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Edwin Denby



My father was a cheese grater
My mother was a stair
I’m a no-nonsense escalator
Less I couldn’t care
I'm a slick machine but I turn mean
When from inside my parts that glide
I smell the fetor of a musky sneaker
Taking an upward ride
I grab the toes as my slabs close
I grate my steel
On feet that feel
Tom felt that grab
In his sneaker’s toe
He can’t pull it back
The monster won’t let go
The danger peaks
He nearly freaks
Untie the shoe lace, Tom!
He did.
Free the foot slid.
The escalator foiled,
Tore the sneaker, and ate it oiled.

EDWIN DENBY (1903-1983), though principally known as a dance critic (his legendary Dance Writings were published in 1986), was also a semi-secret poet whose work proved to be a major influence on the second generation of New York School Poets (see The Complete Poems, 1986). The present poem commemorates an accident which befell his young friend Thomas Burckhardt, and dates from the early 1970s.

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