The anniversary of Shakespeare’s death

“Fear no more the heat o’ the sun,
Nor the furious winter’s rages;
Thou thy worldly task hast done,
Home art gone, and ta’en thy wages:
Golden lads and girls all must,
As chimney-sweepers, come to dust.”

–excerpted from “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun”; Wm. Shakespeare

Today, April 23rd, we mark the 399th anniversary of the death of (quite possibly), the greatest poet of all time, William Shakespeare. What kind of writing blog would I be running if I let a date like that go by without a mention?

Me – I am not a Shakespearean scholar. Far from it. But the snippet above, from the song “Fear no more the heat o’ the sun” from the “The Tragedy of Cymbeline” is a favorite of mine. This play was first performed in (or around) 1611, or about five years before Shakespeare’s death at age 52.

It’s mind boggling really, when one thinks of the vast expanse of time across which Shakespeare’s words have traversed. Which contemporary author, poet, or playwright has penned words of such lasting significance? What does the future hold?

Will the world have become bored with the written word 399 years from today – by April 23, 2414? I assume we will have discarded paper books entirely by then (long before then the way things look). And presumably the electronic readers that are now replacing books will have long since been replaced by some yet to be discovered form of media. Perhaps by then we will be able to simply download the great works of literature directly to the brain through some sort of telepathic transfer, thus ‘short-circuiting’ the entire educational process. Or maybe not.

Maybe we will have destroyed our civilization by that time. Maybe the few survivors will find themselves huddling around a fire outside of a cave reading from a scorched volume of the collected works of the Great Bard. “As chimney-sweepers, come to dust”, they may read those words aloud, words that will be by that time nearly 800 years old, and nod knowingly to each other.

William Shakespeare…nearly immortal.

In any case, the complete poem may be read in its entirety here.

change,

“Life is about change…”
…says the new VP of sales
to the sweaty
gaggle of lackluster
regional managers

…says the cheating husband
to his sobbing
soon-to-be, ex-wife
as they sit opposite each other
in the back booth of
the Tollbooth Diner at
around 4AM

…says society queen
after announcing
her elopement
with the gardener
shouting it out
to all present
at Thursday afternoon
book club

…says the stammering pastor
to the confused flock
as a last, but lasting
ad lib
to conclude
an otherwise fine
sermon on the sins of the flesh.

…says the physician
to the amputee

…the educator to
the dropout

…the defense attorney
to the recently imprisoned

…the orderly
to the restrained

…the old to
the young

…but it’s all a ruse

I think
a gigantic bogus ruse…

no one really wants change
we all want to circle the

drain

circle the

town square in the
64 VW Beetle forever

poem tiff

remember last July in Miami
you – in your Lily Pulitzer dress
me in my Korn t-shirt
cargo shorts and
indigo flip-flops
sitting at a bayside table
…you smoking
like you’d never heard
the news about that
habit
me drinking gin martinis
and both of us
talking about that
poetry reading
in Broward
a couple of weeks before
where the guy with the
glass eye killed it
with that poem

the poem you can’t remember the name of

and you said that it
was the finest poem
that you’d heard in
the past decade
and I said that if
that guy didn’t have a glass eye
that you wouldn’t
have regarded that poem
so highly

so we had a tiff over
the poem
…damn poem tiffs
three quarters of an hour later
the waiter comes back with
our check

saying to me that
my Visa card had been
declined
some days there
is no easy way out.

Notes: on a final poem

write it fast
it’s your last

so to do it right
you’ll have to
drive out
to that truck stop
a few miles
outside of Harrisburg
PA
at 2AM
ignore the pain
enjoy the rain
find a booth
in the back by
the kitchen and ask
the blonde
20 year old heart-throb
to bring you coffee
and a cheese danish
for the road
and you tell her to
keep the refills coming
because you’re – ‘all in’
and heading for
the long haul

AND

it’s all uphill isn’t it?
like pulling
into Leadville, Colorado
in an 80 ton Peterbilt

so JUST

focus on that
laptop screen
and keep typing

after all

…you’ve been writing

for about seven decades
(haven’t you)…
so write a little more
(can’t hurt)

and
tell them how it is
out here on the edge

and most of all…
…don’t pull back
slam the throttles
to the fucking firewall

but
explain it carefully
to anyone
who will listen
and don’t let up
give it all you’ve got

for another hour

then

you can hit Send

and push this shit off
to that literary journal
in Indiana

 

and after that you can
drive back home
in the Subaru
and roll up
like you’re going
to live another
50 years
and park behind the house
beside the tomato garden
and
tiptoe in so you
don’t wake the dogs
and sleep
until
the Sun
says
no more.

reflections on a reduction in force, circa. 1996

you think
when you have a job
to go to…
…one that
requires that you
wear a necktie
and appear in
meetings with
corporate clones
as well as,
note-taking
corporate drones
and debilitated
veterans of
countless takeovers
…you think
to yourself
that it will last
for as long as you want
…a charade can last forever
and
you believe in your heart
…sincerely…
that the
goodwill pump
in your chest
will beat on
…ad infinitum
and after that,
you say
to anyone who will listen:
“sometime
around the year
two thousand seventy seven
I’ll abandon this madness
for my
ranch out west”

where you’ll
drink a lot
until late at night
every night
like you always have
and you’ll tell war stories
in the only bar in town
to half a dozen
late night
well-heeled patrons
and you’ll
paint
that barn in
the South Pasture
blood red
and write poems
and read Proust
and raise
Siberian Huskies

….and…
when daylight wanes
you’ll learn to love
the sunrise
and you’ll fly that
damned helicopter

and you’ll
go to the Calgary Stampede
one last time
and you’ll tinker with
that old Case baler
out in the shed
every night
after supper
until your fingers
get blue and numb
in the February cold
and then
one night
when you are drunk enough
you’ll pull out that laptop
computer
the one that
you’ve kept locked away
in the safe behind the stairs
packed away with your
forty five
…and you’ll look for him
the one that you ‘furloughed’
in 1996 (or thereabouts) to
see if he ever,
…regained his corporate footing
or remarried
or found his lost child
but ultimately to find out
…if he has
in some way
caught up with you
because
you know if you don’t
do it now
…in the end,
you’ll do it
eventually
on your back
looking up at the
sky

eternal return

maybe Nietzsche
was right

someday,
when they pull
the shades in the
rest-home in Hialeah
…when you are 97 years old,
you’ll open your eyes…

…and there you’ll be

…back

in Hibbing, Minnesota
and it will
ALL
start over…
… you’ll cry when
your third grade teacher
asks why your sister
is in jail
and why your mother
does her wash
at the Load-O-Mat
on Sunday
instead of attending
services at the first
Preysbeterian church

…and why your father
is still in Pensacola
and why your
Uncle Leo quit
the railroad job to
sell Amway
door to door

and you’ll NEVER

ask

the Army recruiter
about the job details
…and you’ll never
ask the landlady
who owns that apartment you will
lease
in South St. Paul
in September 1974
if the deposit
is refundable

and you won’t ask
that car guy in Mason City if the
cherry
Ford Econoline on the lot
has ever had, the
transmission replaced
you won’t ask
any of that

will you?

On Collins Avenue, last week

on Thursday afternoons
Emily drinks vodka gimlets
with a guy
at the Fountainebleu bar

…he’s a b-grade actor
who is 3 times her age
…he’s a ‘has-been’
…a forgotten relic…
with silver hair

…a guy
who has fifty grand
left in the bank,
a guy who has
a cancelled
AmEx Card
in his wallet
and has recently had
his powder blue
Bentley repo’d

…a guy

who has a
house in The Gables
that’s in foreclosure
and a wife in Palm Springs
who is on the move…
and a daughter in Betty Ford
recovering…

…a guy
Emily has ONLY seen
in reruns on cable tv
late at night

…that guy…

but Emily delights

in the fact
that a tourist
from Montreal
walks up
as they finish their

gimlets

and asks b-grade

to sign his cocktail napkin
and then
Montreal tourist asks
b-grade actor
if he’d ever met Pablo Escobar
and asks if he knew
Ronald Reagan
back in the day

and

if he’d ever met
Don Johnson
on the set

old actors die hard
this one smiles politely
drains his gimlet
and signs the napkin.

 

east of Coos Bay

the last time
I talked about David
was 5 or 6 days
after the service

Leo and I
talked about
the last fly rod
the guy ever
owned
and how his third
wife left town
six months before
it happened

… and we discussed
the disappearance of
his truck
from a non-descript
stripmall
in North Las Vegas
and the eventual
disintegration of
his new outlook on life.

then

…we talked about

the end

and after that I

never

talked about David.

 

So…
… about 10 years later
i heard
they’d
scattered his ashes

by the lake

where he used to fish
…a long way
from Long Beach, California
…so far you’d have
to take
six buses to get there
and now
they say

he’s somewhere east of Coos Bay

 

“forty five”
is too young
to have done
this sort of shit
to himself
says my cousin

Margie…
…she didn’t even know
that he had a gun…

…he was too
young to have
died fishing
but he did…

…and he
didn’t tell
anyone
he was going
(fishing)
did he?

almost

after dark
he knows
his way along the animal trail
that crosses my back yard
better than
my neighbor, McDougal
knows the way home
after midnight from
the Black Thorn

both of them push along
with long noses
pressed to the dirt
but the marsupial
…the aged opossum

…this one…

…the one I wait for…

has escaped
for a year.
Now I hear him
rustling in the fence row
darting past
the 4 volt landscape lites
hiding for a moment
behind the hibiscus
sensing, maybe
the shit to come
but he makes
his move

…he darts up into the
bougainvillea
then in careful
avoidance of thorns
he appears on the far side
of the property
atop the fence and

HE’S
closing in fast

…I am careful, though
I’m sitting on an overturned bucket
wearing a bathrobe
and
flip-flops made
in Okinowa

AND I have
my sister Muriel’s
22 single shot
sighted carefully
as I,
in silence wait
for him

…and then he’s upon me
six, or seven feet away

Keep the dogs in, I yell to Leah
he hears me and
then he freezes, teeth clacking
eyes flashing

I squeeze off a shot
it misses by 2 or 3 feet

later, Leah asks
if I got him
and I say
almost.

I discuss my poetry book and give away a few copies

The other evening at a writers’ meeting, one of our members, who is also a reader here at EEOTPB, asked if I had any new writing projects in the works – apart from the sporadic poems that I post. I told her that in recent months, my day job as a technical writer had left me creatively drained, and that the last half of 2014 had been especially demanding. For that reason, I hadn’t been able to spend as much time on some of my personal writing projects as I’d liked. Several projects that I should have completed by now have languished — sunk into the proverbial electronic dustbin, now  nearly beyond retrieval. Even blog posts that I wanted to write – intended to write – have grown stale under the heavy foot of “The Man” who puts food on my table, gas in my tank, and keeps my golden retriever Bailey supplied with expensive ‘all-natural’ dog food. I mean, even blogs I want to read I haven’t gotten around to reading.

Then my friend told me that although she had enjoyed reading some of the poems on EEOTPB, she was a bit confused by my blog’s title, as there appears to be nothing about Ed, nothing about the end of the planet, and nothing at all about books.

I replied by saying that there is a great deal about Ed on this site if you read the poems carefully, and although there has been very little about the end of the planet (since that Mayan calendar scare that was freaking us out back in 2011 turned out to be pure rubbish), there is a bit about books…here and there…

It was at that point that I mentioned that I had collected about forty or so of the poems (many of which have appeared here), into a small volume of poetry, put a cover on it, and made it available to the reading public for a nominal fee. The name of the book is “outrunning the storm” and I shall provide a link here. But hold on! You needn’t rush to buy a copy. I’m going to give it away…right here…well, at least I am giving five copies to the first five people who email me at wepatt@hotmail.com. No postage necessary. I’ll foot that bill. Just put “ED – SEND ME THE BOOK” in the subject line, include a mailing address in the body, and I will send you a copy. And don’t worry, on down the line I won’t spam you with any ads or gimmicks, or give your email address to some shady internet marketing scammer who wants to sell you a time-share in Belize. In fact, you won’t ever  hear from me again!  And don’t think I’m going to ask you to write some flowery, fancy-pants book review either (unless you want to). I don’t work that way.storm.cover

So back to my friend who congratulated me on the book, but then politely shook her head and told me that it was unlikely that I would sell any copies.

“Poetry does not sell,” she said flatly.

I nodded, recalling how few six figure positions for “Poet” I’ve seen listed on internet employment websites.

After that I left and went home and did a search for the 10 top selling poetry books this week. Without giving you a glimpse into my next blog, I will leave you with this teaser.

The top 2 are:

“I know Why the Caged Bird Sings” by Maya Angelou

AND

“The Odyssey” by Homer

…and they say poetry isn’t selling.

–ED