It started a few weeks ago. I was sitting in a Barnes & Noble, having a coffee and reading The Best American Poetry 2015, and I was gobsmacked by the combination of beauty and brazen, blazing — dangerous, even — innocence of the passing teen boys and, too, my even more dangerous reaction to it. So, I wrote about it. And instead of the usual notebook entry that ends up going nowhere, that scribbling of my emotional tsunami became what I took to be a poem. Since then, other storms of feeling have shaped themselves into poetry. I do not kid myself that I have any gift for this, but, it is what I have to give to you for Christmas 2015. So, here you go.
TALL BOYS IN THE MALL
Tall boys in the mall
boys all noise
& ballsy bluster boys
so easily flustered by the gaze of
love for tall boys from
this cussed old man.
That was the first. A few days later, this . . .
THE ONLY KIND OF LOVE SONG I KNOW IS NAMED “GOODBYE”
Something carefully submerged
in me, the
stuff of soul
essence you made sing
cannot be for(you)given.
That was the next, followed, soon, by . . .
OLGA, OUR DINER WAITRESS
Snorting coke in a New Haven gay bar bathroom
thirty-four years ago
yesterday remembered because: reasons.
Olga, our diner waitress, sits w/us & we ask
about her sister who has come here from Greece, now
& Olga says; “Not good.”
no lemon in my iced tea
and my sister died recently
so Olga is loath to tell us details
when we ask about her sister, Olga says,
“I want to spare you memories. Not good.”
Olga steers me to the calf liver special
(see what I did there) and laughs
at my jokes & calls me honey
& Olga, sitting in our booth,
asks how is my Mom
& then difficult woman at table 3 waves at me
difficult woman at table 3 wants Olga’s attention
& I am forced to interrupt Olga’s explanation
of details of her sister’s “not good”
so difficult woman at table 3 can snivel to Olga
“This burger tastes wrong. The meat is bad.”
she wants a crab cake for the same price
I am furious on Olga’s behalf
I tell Olga it is a scam, she says, “Honey,”
she calls me Honey, “choose your battles.”
Olga says her sister, who is not good
has chosen not to take pain meds –
they are all I want
because I did not
choose my battles
I fought everything
snorted coke in a New Haven gay bar bathroom
thirty-four years ago
that night I was fired from waiting tables
for that battle where I threw a pizza
at a table of Yale football players
who had called me “faggot”
rude men rude boys who chased me down the street
but I had a head start and ducked into the gay bar
in New Haven where I snorted coke
thirty-four years ago and yesterday remembered
when Olga, our diner waitress, sat with us. She remembers
I hate lemons in my iced tea
& my sister died
& Olga’s sister is not good
& we must, honey, choose our battles
Long, formless, yes. But, Olga. And the diner. The relationships we make with people outside the boundaries of how “relationships” are often defined. It struck me. I wrote it. About a week later, I was feeling really like crap and wishing I had an in real life literary group to call my own and so spit this out, fast and barely punctuated . . .
SUICIDEATION UN-NUMBERED (in the millions, those)
I’ve no literate Leonard nor literal lighthouse nor beguiling band of Bloomsburyans nor vervain of a Vita so why these stones in my pockets?
I think it qualifies as a poem. Ha. After which I took a long break, or, rather, since I never intend to write poetry, there didn’t come until today any urge to speak focused truths, memories, in specific shape. But, today, for some unknown, unknowable reason, I was moved to write a sonnet. And, here it is:
The Semiotics of Sorrow, This Year When I Turned Fifty-Four
This year; Mommy having deftly dodged death
Said, “Remember B— C—? Your age? He died.”
I cried. Mommy, eighty-six, apologized,
“I didn’t know.” My age. Breathed his last breath.
This year; when I’d turned fifty-four, B— C—,
Dead. From the back seat, her, “I didn’t know”
So enraged and deflated me. “Well, no
You didn’t. I know.” He fucked then hid me
That year we were thirteen. Comparing cocks
Led to fumbling spurtings, we couldn’t last,
Blasting boy lusts and I said “love” too fast.
He didn’t. I know, now, there were no clocks
That year telling a time in which he’d not
Dread my love. I cried when he died this year.
That’s it. Merry Christmas, dear ones. Love and Light and all good things and joy for you and yours during your holidays.