Alec Soth's Archived Blog

June 8, 2007

Friday Poem

Filed under: poetry — alecsothblog @ 3:41 am

Kissing Stieglitz Good-Bye
by Gerald Stern

Every city in America is approached
through a work of art, usually a bridge
but sometimes a road that curves underneath
or drops down from the sky. Pittsburgh has a tunnel—

you don’t know it—that takes you through the rivers
and under the burning hills. I went there to cry
in the woods or carry my heavy bicycle
through fire and flood. Some have little parks—

San Francisco has a park. Albuquerque
is beautiful from a distance; it is purple
at five in the evening. New York is Egyptian,
especially from the little rise on the hill

at 14-C; it has twelve entrances
like the body of Jesus, and Easton, where I lived,
has two small floating bridges in front of it
that brought me in and out. I said good-bye

to them both when I was 57. I’m reading
Joseph Wood Krutch again—the second time.
I love how he lived in the desert. I’m looking at the skull
of Georgia O’Keeffe. I’m kissing Stieglitz good-bye.

He was a city, Stieglitz was truly a city
in every sense of the word; he wore a library
across his chest; he had a church on his knees.
I’m kissing him good-bye; he was, for me,

the last true city; after him there were
only overpasses and shopping centers,
little enclaves here and there, a skyscraper
with nothing near it, maybe a meaningless turf

where whores couldn’t even walk, where nobody sits,
where nobody either lies or runs; either that
or some pure desert: a lizard under a boojum,
a flower sucking the water out of a rock.

What is the life of sadness worth, the bookstores
lost, the drugstores buried, a man with a stick
turning the bricks up, numbering the shards,
dream twenty-one, dream twenty-two. I left

with a glass of tears, a little artistic vial.
I put it in my leather pockets next
to my flask of Scotch, my golden knife and my keys,
my joyful poems and my T-shirts. Stieglitz is there

beside his famous number; there is smoke
and fire above his head; some bowlegged painter
is whispering in his ear; some lady-in-waiting
is taking down his words. I’m kissing Stieglitz

good-bye, my arms are wrapped around him, his photos
are making me cry; we’re walking down Fifth Avenue;
we’re looking for a pencil; there is a girl
standing against the wall—I’m shaking now

when I think of her; there are two buildings, one
is in blackness, there is a dying poplar;
there is a light on the meadow; there is a man
on a sagging porch. I would have believed in everything.


  1. dear alec,

    farewell to stieglitz and have a good weekend.

    since you are so interested in photography books, i thought you might
    like to see this one that i just published:

    suprisingly (to me, at least), it was chosen as the international book of the year at photoespaña last week.


    Comment by daniel blaufuks — June 8, 2007 @ 11:29 am

  2. Hi Mr. Soth,
    thank you for posting that poem. it is beautiful. I have have been a big fan of your work for a while and I just discovered your blog. I have really enjoyed looking through it the last few days. The friday poems are a nice touch. It’s interesting to see how you incorporate other subjects like poetry into your blog. I am an imcoming freshman at the University of Dayton this fall, a photography major, and am right now on vacation. These past weeks have been killing me, not having a dark room. I’ve started taking advantage of my dad’s flatbed scanner. But it’s been amazing looking through your blog for different concepts and photographers you recommend. I have a feeling your blog is going to be one of the things pulling me through, photography-wise, this summer. thanks so much!

    Comment by Christine — June 8, 2007 @ 1:51 pm

  3. Last week, you posted on the question “why blog?” I think Christine’s comment provides one of the better responses to that question. And I second what she’s saying; I really appreciate your photography, thoughts about photography (and life), and your voice and honesty.

    Comment by mark — June 8, 2007 @ 2:34 pm

  4. Another excellent poem, Alec. Tx.

    Comment by Jen Bekman — June 8, 2007 @ 5:39 pm

  5. I have to agree with my namesake on this. great poem.

    Comment by Mark Page — June 9, 2007 @ 4:19 am

  6. Great one! Where do you find them?

    Comment by John Sarsgard — June 9, 2007 @ 5:41 am

  7. FYI: I love Alec Soth.

    Comment by Zoe Strauss — June 10, 2007 @ 11:59 pm

  8. Thanks Zoe. Looking forward to breaking pancakes with you next week.

    Comment by Alec Soth — June 11, 2007 @ 8:10 am

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