Posts by W E Patterson

National Poetry Month

I know that it’s been quiet around here at the EEOTPB website. So quiet that my friend Tulip, who disappeared into the depths of Southern California (somewhere near Toluca Lake) nearly two years ago, finally surfaced. She called me the other night to find out if I was okay. I told her that I was fine, but because of my current professional situation, I had been forced to spend most of my time concentrating on paying writing jobs, and my day job of writing technical books had left me creatively drained.

In the course of our conversation, she reminded me that April is National Poetry Month. She went on to say that if I had any true appreciation for the art form of poetry, I would not let the month go by without firing off at least one post into the blogosphere mentioning this fact.

So to recognize the month, I will respond here, to the reader who wrote to me some time ago to ask if I actually ever READ any poetry. I told that reader that I did read quite a bit of poetry and someday, when I got time, I would go into details.

Recently (ok within the last six months), I have read these three books of poems. I recommend them all for anyone with the slightest interest in poetry, writing, or in the assemblage of words in any unique and meaningful order:

  1. Weldon Kees, The Collected Poems of Weldon Kees – Probably the finest poet to come out of Beatrice, Nebraska to date, Weldon Kees is perhaps best known for his dramatic, albeit suspicious exit from life, rather than his fine body of work. Known by some as the “Missing Poet”, Kees committed suicide by jumping from the Golden Gate Bridge on July 18, 1955. Although some believe that Kees staged his own death and fled to a new life in Mexico, his typewriter fell silent after that date. Known as “a bitter poet”, I didn’t read any of his works until fairly recently, and I wish I had discovered him sooner. But bitter…yeah, a little.
  2. Louis Jenkins, Before You Know It: Prose Poems 1970-2005 – I was never a fan of the prose poem, until I read Louis Jenkins. I enjoyed his work so much that I tried writing a few prose poems myself, and although they fall far short of Jenkins’ poems, I have gained a new appreciation for the form. Jenkins is a native Oklahoman, but he lived for decades up in Duluth, Minnesota. Why that’s worth mentioning, I can’t say, but there is something about that neck of the woods that brings out the poet in some people. Bob Dylan is from Duluth, and I have always suspicioned that his talent may have been in someway channeled by the large iron deposits underlying that part of the country – but that is just my theory.
  3. Ernest Hemingway, Complete Poems – A couple of years ago, my wife and I attended a reading of Papa’s poetry at the Blue Heaven Bar on Thomas Street in Key West. It was during Hemingway Days, which occurs each year in July – not the greatest time of year to visit Key West. It is truly a 24 hour sauna in the Keys that time of year, but if you are up for it, head on down, order a cold one at the bar, and sip it slowly as you listen to The Old Man’s best poems read by dedicated members of the Key West Poetry Guild. Up until that time, I had never considered Hemingway a poet, and from what I’ve read that’s the way he liked it. He never really wanted be remembered for his verse. In any case, I picked up a copy of his Collected Works on my way out of town. It sat on my bookshelf untouched for more than two years until I recently picked it up and read it. I shall consider him a poet whether he likes it or not, and as things stand right now, there is little he can do about it.

So that’s what I’ve been reading. I would like to hear what you’ve been reading as well, so feel free to comment here.

I will close my tribute to National Poetry Month with a short, whimsical poem that I wrote several years ago. It’s been collecting virtual dust on my hard drive since 2009, so this seems as good a time as any to let go of it:

 

ON WRITING A POEM

Writing a poem is often like,
pushing a wheelbarrow full of bricks,
up a steep hill, for absolutely
no reason, whatsoever.

Nobody really needs the bricks,
nobody cares if you make it
to the top, or if you spill half
of the load on the way up.

In the end, you’ll be just
another forlorn, but tired
wheelbarrow pusher, you’ll never be
a real bricklayer.

If you were a real bricklayer,
you’d write a novel,
And carry your bricks up…
…one at a time,
and position them very carefully.

But you’re no bricklayer – so,
be content with your task,
concentrate on the load,
rejoice at the summit.

anger

Don’t stay angry for too long,
you can be mad for awhile,
that’s the way of the world,
we were made to be that way,
we were made to stay,
pissed off for 2 or 3 days,
not much more…
… in the end, there’s no room
for any of it.
Forget that swindler who
resurfaced your driveway.
Forget the woman in the red Audi
who cut you off on the freeway.
Forget the guy from Corporate
who outsourced your job to Bangalore.
Forget about cell phone overage charges,
And the price of bottled water,
…unless they mess with your dog
let it go.

Lift me up

Sometimes it is more about blind luck
than it is about perseverance.
Sometimes it is more about grace,
than beauty,
more about class than
canned, recycled elegance.
You know what I mean
you’ve watched the
stars and the starlets,
and read the right Magazines.
You’ve read Nietzsche, and
Hemingway – after that, what’s left?
You’ve been scared as hell
in the night, and
yet you’ve welcomed
the dark.
Tonight, I am going to
read “Death in the Afternoon”.

I need a lift.

God, you’ve moved your moon

God, you’ve moved your moon,
and I was the last one to see it go,
but I had nothing to do with it,
you probably decided it was in
the wrong spot all along
you probably wanted to…

…push those tides in the another direction,
after all, who cares about the coastline?
Fragile, my eye, it’ll wash away
in another hundred thousand years
screw the migratory birds too
they were more trouble than they were worth
give them space, they’ll find somewhere to nest
where it’s warm – the New Yorkers do —
it’s called Miami Beach.

To hell with the dolphins, what good are they
to the people in Cincinnati and Tulsa
and Paducah, it makes no difference in the Great End!

After all, we are all just casual victims of circumstance
aren’t we? We didn’t ask for any of it…

yet, here we are, misunderstood and praying for daylight
huddled under blankets and
hiding in the backseat of an ’85 Buick
as the great 21st Century manhunt thunders
through the Streets like those Pamplona bulls
…stay ahead of them if you can fella’
it’s a young man’s game — not for the
old and rickety…not for the faint of heart
you are but a step away
from death by horn or hoof.
So phone the Vicar, let’s get to the bottom of it,
write a poem, write a song,
Garcia is long gone, we’re on our own.

last named storm

it is amazing how,
in the end, we thought about it,
so little – we were
…too busy reading
tawdry paper-backs on
hot summer afternoons…
lounging by the pool,
on powder blue,
chaise lounge chairs,
the ones you bought from TropiBreez
for $499 ea. Plus shipping,
and slathering each other with sunscreen,
…too busy sipping
pineapple rum,
and too busy playing old
vinyl, Joni Mitchell albums,
on your 1968 stereo,
and playing board games,
at the clubhouse on Tuesday afternoons,
to hear November sneaking up,
to care about November sneaking up,
behind us — like a Brooklyn wharf rat,
we — too self absorbed to care,
thinking that if we quit smoking,
and stocked up on drug-store vitamins,
and cast a vote for president,
we’d be fine until the next decade,
but then it was November,
all of a sudden,
…bleached out, rung out,
dried out…November,
let’s drink one more
let’s toast the passing,
of the last named storm.

thoughts : 2016

don’t let them stifle you,
don’t let them make you call it a day,
or call it a lifetime,
or call yourself crazy,
fear not the dark, or being alone,
don’t fear marauding dogs,
armed gunmen,
or the Zika virus,
or the shrinking glacier,
don’t fear the savage politicians…
or back-pedaling middle-managers,
or the real estate racketeers,
don’t fear the phone,
or foreign hackers,
or panic attacks,
don’t worry so much,
it’s just opening night jitters,
stay strong, stay in your lane,
and keep off the main roads,
play Rachmaninoff on the car stereo,
and spend an afternoon playing 3-card poker,
and drinking watered down bourbon sours,
at the Mardi Gras,
don’t look back, there’s nothing to see,
keep it moving

Florida derby

Once, I wanted to paint

but the canvas

wasn’t there

I found, instead

just an old bed sheet

that someone

had left out in the

early morning

Miami rain…

…poor visibility

and cataracts

cloud my

judgement.

I

find comfort in

your arms when

the weather beats

against the shutters,

when the old

drunks clatter

down the street

at 4AM

when there is

a truck abandoned

at the end of the block

with its lights still on

when

a life is lost

or

a soul forgotten.

I think of

a shipwreck

twenty years ago

…I dream of youth

and riding the finest

horse in the world

across the finish line.

We’ve never lost have we?

short sale

don’t put it on the market
yet
just tell the neighbors,
you are
waiting
for the next
bubble
…you don’t really need it…
do you?
you can still walk, can’t you?
you can still pretend
…when you have to
can’t you?
So
don’t spend all day
at the casino
you don’t need the grief
forget
the dollar slots
they are
not the
answer
JUST
plant your
beach chair in the sand
and wait for
sunrise.

tax time

Naked
and afraid?
Who, you?
me?
Not a chance
dig your
pink painted toes
into the sand and
file the extension.

Then kiss me
like we have no
real chance
of going home.

It’s a two and
a half hour
flight to
Tegucigalpa, so
call up the relatives
and pretend
there’s a new investor
named Ferdinand
and he’s burning
cash like there
is no tomorrow.

Just kiss me
again and
say if there
is such a thing
as real love
you’ve found it here
on deadbeat beach.

In a week we will
be on the bus
to Choluteca
drinking warm beer
and laughing about
the last check we
left for the
landlord.

The Upper Keys bagel poem

after all
the skiff is still upright
the shadows have
hastened away, and
you and I are upright
as well…
and waiting for the next
thing to happen
AS we wait for the
quiet of mid-morning
to slink in like some
old washed up
guitar player,
like some has-been
drugged out rock star
like some careless,
busted, fishing guide.

We wait until the traffic slows
on the OS Highway
so we can walk up to the
bagel shop where that
guy named Nigel says
he has the best damned
bagels south of Brooklyn
but you say he hasn’t got
a clue as to what goes
into a bagel
you tell me that he’s
too self-absorbed.
You tell me
there is not
a fucking
bagel
worth
eating
south of Cape May, New Jersey.

We eat our bagels
in peace – on the deck
of the best damned
Brooklyn Bagel dive
in the Upper Keys.

You wave to
some driver in
a furniture truck
barreling
south on US 1
you tell me, that
he’s driving too fast
and in the end
it’s all just another
accident waiting
to happen.