The Noble Savage

(for Jennifer Rubin)

My favorite summer swim’s a sweat
Soaking clothes five times a day
And yet so Scandinavian—What happened?
Did an African gene slip in somehow
To make me so in love with heat?
“Absolutely not!” says AncestryDNA.
Though I do sometimes roam a plain
And build a shack of sticks and mud
In my colder days of mind shut in
With you, my Aryan love, in January.
Or when the windows frozen shut we theorize
Those winter nights all about Nietzsche.
But also practicalities—that soaring
Propane bill, for one, and how to pay it.
Oh, the realism of my dreams had I
Quit school in 7th grade, opted
For a life in Trades, not this joyless PhD
In ‘Thanatology’.  But then we always
Hug and kiss, make our peace with love and death,
Medicate our modern selves—blissfully I
Default to plain, you tell me I’m the best there is
With broken sticks and mud.

On Making Sense

Perhaps an early sign of my poetic inclination was the observation by closest friends to the effect that nothing I just said made any sense.   It was as if I were answering some stars.  And a tendency to alliterate was already present by middle school—hear the g’s in this scribble I made in a classmate’s yearbook, photographed and emailed to me 50 years later:

Good wishes to a
Sweet, good—girl or lady.

Now that’s the kind of poetry that brings tears to my eyes.

Dirty Rat

(I rarely submit poems for publication or contests, but if I can ever afford a secretary that might change.  I do, however, have access to one of the most adept while merciless poetry critics in New England; so in the event that I do write an almost perfect poem I can confirm it.  The handful of poems I have submitted for publication usually witness a humorous touch, albeit darkly.  This is one of those, titled “Dirty Rat,” written per the guidelines of the Press53 Summer Challenge.  It was rejected.  Nevertheless I still think it rivals Ezra Pound’s thrifty imagism at its best.)

Because I’m your eighth hubby
Fetch me a lager
Right away.

You’ll find it in the freezer
Keep it cold and rush
Don’t delay.

And though I seem demanding
Hold the arsenic
For later

Save it for truly
Dirty rats. 

Some Trees

With how many trees did I linger
A fugitive child
Escaped from my insanity
And hear their bark console:
“My boy, you have a destiny, branch
By branch by branch by branch
Your summit is the sky; so climb
And climb and climb and climb
You’ll find perfection there.”
And so I did, to their height,
A labor of the years, and found in sky
Another form like nothing I had seen,
Warm to touch, to start with,
She said the same of me
Until our love began to trump
The solace of some trees.  And when
We needed money to make our marriage work
We justified the clear-cut:  Everything’s a crop!
Snidely we collected.
Snidely we forgot.  And when she left
For other men—her sneer–
“You have your stumps.”

Agape

One eye for hate
One for love
One eye tireder
Than the other
The hateful eye you would suppose
But it’s the clearer of the two.
No, the one for love is dragging face
Exhausted by the work imposed
To keep its view symmetrical. 

Midnight at the Grocery Store

.……………….‘Are you John Denver?
           ……..You look like John Denver!’

‘Ma’am, you must mean John Lennon?’

………………‘No, I mean John Denver!’

‘Thank you, but no,’ I say and note:
Her Rocky Mountain High is crack.

…………….. ‘Well, anyways, could you loan me $5.’

‘Miss, sorry, you’re asking
The poorest patron in the store
I guarantee.  I promise you.’

She shadows me to shelf’s delight
Intent to follow how I shop:
Econo cans of chicken breasts
Another twelve of turnip greens
(But 40 years my high school weight!)
I say again, ‘I’ve nothing, nothing
Lest you count my latest rout
Of wretched, robot dead-end work.’

 ……………….‘Uh huhhh. I know that feeling…
………………..Baby, let it all hang out!’  

‘Well, thank you, if I may offload…
Would you believe they bum’s rushed me,
Braced by armed security to my old
And beat-up truck, power getting off on it:
Indeed with such a smug dispatch you’d think
Indictments pending…cocaine trafficking…
Child rape….’

.………………‘The hell you say!’

‘But really just a way with words
My crime, my greeting
The CEO’s first inspection tour
Of this, his latest, most expansive ‘world class facility,’
My crime, my mere salute:
Poet reporting for duty, sir.
I pluck your chickens by the word!
That’s all. He didn’t answer
Nor remember
As did I, in vivid image,
Before he got his MBA the class
We took in school together, a scant
Four decades earlier…”

………………..‘What class?’

‘Humanities 111.  Nor who got the only ‘A.’’

………………..’‘I hear that!  You go, John Denver!’

‘Miss, I think you mean John Lennon.
But more to the point:  Some luck up
And some luck down. In the parking lot
That noon the goon squad still escorting me
Sort of loosened up a bit:  Management’s
Doing you a favor, pal.  This is the world’s
Most PRODUCTIVE chicken-plucking plant.
They didn’t hire you for your mouth
So leave and don’t look back nor, God forbid,
Blow your brains out while on the property.
Got that?’

……………….‘You own a Glock?’

‘FULL VERBAL JACKET! I shot back:
Oh, you needn’t worry—
Not a chance.  Aye, look up!
I’ve that Sun for consolation!
The blooming oak, the sidelong pines
The rapture of the land and sky!
The all-embracing warmth of June
In stores of radiance building up.
Why, John Lennon—John Lennon!–
Remember him?
Gunned down at forty, at his peak
Begs trade his groupie fate for mine,
For this blessed day, this sunshine
Glancing on his face, this one extra
Magical day to IMAGINE, and he begs
Notwithstanding it entails
Plucking chickens these five years
In your fuckin’ world renown
Chicken-pluckin’ plant–
Got that?’


Go! they slammed me in my truck.
Today it didn’t need a jump.
 Say Amen, John Lennon!’

Long pause, her stare as distant
As a star. 

……………….‘You said that?’

‘I did!’

………………‘Well, I can mighty tell you this:
.…………….. I’ve done crack and I’ve run trains
…………….. But you’re the craziest man I’ve ever seen.
…………….. Goodbye and good luck in your future endeavors, Mr. Lennon.’

Near Death

I practice the contingency
And feel in speechless quiet
The sight of her
Then close my eyes to practice
Without sight—and there she is:
A grove of pine new freshened
By the spring, nay, in greener
Greens than any of my youth
And I near death
Wordless
Speechless
Blind, I gasp— yet serene upon
The browning mat she lays
And lies beside me in the shade
And kisses me in my resting place
And pulls my tongue between her teeth
To heaven.