In Focus

‘A Long Poem for Eleanor Who Collects the Blood of Poets’ (1965)

Diane Wakoski’s ‘A Long Poem for Eleanor Who Collects the Blood of Poets’ was written in 1965 in response to Wakoski’s involvement in Blood of a Poet Box 1965–8 (Tate T14882) by Eleanor Antin. It was first published in the anthology Dancing on the Grave of a Son of a Bitch (1973) by Black Sparrow Press in Los Angeles.

A Long Poem for Eleanor Who Collects the Blood of Poets

this blood is very red & thick
having the political energy to keep warm
at night.
My feet get very cold
and I often wonder if there is
something wrong with them,
but I am told, it’s a circulation problem.
Blood again.
Too hot or too cold
all because of blood

this blood is thick & it was very hard to get
out of the finger.
My fingers have always had a very
special significance to me;
perhaps that is why I have been fascinated by
& suspicious of rings
for so long

The only real subject of conversation these days
is justice. David says I have a very
wicked sense of justice. That is
But I don’t believe in physical sufferings.
I believe everyone should have to have emotional sufferings.
those, we can all survive.
No one should ever have to shed blood
unless he wants to.
The blood of a poet is given
because the poet wants to see what
he’s made of.

Blood is manufactured in the bones.
It would be somewhat harder,
but mightn’t you also start the bones
of the poets
Question is
what constitutes the blood & bone
of a poet?
Or is it just like any other man?

Your collections
give me the feeling
that this country would be better off
if poets had nothing
to do
with government.
Poets giving their blood
so easily
give me the impression
that a poet is
always ready
to give his life
his blood and bone
for what he believes.
Belief makes us choose between gladiolas
& carnations,
but it makes us hurt others.
Always because they’ve hurt us
or we’re afraid they will someday hurt us.

Poets are too worried about hurting.
Too afraid of hurt
Too willing to be hurt
A man like that
Couldn’t make a good president.

The greatest disillusionment about poets
is that they don’t practice what they preach.

Here is a lovely lady
stroking the ass of
what I must assume is another lovely lady
with a flower, a foxglove, perhaps,
or some 6th century version of
a fresia, deadly nightshade another possibility.
Have you ever noticed the names of butterflies?
Some are quite beautiful,
like the dusky mourning moth
or the timbered dusky moth
or even the sky shattered steel mouthed moth. A wing,
a page,
the writing in somebody’s book
of poems?

I am honored to have my blood in your collection,
dusky wing,
lady of the Renaissance rose.
The blood that slips through our fingers every day
could be used to write a book
where everything is beautiful.
All parts of us grow. Not all our parts are living,
such as the teeth,
those hard nuts & bolts that keep us together.
Anything that is living
You are right to collect relics.
I have woven the butterfly wing into my skin
have attached flowers to the bones in my ear,
have given all objects names
like stars,
have timbered my roof
with relics.