June 10, 2021

Robert Funge


You could call me obsessed
or a fool. There’s no future
turning your insides out
arranging words until they’re
comfortable with each other.
And the pay! Just this morning
a check arrived in the mail
for fifteen dollars, for a poem
it took forty years to write.
Standing on the corner
looking hungry and tired, the
Veteran of a Thousand Wars
does better on a bad day.
I show you
how I feel inside, how my daughter
whores for drug money, and my son
ransoms his future for a soul.
I tell you how my father
forgot my name, and my mother
went to the electric table
to have her mind rearranged.
I tell you how I prayed for grace
and was given pain, to show
that all prayers are answered.
I’ve shown you how I died
three times, yet here I am,
Lazarus and Buddha, my
victim and savior. All this
for fifteen dollars and a year’s
subscription. If I didn’t have a job
at the factory, sweeping floors
on the graveyard shift …
And I’ve shown
where I buried myself, covered
my walls with books and paintings,
how I talk to them and they say
This is what you’ve always wanted.
I am my prisoner and my warden.
I tell you how a passing image
makes me rise, and how love
leaves me cold. I sleep alone
in a king-size bed
and spill myself. I confess
in public. I publish my shame.
I don’t judge anymore.
I’ve forgotten how to pray, unless
this is a prayer.
And now I arrange my life
in code, knowing you decipher
more than I show.
They can keep
their fifteen dollars. They insult me!
All I want from life
is sainthood and some poems
that will last. I lied early:
the future is all there is. My gift
is my present to myself, this day’s
condensation of memory.
It saves my life.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001


Robert Funge: “I live alone in a library. I’m retired and busier than ever. I write poems to make sense of the past, and because it’s fun. Always both. These poems reflect his life, his imagination and his idiocrasy.”

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October 26, 2012

Robert Funge


I have a friend who has tattoos
of a skull and crossbones on her arms,
and sandpaper scars, and down her spine

multicolored butterflies; a tender lady
who talks of redemption, and often
washes my pain away.


Sometimes, I am my father,
who thought a laugh worth any price
if paid by someone else,

or my mother,
weeping the morning long
for no reason she could think of.


All my tattoos are inside my skin,
of Mom and Dad, and caterpillars
down my back. My scars

don’t show, but when I speak
you hear my father, and my mother
when I can’t. Sometimes it seems

that tender only enters me
when paper words escape
the silence of my pen.

from Rattle #22, Winter 2004

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July 4, 2012

Robert Funge


When the grandfather dies
there are tears of sadness
from his family. Why is this?

If he has led a life
of happiness and smiles,
then be happy and smile.

If he has had a life
of sadness and unhappiness,
be grateful he is at peace.

If he has seen both
he has been among the blest,
to whom a full life has been given.

from Rattle #36, Winter 2011
Tribute to Buddhist Poets

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January 19, 2010

Robert Funge


She asked if I was in line and I said
I’m always in line for something but
I never know what it is and she said

nothing for what seemed like seconds
and then replied That’s way too deep
before my coffee and I said Ask me

something after we’ve had our coffee
and she said Whatever would I ask
and I said Ask me what my plans are

for Saturday night as we inched along
and she said I like movies I saw Unfaithful
last week and it didn’t have

a happy ending which made it more
realistic and we got our double lattes
and found two corner seats and I said

I saw Y Tu Mama Tambien but the sex
didn’t seem real and she said Movies
never get it right and we had another

double latte and talked awhile and
drove to her condo and lived happily
ever after what seemed like weeks

from Rattle #31, Summer 2009

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October 14, 2008

Robert Funge


Now that science has discovered that cod
get seasick in a storm, and that halibut
(and probably other fish—they’re waiting

on a federal grant of five million
to study the subject) pass gas, perhaps
it’s time to move on. We don’t really know

how salmon change sex
when the going gets tough, how the swan
finds a mate for life, or the swallow

Capistrano. And there must be more to learn
about the hibernation of bears, and why the Cubs
can’t win a pennant. Let’s find out why

the whale beaches itself,
the drinking habits of certain birds,
and how the monarch takes four generations

to migrate north, then another four
back south, and how each generation
returns on time to a place they’d never been.

How can they remember what they never knew?
when in one generation I can’t remember
where I left my keys. Let’s study that.

Let’s study why the long forgotten
flashes into a mind that goes blank
on what he had for breakfast, and mixes

the names of his grandchildren. Let’s determine
why an otherwise serious poet doodles
gibberish when he could be creating

esoteric balderdash. Or better yet
let’s just study that which retards
the advancement of our civilization,

like spending five million on seasick cod
and flatulent halibut, or half a minute
on a bored poet with equally bad habits.

from Rattle #26, Winter 2006


Robert Funge: “I live alone in a library. I’m retired and busier than ever. I write poems to make sense of the past, and because it’s fun. Always both. These poems reflect his life, his imagination and his idiocrasy.”

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