted his mother to feed him until she dropped. Dare to forget:

Rakish lines—ravenous, climbing heaven—that drop to forage drifting gulfweed for frogfish.

In a mangrove cay off a coral reef, I, Lord Byron of Misrule,

graceless dust devil in reverse, circle and dive to inhabit this roosting mysterium,


a wandering Jew zigzagging land’s end from the Isle of Man to British Columbia

toting bloodstained bagpipe, kept aloft by forked tail and pointed wing.

Erect, I clack my bill to launch my strawberry inflated pouch’s theatrical season.

Barn swallow of the sea, I quiver, click, wheeze and grate to lure new mate. Ashkenazi,

I flipped my little brother out the second story window into a flying ritual childhood motif.

Rely on one egg to a clutch, rarely two. I


dream Barak asks me to pilot his run for a second term. I prefer, I text back, priapic erection or arsenic.

Protected: but still killed in the nest with torches and clubs—some years no young survive. Marine

oscillations over the Isthmus of Panama, caromed between six years and sixty-seven,

Roger, are you pipedreaming a knife-toting bad guy floating mid-air?  Are you your own Judas goat

trotting out—for birdwatcher glued to spotting scope—your Sagittarius sun conjoined with Mercury the thief?

Rolling over for Saturn in suspenders alias Dad in opposition might help adjust to being less. Father?


Am I forgetting a father’s key ring charm: a lead shmuck paired with padlocked yoni?

Is there a point ? Dead from brain cancer, shorn to the pink. Gulls laughing, wind luffing,

the snake-haired stepmom for the ages shrieks, Why didn’t you call your dying papa?

Sphinx-faced Mom hurls ashtray at Dad. Skin of firstborn split.

Entangled species—lost European tribe and Cleveland flock—in two places at once.

Last shot over the bow for Xmas Island Frigatebird’s fledglings polished off by yellow crazy ants. Honeycomb


flight dream redux : soaring Escher stairs into thick of buddy-buddy Hell’s Angels buzzing cherubini.

Am I blissfully dying of sperm poisoning on 10 pink milligrams of a seratonin-uptake inhibitor,

self-betrayed? Mom playgirled Dad. Splitsville. Elvis Nutty Buddied into oblivion. Frig it. Word.







The Four Gentlemen (四君子), also called the Four Noble Ones, in Chinese art refer to four plants: the plum (), the orchid (), the bamboo (), and the chrysanthemum (). The term matches the four plants with junzi, or "gentlemen" in Confucianism.

Pre-Posthumous 6-word Memoiresque in the Key of W

The word mazel literally means "drip from above." Force de frappe: a force equipped to deal a quick offensive or retaliatory blow. Puta madre: motherfucker; can be used for emphasis among close friends without giving offense.

Curtain Lecture Reversal

Curtain Lecture: wife’s private reprimand given to a husband; Goatdrunk: gets lascivious; Finifugalist: one who loves to delay endings; Summer Bird: cuckold; Bedswerver: cheating spouse; Fard: to apply facial makeup; Ballyhoo: bird with 4 wings and 2 heads that could whistle through 1 beak & sing out of the other; Gobemouche: one who believes anything; Fugle: to make signals.




Roger Weingarten, author of ten collections of poetry & co-editor of seven poetry anthologies, has lectured, taught & read at writers’ conferences, poetry festivals, & universities nationally & internationally. Founder & Senior Professor in the MFA in Writing & the Postgraduate Writers’ Conference at Vermont College from 1980-2008, his awards include a Pushcart Prize, a Louisville Review Poetry Prize, a National Endowment for the Arts Award, & an Ingram Merrill Foundation Award in Literature. His poems, stories, & essays have appeared in The New Yorker, APR, Poetry East, The Stonewall Book of Short Fictions (1973), The Paris Review, & Poetry, among many other journals & anthologies. Ghost Wrestling, a collection, published by David R. Godine, 1997; Ghost Writing: Haunted Tales by Contemporary Writers, Invisible Cities Press, 2000; Poets of the New Century, David R. Godine, 2001; Manthology: Poems on the Male Experience, 2006; Premature Elegy by Firelight, a collection, Longleaf Press, 2007; Open Book: Essays from the Postgraduate Writers’ Conference, with Kate Fetherston, Cambridge Scholars’ Press, 2007, & Stranger at Home: American Poetry with an Accent with Andrey Gritsman, Interpoezia, 2008. You can find his brief lyric essay and poem in Conte 5.2 and his interview with us here.

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22 Responses:

bruce weigl said:

Another sweeping masterpiece by Weingarten. I love the way he is able to extend this powerful narrative to its gratifying inevitability. Bravo!

Gary Miller said:

This is flat-out wonderful. Layers after elusive layer, my understanding of the piece doing 180s, 360s, 540s on the dropping of a single word.Thrilled by the verbal derring-do and bawdy humor; struck deeply by the underlying tones of sadness, loss, and regret. It’s the kind of work that pays off for years and years. Thanks for publishing it.

Charles Harper Webb said:

The verbal dynamo, sand-blaster, tsunami, death ray, life ray, Godzilla-risen-from-the-depths-of-pain-and-outrage-and-love-and-horniness-and-take-no-prisoners-but-do-it with-humor-and good-will that is Roger Weingarten is once again at large. Very large. Thank you, poetry gods, for The Four Gentlemen, and for their Footmen, too.

Maureen said:

“Grandma’s sunlit candied orange slice on glass smiled victorious.”


Go Rogerino!!! What an incredible batch these poems are indeed!

Victor said:

Wow! Somewhere in the interview of 2010 (which I had not read until now) the interviewer asks why Roger speaks of himself as a “maker of poems” (or maybe, “builder” of poems) rather than a poet. I know Roger well enough to know that he was either an architect in a former life or will be one in the next–you can take that figuratively or literally. Now, because of that comment I see his architect’s mind throughout this poem…a masterful edifice indeed, constructed from a life lived to the fullest.

Christina Cook said:

Like all of Roger’s work, this chapbook is a finely-tuned high-performance engine that turns heads and drops jaws. How he designs such dazzling vehicles is beyond my comprehension–and the poems are far from being all-show: the ride takes us deep into ourselves, where we are at our most human. I am simply in awe.

Lunamira of the lake said:

Pyrotechnic odyssey sweeps
the Rubicon of heart and mind. Bravo!

Terry Reed said:

A true poetic creation, saying more than meets the eye. No human experience is unique, but Roger has a way of putting language together that is his alone. Awesome work.

Monica said:

Ah! This is fantastic. What a thing! Bravo! Here is a voice I always need.

Barry Goldensohn said:

What I love about this is what I see in a most of Weingarten’s work: what appears to be a crazy quilt of wildly vaired tone and incident forming in the end a tight design, like the best crazy quilts. Only apparently crazy. Like the great modernist works.

Mike D said:

I am bowled over by the cinematic scope and the incredible twists of language. They keep coming at you and changing direction in the exhilarating way of a great line down a ski run or a mountain bike trail.

Bill Blackley said:

Roger once again stuns his loyal and new audiences with cannon shot and whimsy enough to frost any cake and blow open any door. Read and discover yourself on every page.

Larry Sorkin said:

It’s great to hear this voice again: flamboyant, gritty, honest and unfiltered. And It feels like there’s something new too: the way the scene gets set like a play, then the way we can view the tragic/comic drama (of his life – and our own) made palatable clothed in the humor of extravagant language. Fantastic!

Carolyne Wright said:

Amazing verve and nerve, energy and synergy, gravitas and sass! Whimsy and mimsy! Lyrical AND satyrical. Bravo, Rogerio! Great to see this work!

Diana Pinckney said:

This gobemouche believes in this poem. After a number of rumbling readings and lots of fun, I feel like Alice down the rabbit hole, but really Alice after she stepped through the Looking Glass.
What a ride, Roger. Write on, my over the top friend.

Lochlin smith said:

A free verse poet’s acrobatic manhandling of traditional form, this sequence is raunchy, contemplative, cinematic, funny and smart, loving, satiric, and as carefully orchestrated as a string quartet. In an age of euphemistic cowering, it’s empowering to read language this readable, this charged. A poem that won’t let you down by a word freak of the first order. There is no precedent for Weingarten’s accomplishment.

Conte Online » Blog Archive » Roger Weingarten’s “The Four Gentlemen and Their Footman” Now an E-Chapbook! said:

[...] our ongoing series, Conte Presents. While you can still view the poem’s original incarnation here, we are pleased to announce that the poem is now available as a free electronic chapbook, featuring [...]

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