Still young, I learned that postures tended
to come with inheritance, to dominate sway
in my neighborhood, as unstated traditions.
Generations would gather as if in a church,
nonsectarian, from St. Louis and its environs
assured that their own and prior family souls
would guide our childhoods toward modesty.
My dad wore dungarees, as did we three sons;
kept us out of poverty; no dark suit, no fedora;
pushed a bladed mower across our spiky grass
we charitably (with minor posture) called “lawn.”
Never in a holy sanctuary, I promised some deity
(purely intuited without a formal metaphysics),
but usual to my home at the Gateway to the West
to make my first Atlantic Ocean trip adventurous
rather than reverent, fun with no duty. But waves
buffeted me, their constancy expected, but not
my weak obedience to a dominant, unknown sea,
their utter power hurtling a shark, dead yes, but
not a lifeless corpse, rolled at me teeth first still
intent to consume humanity by starting with me,
ripping my gushing flesh, to bleed me pure white.
These memories displaced posture. No longer 20,
no longer 70, I prefer a peaceful demise, perhaps
without chartreuse liqueur and flowers, but frisky
kittens rolling across my fingers and nibbling my
cold hands, my casket dignified by carpenter's eye.
Perhaps friends would surround me, likely to enjoy
the late summer sun rays as, ostensibly, I disappear.
Go Somewhere without Saying
I hoped to deflect an impertinent remark.
The best rebuttal I thought of on the spot,
a thing clever, yet decisive? Forensic fact
admissible in court wraps us totally now,
hooks our noses toward unsavory sniffs.
And so I temporarily diverted the probe.
Of course at issue was defense of poetry.
Indefensible, I often hear it proclaimed.
My work suffuses modern or recent history,
but at only 71 my knowledge may be slight:
finer points of understanding passed away
with compromise, so decisive cleverness
presupposes spin with foxes in their dens;
I heard a poet proudly riddle about a truth,
critical inexactitude, with fiendish pride:
I asked him, remembering a phase, would
he repudiate anarchy? He doubted my call.
Then I doubted my call, retreated to details
of fundamental earthiness, play in the dirt;
play in snow; play in a stream sans salmon;
play in surf fearing undertow. What more?
Then I coined the word associational poem.
Facing that question, I shook another week
before regaining courage to challenge words.
To the initiated, all this goes without saying,
so with the rest of my poem I seek initiation.
The pearl sits in dew on a lotus blossom.
The chief eunuch stands guard over a harem.
Which, at that place, would go without saying.
I am sorry to tell you
that of all men here
you are least privileged.
This is a practical result
of all men being equal.
Of course, you ask why?
You ask if this is my joke.
I assure you this is history.
No sir, resolution is not near.
I do not presume revolution.
Well, I write poetry. Privileged?
Not in the way you may assume
and perhaps even less than you.
Yes, I have studied our history.
Yes, there is an ugly consistency.
Yes, do not look beyond greed,
nor hatred of our fellow equals.
No, there is no logic to hatred.
No, greed is apparently unbounded.
No, for some there is no restraint
on freedom; government is feckless.
Therefore, those who believe
that superiority ought to rule,
are privileged to assert prerogative.
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