R. Sargent Shriver, that one was mine.
Jack LaLanne, Karl Malden, George McGovern, Jerry Falwell,
mine, mine, mine and mine.
I hate to brag but I had a hand
in Molly Ivins. You’ll find my fingerprints
all over Robert McNamara,
a puddle of superlatives
from wading into
John Updike and Pete Postlethwaite.
Up to my neck in Liz Taylor, perhaps
in over my head with Ferlin Husky,
but it was with great glee
I gilded the lily of Madame Nhu,
said it with roses when Max Roach
ceased to beat
waved Harman Killebrew
in from third, his last home run
before pushing up daisies
in deep left center.
practically wrote itself,
the honor all mine,
leaning in to lay on a harmony for
The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.
A stake through the heart of John Demjanjuk,
my foot to the floor going into the turn
with Carroll Shelby, Ferdinand A. Porsche
urging us on from the backseat
in clipped no nonsense German.
my deadline met through tears
and terrible roars and terrible gnashing teeth.
A job I would have done for free
until they let me go
then hired me back
at half the pay,
my share toward the cost
of wafer thin benefits
corporate policy set forth in this couplet:
Down to two meals a day, who needs a third?
Plump shareholders bray, too stuffed for words.
Lunch is over.
fifteen minutes flies
faster than Neil Armstrong (mine).
To improve productivity, I’ve been assigned
to write everyone’s
in advance beginning with the A’s.
Right now I’m working on yours,
driving home the final rivets
in some standard boilerplate,
composing the final flat line
in a fibrillating
half-hearted Hallmark hatchet job.
Strange Line Fellows
A 3 hour line is hard on feet and backs
and the sun is hot, you get hungry and thirsty
and the lines are deep with people
just like you and laughter and conversations
you don’t want to hear and the people
behind you and in front of you become friends
after awhile sharing the wait, the misery
but once you get inside they go their
way, you go yours and funny how
you never see them again
even if you look, even if you
want to find them once again.
Streets ran with dogs but those curs outpaced them.
Kids whacked baseballs without much care for windows.
Airplanes flew low or blew messages in smoke rings cross the sky.
Blood-red fire engines clanged and swore,
flew down sidewalks when the traffic would not part for them.
Cops rode horses. Bums ate horseshit
Everyone was nervy. Will there be enough beer?
The floats came by. Miss Cheesecake flashed her teeth.
A fake George Washington never told a fake lie.
Is that John Adams.. .no, it’s Georgie Fly, the aging hippy.
And Thomas Jefferson, bless his dressed-up soul,
read a proclamation to three men and a sheep.
The army was out in force. Some real. Some kidding themselves.
One-legged soldiers wore two legged suits.
Medals looked askance at the chests that wore them.
Do I really belong with thirty years of belt-loosening?
The band blew brass in my ear, insisted it was my independence too.
And marchers stomped my one o’clock shadow.
What a July 4th. The chocolate bar in my hip pocket had melted.
This was no way to love a parade.
My mother cried. My father’s hand never left his heart.
My mind was full of what I’d do if anyone dared touch my fireworks cache.
A hydrant burst. Kids danced, cooled off, took it as a sign.
The crippled guy wheeled himself to his open window.
Flags blew from Ms lapel.
An old woman snarled something about “no respect.”
So many people felt good about themselves,
the very-noise-filled air beamed.
A hotdog parted my lips. Harvey Jenkins did the same for my big sister’s.
If you didn’t collapse from the heat, you weren’t trying.
Yet, it was the country’s day. why spoil it with Annie’s cancer,
Rhonda’s beating, Ricky’s drunken fall.
Newspapers kicked up their heels – foreswore
“Middle East War” for “America’s Birthday”.
No journalist was harmed in the killing of their stories.
Home And Auto Repair
A day comes when one has to trust because
there aren’t enough days to spend suspicious,
following up on every lie that might
or might not be. That’s what I tell myself,
counting out bills or swiping magic cards
through robot sales clerks. It’s only numbers –
another thing I say – like in a game,
but a game you don’t want to lose because
the cost of losing means the one game left
becomes a simulation of servitude –
filling out forms for fatigued Samaritans
or bureaucrats of the most sullen kind;
taking orders from idiots while smiling.
The poor used to fear starvation, I hear.
Now we fear everything, even strangers
who give us goods and take our cards while we
wonder which will finally break us down.
Song in the Key of Memory
Students with big umbrellas
splash through campus puddles
while others smile and groan
playing wetly at home.
Pour your sad sugar, sad young man.
Pour it till asked to answer “when.”
Recall your very worst 4 a.m.
Once it rained on Moravian Street.
Bessie, Great Soul, shook out her bed-sheet.
Lovers concluded with sounds indiscreet.
Once I offered each passerby
a Ritz Cracker, Harpo my genius-guy…
collitch kid, tap-dancing-cute, oh my!
Then me and my girl got crazed apart.
Don’t want to think all that much about that part.
Pour your sad sugar for me and my sweetheart.
Pour it to taste, dear sad young man.
Pour that sad sugar however you can.
Never such 4 a.m. again.