Monday, June 25, 2018

Birth of a Poem Continued: Rough Draft

“Pumping gas should be peaceful,” says the man on the other side.
We’re both bombarded by the actress dressed as a quick store employee
blathering on about the great deals inside, from inside a tiny TV
now attached to the pump, just above the credit card slot, no escape.

There is the option to pay inside, and a hot coffee, stale as the pot may be,
sounds good on a chilly day, too late in May for these temperatures,
but I’m on my way home, and coffee will not be my friend at 3 a.m.

The breeze brings a whiff of someone’s cigarette smoke, and I know
their free spaces are fewer and fewer every day, and despite the signs
(and probably soon too the warning of the tiny TV woman),
they will grab a puff or two while fueling the car, while running from
car to store for a coffee, a hard roll, another pack at premium rates.

The tiny TV woman tries to sell me soda, get me interested in NASCAR,
even tries to lure me in with local weather reports, but I’m too tired
for all her flashy words and pictures. I want to go home, and I want
to be peaceful. I want the lights dim, the food warm, a blanket where
my Beloved should be, and the TV tuned to people of my choice.

CAR  6/25/18

Monday, June 18, 2018

Birth of a Poem: Notes From The Road

A scrap of yellow paper has been following me around for the last several weeks, migrating from my pocketbook, to my desk, to my backpack, and now—back to the desk. It reads:

“Pumping gas should be peaceful.”
-TV Screens
-Summer chill
-Whiff of cigarette
-Gas, rolls…

Sometimes I imagine I don’t have enough time to actually write a complete poem, so I try to capture the thread of thought in quick phrases, hoping I’ll find the thread later, and the spark, too. This never, ever works, but I keep thinking that spark can be contained in a few lines dashed before, or during, work, or before bed.

I remember what inspired the poem. The pumps at my usual gas station, what used to be known as “service” stations, recently had these really fucking annoying TV screens installed, blabbing away about manly sport scores and the shitty coffee available for far too much inside. On one visit, the gentleman pumping gas on the other side of the pump made the above remark in quotes. So, there’s those two bits explained.

It’s been a cool spring, as has been the Hudson Valley’s habit in recent years. Only today, nearly the end of June, has the usual heat and humidity combined to finally make us forget March’s blizzards. I try to pump gas in the afternoon, on my way home, so I can devote my mornings to more creative forms of procrastination, like Facebook or washing dishes. So, the refence to temperature makes sense.

There is always a whiff of stale cigarette smoke outside of any retail establishment, despite the Surgeon General’s old warnings. As long as tobacco is peppered with addictive supplements, there will traces of smoke in places where people stop, even briefly, to perform a task outdoors. And yes, it’s dangerous near the pumps, and yes, we’ve seen some horrific accidents on the Interwebs. However, what are the odds, the Smokers always think…

The last line has me stumped at this point. “Gas, rolls…” The last word only makes me think of toilet paper rolls. I don’t buy them at gas stations unless I’m very, very desperate. Unless Stewart’s is closed. Burger rolls? Ah, maybe HARD rolls, like they stock up on at gas stations like this in the morning, smeared too generously with a faux butter spread and wrapped in thick, stinking plastic.

But, as I recall, the man I quote said his piece in the afternoon. It could be that my mind was beginning to wander along, connecting one image after another arising from the location. I can never be sure.

My friend Dan Wilcox has a poem that laments the loss of “the best poem I ever wrote,” to a beer spilled on a notebook, likely scrawled in an indecipherable hand. I feel that same way when I find a note like this. It will probably still become some kind of poem, probably the kind that isn’t labored over long and finds its way to the files without any public performance. It’ll never be the poem it could have been. But of course, I’ll never be the poet I could have been. 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

**Poem: "White Noise"

White Noise                                                                     -for A.B.

Before I knew the ringing in my ears
was a permanent tattoo gifted by customer service,
I used to watch TV late into the night
while my Beloved slept, nicotine and deafness his lullaby.

I found you in a motel on the outskirts of Oswego,
waiting for exhaustion to override the hiss.
You were somewhere on the African continent,
or juggling falafel with a brother wizard in Morocco,
slurping noodles with the last elected President,
crouched on plastic stools made in China and
thanks to you I now know sold worldwide.

You might have been pacing the sides streets of Hell’s kitchen,
or admiring the mists veiling the peaks of the Himalayas
like a shy lover come to the marriage bed a virgin,
sunlight surrounding the rocks like grace.

Tony, because I always call you, ‘Tony,’ even tho
we will never meet, it was more than white noise that night.
It was the sound of your leather footsteps
opening doors to all the best places on Earth,
breaking bread and ice, watching you evolve from
snarky young cook fresh from rehab, seasoning
observations with bitter East Coast addictions,

to grey-haired wanderer whose questions grew to
outpace motorboats on the Amazon, wings of
pterodactyls transporting you to another mystery,
another taping, intelligence beginning to understand
that with each answer comes two new and equal dilemmas.

Accumulation, chemical freedom, the body’s whispered taunts and jibes—
at sixty-one, so much has passed.
Locks on the darkest doors, that final trip we dare not take
can make inner engines sputter, stall, lose all momentum.
We stumble in silence, ears, nose, tongue drawn out to gasp,
feet aloft, turned finally to home.

CAR   6/9/18