Monday, January 4, 2010

You Know Him

Desks full of unfinished paperwork
Tired eyes, hair cut weeks over due
Gabardine slacks or jeans
Professors, department heads, teachers
Of poetry and prose who
Know all about romance with tenure
Modernism, language, commas
The Beowulf of their dreams, Plath,
August Wilson, the Lenore Prize

He was like that
A pleasant sort who used to box
Before the college got him
Tenure wore him down
Political correctness whipped him
Numbness collared his heart
Bills for the spendthrift wife
Who chain-smokes and forgets to say thank you
Ate his soul

I entertained him with stories
He wanted to know about the egg exercise
I used in class and the penguins
What about the penguins?
What Delmore Schwartz said in the Orange Café?
What was that thing about William Carlos?
The Wheelbarrow? And I went along.
Made a few bucks but I wasn’t going to get on the shelf
I knew that, although he said he’d help

He took me on temporary full time
Something I understand quite well
And I was good, very good he said
He hired me again for one last semester
And I gave the job one more shot

Until the day he stepped in my
Temporary office and sat hands
Clasped in mild sweat
Elbows on knees
And told me how he’d been to that
San Francisco Beatnik bar I told him about
He’d seen my picture with the Wild Bunch
Even had a beer and by the way
Although he didn’t say by the way.
He said, you didn’t make the full time cut
He sort of smiled, then we talked
About nothing in particular for awhile.

That’s the way it is
When life gets tangled in myth
That isn’t yours and the third eye
Lives in its own shadow.
Can’t cut to the chase.
These tired guys just rummage the desks.
Play the newest toy and the old
Text slips in with faces that blend.
Faces that smile behind lives
They don’t dare live
And fear they have no name for.
People who don’t quite
Fit the story they teach
To begin with.

I sat in the empty room
Thinking about black timeless nights
The lonely road from Albuquerque to Kingman
Sitting on the motel porch
With the owner and his wife
Drinking coffee and how
They drove me across the California line
To save me fatigue and grief.
I thought about the day I stepped out of the car
Just southeast of Winnemucca and gazed across the barren land
With a touch of humility and wonder and said
To no one, My God people walked to get here.

Late that night I stood outside the casino in Wells
Staring up to the highway and rock
Where the great trucks groaned by
And the steel night rolled on.
One of those nights when you step out of time
Relax, and know the awe of just being.
While the little old lady inside
Punched quarters in the machine
Sipped on her greyhound and puffed
Those non-filtered cigarettes.

As for him, you know him.
He dove back to his desk
His papers and his toys.


At December 16, 2011 at 8:15 PM , Blogger Brinyjudy said...

6th verse rings so true--"That's the way it is when life gets tangled in myth that isn't yours.. faces that smile behind lives they don't dare live." It feels good to deftly untangle and state the straight story. I Know Him/ Her.


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