This week in the PEN Poetry Series, PEN America features two poems by Jack Nancy. 


The First Time I Read Proust

the first time I read Proust
it’s a booth in a diner,
a once-great American city
defiled under blue fluorescent blue,
over piles of pig pieces
under eggs and over sweet breads
finally awaking for the evening
coffee and blue fluorescence
condemning Proust an eternal nervous blue

as if!

America’s Got Cancer! on the television
I’m watching now
I care
I do
I am happy now
in blue, fluorescent blue
the first time I read Proust
I call 1-800-AGC-VOTE
patient twenty-two


Heavy Lifting (after Roberto Bolaño)

I’m on Amtrak train
drinking wine
my neck’s been shot since the morning
my sister Lola walked on in Yonkers
as she walks down the aisle I shout
because it’s been two years
I shout “Lola! It’s been two years!” —

but it’s been four
and that person is not my sister
and we are in Albany
and they want me to get off the train
but I’ve missed my stop
and I’ve already strayed too far from home



Once a week, the PEN Poetry Series publishes work by emerging and established writers from coast to coast. Subscribe to the PEN Poetry Series mailing list and have poems delivered to your e-mail as soon as they are published (no spam, no news, just poems).