…wondering…a salesman’s last night on earth…

On Saturday night, Tulip called me from L.A. Some of you who have been reading EEOTPB since the beginning remember her. She is an old friend of mine who moved from Florida to California several years ago.

She asked if I could find a poem that I wrote ten or a dozen years ago. It was about a close friend of hers.

I found it.


…wondering…a salesman’s last night on earth…

…I’m wondering how it is tonight,

Out on Bass Lake, and out in Spirit Lake,

And in Grand Lake and on the Great Salt Lake,

Down in Lake Charles and out on Lake Shore Drive,

How is…

The tiny girl named Janie from the Woodsmen,

Is she making out tonight?

Did she save the napkin, or the night, or the dream,

Would we have made it without screaming, just us.

How about the others, like,

The young hooker with her scrubbed cheeks,

Loaded on George Dinkel and telling me once again,

That she had found her love and was returning,

To Pomona to attend Community College with,

Her friend from the dance company…

…nurse comes in to reload the morphine drip.

…was there a fight in Juarez, or was it the girl Cynthia,

I was waking up in the back seat of a cab – on,

The Stanton Street Bridge at dawn,

Wondering if that call had been from Harry,

Back at the Sioux Falls plant. Not caring then,

Not me because of the tremendous high.

If we sold another six hundred thousand,

Color television chassis south of the border,

I could not have cared less…or more.

I love the figures, but not the change,

Just the bottom line people back at the office,

They love when the numbers fly by quickly,

But not me…too much road time to care,

My concern is for the common people,

They say…

…they say I won’t last until dawn

…and I think of her, a young lady married to a man

Who couldn’t keep a job, and who drank each night,

Until he was oblivious to her and her cares,

Dawn. What a name for such a lady -such a timid name.

The last part of the night, the darkest part, will take him,

That’s what they say behind the curtain.

But I wait here, shackled like a tethered brood mare,

Chained to the misery of my last night on earth.

“Give ‘em Hell Harry,” I exclaim to no one in particular,

And I watch dawn break over Kansas City.

2 thoughts on “…wondering…a salesman’s last night on earth…

  1. Ed::
    I liked this poem. For me it is a kind of combination of direct story telling mixed with indirect reference along with symbolic material which becomes clear at second reading. I would like to know what you think of the kind of poems which run weekly in the New Yorker, I , for one, do not understand them or poems like them. They do not touch me on any level except to make me mad. I see them as pretentious, obscure intellectualizations but yet they are written by well known ( I guess ) and prolific poets . What am I missing !

    • Thank you for reading, Pete! I appreciate your comments. This is not a poetry blog, and I don’t want to turn it into one, but I have posted some of my older poems here recently. I shall try not to torture my readers too much with too many of them though, but I am collecting them into a volume that I will probably offer for either free, or for a very small fee here on this site.

      Well, in answer to your question about the kinds of poems that run in the New Yorker, I sometimes understand them and sometimes I do not. But then, I may not be as intellectually astute as many of the New Yorker’s readers.

      If you are not aware of it, American Public Media’s “Writer’s Almanac” features some great poetry. It is a 15 minute segment that usually begins with birth date(s) of famous writers along with some interesting stories about their work. It always ends with a poem. Here in Florida it airs at 6AM, just as I am getting up each weekday morning. Usually Garrison Keillor is the host, but he’s been on summer vacation and Billy Collins has been hosting (I much prefer Billy, actually). Check for it on your local PBS station, or just go here:

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