13 · 2010



5 Poems


  by Jeff Encke





Pythagoreans so firmly committed



                  making love to rich women

      outwitted by their victims


                           happy to impoverish


             professional mourners

         to put on a show of grief


        skimming the oceans in search of

the wind and the waves


                                    spending on the belly

only to find themselves starving


loafing, minding other people’s business


                 no lack of friars

hunting for the same end







because I, who am



           a woman in the right light

so many toiletries, coiffures


                 so many clever ways

                 of disguising the eyes


dressed in royal purple

                  no more than to point out


              that men get rough features

                                             from folly


     whether to place myself

among irrational creatures


or gloss it over with the inborn bias

                                                of mind


                                             even tyrants

      show an attempt

                                   at something


what recompense!

            the coarse skin


                                  bushy beards


and other marks of adolescence







a sad life



can hardly be called life

      except through folly


   no one denies

   how childish men talk


to indulge                the sages of Greece

                who are boozers


                                    masters of revels


people laugh                pay a good fee

         find some ridiculous quips


                                 to stuff the belly

    with hors d’oeuvres


                there could be a party

           I will leave that to others


           dancing and cutting up

to dispel the tedium of living







playing, laughing, as if gods



                the mightiest monarchs

                make their entry for an hour


even savage beasts

                   granted life


therefore not without reason


consider how many ways

a single heap

                        finally understands evil


   fools maintain them

pamper, coddle them


those sour wisemen              

                                      not far to seek


      offer princes nothing      to make

             harsh truth grate


upon tender ears







if you exclude me



       nor the maidservant her mistress

                      nor the teacher his pupil


nor the landlord


                             nor the soldier

        nor one messmate another


                        filled with nature

in many ways       a stepmother


                                 always at odds


                           all the endowments

          spoiled by the sadness of age


    a defect to mortal minds


                       the sweet salve

       utterly unable


but you shall hear


               everywhere takes my part

the other hand


                    indecorous and awkward









Jeff Encke’s poetry has appeared in American Poetry Review, Barrow Street, Bat City Review, Black Warrior Review, Colorado Review, Fence, Kenyon Review Online, Octopus Magazine, Salt Hill and Tarpaulin Sky.  He was a finalist for the 2009 OSU/The Journal Award in Poetry and a semifinalist for the 2009 Walt Whitman Award from the Academy of American Poets.  He has taught writing and criticism at Columbia University, where he received a PhD in English in 2003, and at Richard Hugo House in Seattle. 

E· Poetry Journal


Current Issue Contact Archives Links