Wayne Koestenbaum

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Wayne Koestenbaum

Conspiracy Smirk

will the pimple be seen as a subset of a larger magnificence

when Virginia Woolf played at the Town and Country Fox Theater

the alphabet disappearing

a dead performer is the most inspiring

the streets stop announcing themselves plainly

the fishmonger but also the street continuing

from Funeral Circle to Primavera Way

when the road branches off into an unknown land

down the edge path again

a new member of the horror club

honored by being invaded

honored by the house guests arriving smashed

hammered by proximity to the sink

the philosopher’s demeanor

when snow is blue

Stonehenge on top of him

because he likes that position as a dad

bucket conditions

she said I yodeled

stem glasses because you think the ending

is as noncomittal as the beginning with her jeans unbuttoned

for hippie comfort and morsels of dinner

shiny flat surfaces never washed

pretending she cared about the fence being smashed

dropping off a book for the sick kid

late De Kooning as symbol of the laden and the luxurious

and the emptied

luxury of being emptied by your deterioration

don’t reward him with the orifice envelope

when he was fifteen his father died

of AIDS he said and

this one is private

because you are alone on the hill

waiting for the drill team to stop practicing

eyes closed like catfish

in the days when I regularly ate catfish

you gathered in Berlin at the café

pretending he was famous as a dad or a stigma

the name became a demonstration of easy listening

101 Dalmations or sangria

were you part of T’s militia

taping up the debris into piles of dilemma

three stacks of dilemma pastilles

but I wasn’t the “I” she had in mind

she had in mind a different “she”

the “she” and the “I” collaborating on our tower of Babel

conspiracy smirk in the leather cathedral

a potage of self-abasement, doubly interesting because damned

Wayne Koestenbaum reads “Conspiracy Smirk”


Wayne Koestenbaum—poet, critic, fiction-writer, artist, filmmaker, performer—has published 22 books, including Ultramarine, The Cheerful Scapegoat, Figure It Out, My 1980s & Other Essays, Humiliation, Hotel Theory, Andy Warhol, Jackie Under My Skin, and The Queen’s Throat (nominated for a National Book Critics Circle Award). His first feature-length film, The Collective, premiered at UnionDocs (New York) in 2021. In 2020 he received an American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Literature. Yale’s Beinecke Library acquired his literary archive in 2019. He is a Distinguished Professor of English, French, and Comparative Literature at the CUNY Graduate Center.