Alan Dugan: Fabrication of Ancestors

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On February 12, 1923, Alan Dugan was born in Brooklyn, New York, and grew up in Jamaica, Queens. He began his undergraduate education at Queens College in 1941, but after two years he was drafted into the Army Air Forces. He resumed his studies at Olivet College and received a BA from Mexico City College in 1949. For the next ten years, Dugan held various jobs in advertising, publishing and medical supply in New York City while he began his career as a poet.

Dugan's volumes of poetry include Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry (Seven Stories Press, 2001), winner of the National Book Award; Poems Six (1989); Poems Five: New and Collected Poems(1983), Poems 4 (1974); Collected Poems (1969); Poems 3 (1967); Poems 2 (1963); and Poems (1961), selected for the Yale Series of Younger Poets and winner of the National Book Award and a Pulitzer Prize. He has also received the Levinson Award from Poetry magazine, the Prix de Rome from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the Rockefeller Foundation.

Dugan was a member of the faculty of the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and lived in Truro. He died of pneumonia on September 3, 2003.



Fabrication of Ancestors

For old Billy Dugan, shot in the ass in the Civil war, my father said.

The old wound in my ass

has opened up again, but I

am past the prodigies

of youth’s campaigns, and weep

where I used to laugh

in war’s red humors, half

in love with silly-assed pains

and half not feeling them.

I have to sit up with

an indoor unsittable itch

before I go down late

and weeping to the storm-

cellar on a dirty night

and go to bed with the worms.

So pull dirt up over me

and make a family joke

for Old Billy Blue Balls,

the oldest private in the world

with two ass-holes and no

place more to go to for a laugh

except the last one. Say:

The North won the Civil War

without much help from meal

though I wear a proof

of the war’s obscenity.

Alan Dugan, “Fabrication of Ancestors” from Poems Seven: New and Complete Poetry.