Compensatory

                    Girly—you go by ‘Girly’?
That seems to be the name that stuck.
                    Girly, in keeping with our progressive mission
……….      .. At this school—
But are you really?
                   Why, of course. See that wall.
                    Terminal degrees from Yale and Wellesley—
Oh, most of mine would seem emotion–
                   And that’s the problem we’re here to help.
But which, ma’am? There are thousands,
Some are shrill and some are quiet
In all arrays of feeling’s will.
                   Just pick one.
                  We’ll go from there.
                  As I say, we’re here to help.

Well, like just now,
You said my name
And I remember boys at sport
Choosing teams
To play baseball
And always being
Chosen last though hard
I worked to snap my wrist
Not to throw it like a sis.
The boy
Who laughed my case the most
Dubbed me “Girly” when I played
And got the others chiming in though
Yet they envied when I peed
That ‘Donkey’ hanging to my knee:

“Girly, could you only throw the ball
Like you’re fuckin’ hung, asshole.
Huh!  Huh!  Huh! “ they barged me
Roughly to the hall.  “Huh!!!

“Because,” I said, “you’ve said too much
And driven me to patient friend.”
“Like who?  What’s his name?”
“Solitude! And how she likes
The poems I write–“
Huh?
“–in the middle of the woods.”

“Psycho!” they scoffed, went their way
With indignant, clinic face
Of ‘Girly’ as a hopeless case,
Yet as my rep got out and up
Now this summons, me to you.

                   Yes, it’s called a ‘referral’
                    She averred. “One moment
                    While I consult your file.”

 

                   Girly, to sum up,
                    All of us can dwell too long,
                    Live excessive in our thoughts—
                   We call it ‘schizotype’ for short–
                   But now we have some tests for this
                   Which might could help you with your–skills.

In baseball?

                   Baseball, communication…
                   Here, it’s called a Rorschach test.
                   Just some inkblots on some cards.
                  Would you like to look at some?

Fine.

                   So what do you see in this one?
Well, in that blotch—I see—total isolation.
                  Where?
In the middle of a forest.
                  Very good.  Is the forest threatening?
Not at all.  In fact I’m feeling quite relaxed
Under that big Oak.”

                ..Un-huh.

A sparkle dazzles
Through the leaves
The ferns aground
Serenity.

                  I see.  And are you the only person there?
Yes, just me and Solitude alone.

                Tell me about Solitude.
Must I?  She’s my refuge
Of highest zest, a place where I
Can be myself.  Besides,
We made a pact.

……………….You have my assurances of
……………….Complete confidentiality.


Well, I can say, we talk a lot, Solitude and I—
                 , And?
And when I write a poem she likes
She kisses me—I’ll leave it there.
                 .What poem?
Well, in this blotch I hear something like

When the mind is gone the earth takes up;
So many times it comforts and consoles,
In fields of rye or just alone as it would
Without deeds, as the Indian saw, a virgin
Growth of many splendid hues—in old
Growth Pine along the coast or roaming west
To temperate trees—Maple, Oak, Elm, Birch
What enthralling death a frost can paint
Enthralling their decidual leaves with gold–
That we should grow as gracefully from Spring!

                   Interesting. 
Yes, she really liked that one.

                   So what else do you see in this particular inkblot?

Well, I see one time, one time–
                   Yes?
She said, she said…
                   Solitude said–?

She said ‘You’re really kinda big for me…
I’ll hold it in my hand instead.

                   And Solitude held your hand in her hand?
Actually, it took her both hands.

                   So, to clarify, in this inkblot
                   You see Solitude
                   Holding your hand
                   In her hands
                   In this inkblot.
                   Is that correct?
If you say so.
                  No, YOU say so!
                  I’ve given you my assurances.
                 No one on this team is here to judge
                 Your relationship
                 With Solitude
                 In any way.
                 History discarded
                 The Puritans
                 Centuries ago.

Well, to be honest, when she used both hands
Up and down as she was, I actually said
I told her, ‘Just as well—I’m
Scared of pussy anyway.’

                   Beg your pardon!
Since last week.
                  Ahem, ahem.  Excuse me.
                  And what happened last week?
I watched this documentary.
                  By any chance on–STDs?
Actually, Hillary Clinton.

Forthwith she struck a matron mien
                  Test over!  That will be enough for now!
And with commanding matron glare
Commenced to throw the book at me:
Referrals here, referrals there,
Referrals to the River Styx

Schizo this and schizo that
And should I hint the slightest grin
‘Sociopath’ to crown my chart.


But not before—thank God—I found you here
(Once upon a thousand times exiled)
What I owe to your spirit, Solitude,
That oak we grew of countless acorn tips
Before the Empiricals came to pin us down
Again, a gnarled and lichen shambles,
Yet love enough for prophecy to sprout!

Existential Craps

This day the perfect poem
This hour the perfect poem
This minute the perfect poem
This second the perfect poem
But a second later not, now
Another poem, or none at all.
How often
Have I missed perfect love that way
What perfect wife and kids
Yet also by a roll of time
A car wreck just escaped. 

A Boomer Responds to Some Angry Young ‘Woke’ Folk

Poetry did nothing to
Keep my gentle face
From mouldering to
The sharper view
Of Pound’s at St. Elizabeths—
To see the young remark
My role:  “Geezer, nothing else.
Out of our way!  You paltry crank
With one foot in the grave!
What can you do to make the world
A place we can progress—and
Growing old ourselves be first
To finally get it right?
Speak! before your grave
To us, your day is growing short!
Speak! before your grave at dusk
Your fusty crumb of truth!
Speak! as history buries you–
This your final chance!”

Well, my young, this may surprise:
You’ve quoted me exact
What to the old I said myself
Declaiming count by count.
But eternals what they are
A half a century later
I stand before my grave
As they
In humble resignation.

Wheel of Life

(I came across this fragment of three stanzas I had written 45 years ago as a college sophomore.  It seemed incomplete so I tried channeling the 19-year-old brain through my geriatric one and got an extra two stanzas to round out the poem.)

Wheel of life in motion
Barreling, in my trance

I shouted “Stop!”

Wheel of life
Guilty:  Hit and run.

Cursed evanescence!
Death alone its wake

And would a coed toss her bra,
Eternity so young.

Poem by a Washed-Out Astronaut in January

This is the season
Of maximum dynamic pressure
Of short cold days
And only light for funerals.
Throttle down, says Control.
But hell I’m still a boy;
It’s only disembodied Fate
That cleared the pad at birth
Or accelerates with height
So you Roger this, Control,
Not my choice, nor yours!
And keep your hand away from that abort switch!
Why…why…what’s with you,
Control?  I was only dropping our swing
Ladder down from old Fort Oak
Because…
Because…it’s snowed
To shake it off a bit
Or would you rather slip
And fall?  I say, I say
I saved that broken arm!
Or don’t you remember
The name of our tree house?
Or don’t you remember
Us playing war? 

Striper Tournament

A friend is dying slowly
And I’m wrung out
For words; he from pain
That never ends.
My philosophy major isn’t cutting it:
“Know this:  We’re all next.
Everything that ever lived or will live is around your bed tonight.”
But no sooner than I hang up the phone
I see I’m out of beer
And the Pantry closes at midnight
A twenty mile round trip in dark and rain
(But—God!– that teen cashier never looked more cute!)
Or sometimes I try the feeling tack:
“Believe me.  We feel your pain,
We really do.”
But what a gross presumption
On my part.  And he knows it:  “YOU–CAN–
NEVER–IMAGINE—THIS PAIN.”
Back home, two beers for guilt,
Two more for helplessness, I see
Old times night-conquering the bay
Eels on hooks, the stripers’ strike and peel,
The deep we fought and won, netted
And hoist in—until the words occur calmly
And fulfilled:  “Old friend, just another fishing trip.”
He faintly smiles, we dream.   

Delusion

All I know is that
If it’s mine it must
Be a superior thought
Or I’d say God must
Be grooming me
To be the next Dostoevsky.
Take today: I feel
My influence solving
All the problems of the world
And everyone I’ve seen
In the grocery store tonight
Knows it—they look my
Way as if they see a halo
Round my head and why else
Does the cashier card me for the
Beer I buy except to see herself
This savior by a name, adding,
With a grin, “Does this work?”
As she scans the largest tube
Of K-Y jelly in the store.