This poem by Tony Towle first appeared in Hanging
Loose 82 (Fall, 2002) and also appears in his latest collection, Winter Journey.
THE DINNER PARTY
Ah, life is a reassuring dream that is vivid but comfortably mundane,
said the shmuck aloud to himself as he sat down next to the shlemiel
and indulged in an expansive gesture of certitude that sent the latter’s soup
into the lap of the adjacent shlimazel. The shmendrick apologized,
to no one in particular, and the shmegeggy accepted; while the shlep
shuffled off to the kitchen to get another bowl, and at the front door the shnorrer
pushed past the shlumps to talk his way in. It was the putz, of course,
that had arranged the seating, a decorous mélange of shmoes
crowded in next to the radiator, sweating and uncomfortable
but grateful to have been invited. I have no idea where I’m supposed to sit,
so I leave and go sit in the park, where I hear an avian voice: “Hey,
you don’t recognize me? I’m the pigeon that craps on your windowsill.
Why are you down here on a cold bench when you could be upstairs
eating a free meal? What are you, some kind of shnook?”
Lenny Bruce said that everybody who lives in
In support of that thesis, I offer you Tony Towle, a sandy-haired shagetz who long-ago fled his native
When Tony reads this poem aloud, he keeps it flat and reportorial, a bit the way a Swedish sociologist might present it, say. I had the pleasure of reading it at the recent 70th birthday celebration for Tony at The Poetry Project. I didn’t go into full shtetl mode, but I could feel the spirit of my late Uncle Louis trying to assert itself.
My favorite reading of the poem took place a couple of years ago. CLMP had invited Hanging Loose to present some recently published poems in a reading at the main New York Public Library. We sent Marie Carter, our associate editor and one-time editor of the
-- Robert Hershon