(Part of Living Poem)
The time has come.
Call it a drum,
Or a crumb,
What’s left of life.
I used to tell a joke
When my life was wide,
And I was a stud,
And not a dud—I know
I’m not a dud. I’m a dude,
A dad. But everyone must
Rebut the dud charge
At summing up time.
Oh yeah, the joke,
A trademark one for me
In that it’s not funny.
I used to say I’ll never retire
Because if I’m ever paralyzed
Except for my eyes,
I will blink Morse code
To a stenographer.
Wit’s the weapon, the needle
Wielded by the Incredible Shrinking Man.
The worst part of dying is delivering
Lopping news of loss to dear ones.
Henry. Hey, Henry,
Gotta be a little heavy here,
Says me in the first-found-out days,
Feeling, acting cavalier. You and Nathan
Don’t yet know of my condition.
Reading this poem comes after that revelation.
What do you call it when walls fall
And love of others’ beauty and appeal
Comes with knowing you’ll lose them
As grips slip and you sail into the future?
What is that feeling that fills eyes
That is both harrowing and holy
That can’t be dismissed by thin lies
And that cries for words, concepts, melody?
That’s a long way around back to poetry
From the sad place, the fairyland of regret.
I haven’t found the right words yet
For the reality that’s buried by reality.
Still, words are like shards carried away
From the mythical world of chimeras,
And like passports stamped for re-entry they
Cast back into reflections, like mirrors.
Chimera’s a curious shard. It means an illusion.
In biology, it’s two creatures mashed together
Like “Mix and Match.” The root is “gheim,”
Meaning “winter,” thus a winter-old she-goat
On Mount Olympus, which when combined
With a lion and dragon becomes one of those foes
A king sends a rival to fight and lose his life to.
Guess who the ill-fated champion was. The grandson
Of Sisyphus, Bellerophon, who summoned Pegasus
And flew in and shoved a hunk of lead in the goat’s
Fire-breathing throat, choking it with the flux.
I think this is a story like the Golem, in this case
A mountain people taking their symbol of prosperity,
A doe goat ready to breed, and giving it monstrosity.
Thus, Bellerophon represents the dominant culture,
A demon-killer who goes rogue. When he spurs
Pegasus to Olympus to challenge the gods,
Saying, I don’t believe in you who favor villains,
Zeus stings Pegasus with a gadfly, causing the rider
To fall on thorns and go blind… A gadfly!
What about the word, “multifarious”—having variety?
Multi, many; farious, from fariam,
From the Indo-European dhē, meaning
“So be it!” “So be it” for every facet’s facet.
So be it your multifarious mind.
You once asked me for the magic words
To tame anxiety and let you be boss.
It may end up being the misplaced item
We both seek, and you find.
I have come to think that the main cause
Of anxiety is crying voices
That make it hard to relax and focus,
That justify a state of high alert.
Something has set off alarms.
If they would just quiet, give a space
At least for gathering data
It would be enough. But how escape?
I am with you, thinking to retreat
To the seat positioned by the stream
Where birds bathe and ruffle their feathers
Beneath shrubs in a woodland theater.
Our house is in view, half-hidden
By greenery, and so it’s easy to let go
Of concerns and commune with the oratorio
Of birds conducting life on a high level.
There’s another place I want to go,
The campfire setting that you propose.
Gather ‘round, hunker down because
Guess what, we’re just talking, bro’.
So I asked God, “How am I doing?
Because when God heard me boast
About the blinking eye, God said,
‘Oh, so I can spend my health chips
On someone else.’”
“Everyone’s special,” God pronounced,
And he went off to pamper a platypus.
What is the point of saying “I exist!”
Existence is amiss.
And my position is to—what—fix
The slippage daily, like Sisyphus?
His grandson rode to the gods on Pegasus,
Striving, like Icarus, to be proud,
And striving too hard and burning out.
Failure is the earnest person’s curse.
Blind faith is ludicrous, but not worse
Than agony. Dear Lord, though I walk in the murk
Of uncertainty, and make errors that cause hurts,
Give me a strong heart and clear mind to assert
Stratagems and dutifully do beautiful work.
Maybe this book will sell big and help support Bev.
Will you please help support Bev and buy this book?
“Hello? I don’t need support. Damn it, Rob.”
And we sit and laugh like nattering nabobs.
Bev, if this makes you laugh,
I’m going to give you some more of it.
Like that time in Boston, the wind whooshed my cap,
Which rolled and rolled through Boston Commons.
A Cap for Sale panicking like the Gingerbread Man.
We laughed and laughed like Iowans in a subway.
Or that time house-shopping in our new burg
With Gloria and Ken, stopping at For Sale signs,
You running down driveways to espy
Backyards and returning with slanted yard arms
And cute legs filling shorts to the waist, as in
Spain, your valentine face beside a giant key
Handed us by a castle-keeper, charmed, evidently,
By you and the El Greco guy you married.
Always, we join in our lives to dwell on
Those loveliest of creatures, our sons,
Such good-hearted stars, and rightful goons.
“Goon” becomes a term because Nathan, you’ve
Called me that, and I called you, “Son of Goon.”
Now we’re set, Nathan,
We’ve laid the groundwork.
The game’s called Goon, and the object
Is to get to Good, with one condition:
Unkindness is not permitted.
The game plays on a dynamic board.
The goal is empathy, which as a tool,
Spawns spins, not wins, that go toward
Appreciation scores. Isn’t it cool
That we own this knowledge core?
I need to talk as if I’m in decline
While upholding hope at the same time.
The two come together to intensify
Each moment in a show of “Hello, I’m.”
You may recognize that quip as a kind
Of rhyme-tweaking joke from “Ononis:
A Hare’s Tale.” But I digress.
You see I’m back to my antic self,
And looking outward. And “What else?”
This morning at breakfast,
Bev tells about an accountant
Who subbed as emergency goalie
For injured Blackhawk goalies
In the playoffs, and became MVP.
Henry said he’d never go to Urgent Care
To get the wood chip out of his eye
Because they can’t do anything urgent.
No moment is immaterial.
Flash in the pan, grit in the glue: ethereal.
--Rob Neufeld, Sept. 22, 2018