Mother Died Today
Mother died today. That's how it began. Or maybe yesterday, I can't be sure. I gave the book to my mother in the hospital. She read the first sentence. Mother died today. She laughed and said you sure know how to cheer me up. The telegram came. It said, Mother dead Stop Funeral tomorrow Stop. Mother read it in the hospital and laughed at her college boy son. Or maybe yesterday, I don't remember. Mama died yesterday. The telegram arrived a day too late. I had already left. Europe is going down, the euro is finished, and what does it matter? My mother served plum cake and I read the page aloud. Mother died today or yesterday and I can't be sure and it doesn't matter. Germany can lose two world wars and still rule all of Europe, and does it matter whether you die at thirty or seventy? Mother died today. It was Mother's Day, the day she died, the year she died. In 1940 it was the day the Germans marched into Belgium and France and Churchill succeeded Chamberlain as Prime Minister. The telegram came from the asylum, the home, the hospital, the "assisted living" facility, the hospice, the clinic. Your mother passed away. Heartfelt condolences. The price of rice is going up, and what does it matter? I'Il tell you what I told the nurse and anyone that asks. Mother died today.
(May 10, 2012)
Poem in the Manner of Polonius
Neither a follower nor a leader be.
Vote, but tell no one for whom you voted.
Do not avoid jury duty. Avoid a fight,
but if attacked, fight back with all your might,
and don’t try to get laid on your first date.
Kiss her good night and call the next day.
Memorize verse, laws, and amendments
to the constitution. Obey the ten commandments.
Eat when hungry, have a drink when you need one,
and remember to have fun
at least once a week, and not to forget whose son
you are. Take your vitamins. Sign no one’s petition.
Travel light, and don't forget a sweater
when you wander in the dark talking aloud
to a mother or a lover though no one's there.
Look up at the sky, and see god in a cloud.
"Darwin predicted you," Jim Cummins said.
"You’re in the theory." His assailant fled.
People clapped. They wanted Jim to make a speech.
"My subject is Cincinnati," he said. "Do I dare to eat a peach?"
Into the room flew the fly, humming. "Place your bets."
"Shall we gamble everything on red?" Jim asked. I said, "Let’s."
It was a hot day in the Queen City.
Pitching for the Reds was Walter Matthau playing Walter Mitty.
When Jim got audited by the IRS, he cursed:
"It was like having an autopsy without being dead first."
A world-class wise-ass, he volunteered to prepare my return.
I pretended to do a slow burn.
But I didn’t mind. If life was a riverboat gamble, you could count me in.
Jim nodded. It was exactly as predicted by Darwin.
Poem in the South American Manner
Miro painted the sea’s curtain. I said go
ahead, abuse the laws of perspective,
choose not to lose your will to live.
Stay sober and you can join me, bro.
At the volcano, where we defied the embargo,
all bullish bravado, it was our turn to wait,
confuse the nine muses with fate,
drink cheap wine, memorize Vallejo.
No gringo fruit company can make a difference
to one who comes bearing no present,
wearing no tie, just work shirt and pants.
Ante up to play the future. No essence
precedes your last-chance existence
in my country of sugar cane and no parliament.
The Trouble with Spain
for Gabriel Gudding, who asked for it
The trouble with Spain
is it doesn't exist
on my wrist
like a watch losing
two seconds in accuracy
each day of its life.
The trouble with pain
is it does.
The trouble with rain
is it was.
The postponement of the game
is the trouble with Maine
and the chill of the Atlantic Ocean.
The trouble with Cain
is he is constantly in motion.
The trouble with Jane
is the absence of lotion
or the suicide of Hart Crane
as the object of devotion
in a lonely lane
sipping a witch's potion.
The trouble with Spain
is no absence of pain.
The trouble with the bubble
is it's about to burst.
It won't be the first.
The trouble with the Rouble
is it's valueless,
It is we who are value-free.
We have the souls of moralizers
and secret abortionists
said T. S. Eliot at a meeting
of deceased ex-ministers.
Thank you, said the Ladies and the Sirs,
each of whom deserves to be kissed.
The trouble with them
is they don't exist.