Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Return to the Verses

For three years after moving to Kentucky, I wrote no poetry. Last week, inspired by an open reading at the Black Feather coffee shop in Berea, I once again picked up the poetic pen.

Next week I will post that piece of verse, the product of a long and silent incubation. But first, here is the poem that preceded it, written shortly before leaving Georgia. Think of it as a goodbye. Or perhaps as a break-up poem.

Action Novels

Terry wants to write action novels, but can't
because he's from a small town in Georgia.
Cities are where the action takes place; besides,
action is present in tense,
and Confederate ghosts hover over his prose
like buzzards in the afternoon sky.
So Terry writes poetry nobody reads,
recycled at the end of each day.

Terry yearns to be a ladies' man,
but can't grow a mustache to save his dear life.
He labors an hour over one line of verse
so that when his sonnet is polished, complete,
Rhonda's done gone on the back of a Harley
in a cloud of red dust with a wink and a wave.
So Terry lies lonesome, ashamed, eyes shut tight,
and pictures them leaving together.

Terry would like to be a prosperous man,
but commodity futures tanked yesterday.
The wages of labor will scant keep him fed
(and you can't sell a poem that's never been read!)
From a church bazaar cookbook, he learns to bake bread.
When his mother writes, she sends casserole recipes.

Terry longs to make his father proud,
but it's too late for that: the old man is dead.
His lectures echo down empty hallways, and
belie the inscription on a marble headstone.
Terry prays every night on his knees.

Terry wants to drink bourbon, straight up,
but can't, so he'll nurse Vodka Collins instead
in a dimly lit corner of Al's Bar and Grill
in the heart of what once was downtown.

(Grateful acknowledgment is made to Wanderings Magazine, http://www.wanderingsmag.com/ , where this poem first appeared.)

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