Writing wretched verse so you don’t have to since 1995.
Al Jiminy, two doors down in 13,
is an addict. Day and night
his TV beams feeds of storms
lolling across the careless globe.
He reports significant events
to the lobby yokels (freak hail
in Omaha, cold snap in Puget Sound)
clucks at the flood victims floating
brown-swollen and possession-less
along forsaken rivers, muttering
complaints of the likewise marooned.
I like to imagine him, this once road
salesman now hitched in step and stopped,
sweeping into some Western precinct
(Denver or Lassen) with a fedora
worn at a rakish angle and a serge
suit, a steamer trunk of wares and news
of impending snow (“What I understand is
a coupla inches by tomorrow”)
a man on top of weather, a prophet
with calm teeth and worldly assurance;
like to imagine this even as he sits
listening for cars outside along the freeway
whistling to the trinkety music; synths
meant to connote the soft weep of rain
I wrote this when I was 29. I’d gotten a late start (Keats was a goner by 25) and so thrown myself into the endeavor with the corrupt fervor that generally accompanies youthful narcissism. So there I am – lonely, wounded, glibly depressed – glibbering away in my rented carriage house. Those were the days, my friend. I thought they’d never end. There was nothing that couldn’t be a poem back then, no subject too lowly for my pretend empathy. That was where all the good language was hiding, the forsaken rivers and the rakish angles and the (obviously, I apologize) calm teeth. It was like singing in the shower, opening your throat and bellowing out your woe like an actual black person.
What was I trying to say here? What was I ever saying? “Someone, anyone, help me. I’m dying in here.” But that’s not a poem; it’s a suicide note. And I wasn’t about to rob the world of my presence. Al Jiminy needed me. I was his champion. Without me, he sat alone listening to the freeway, unobserved, unvoiced. He sat watching the Weather Channel, hoping to get an edge on the last bit of nature not choked under by man.
Years later, I would read “Death of a Salesman” and diagnose the heroic impulse as the source of my misery. But I was soaking in it back then. The clouds couldn’t be made thick enough. I probably sat on my porch after I finished this one, in a kind of post-coital pout, awaiting the soft weep of rain. I believed what I was doing and there was nothing sad about me that I didn’t understand, not one thing.
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