Monday, February 15, 2016


He kept Plath in his beard--
Pound in his pocket.

He was a big, round, officially endorsed cargo ship
carrying Crane, Yeats and Cummings
to and above all our upturned mermaid faces.

How we adored him as he
orbited above us,
tossing us enjambments and sandwich crumbs.

Everyone I knew that winter
was on some sort of diet, slowly
starving themselves to get more
and saints' medals for self-denial.

He alone moved through our world consuming it
even as he fattened it with all he stuffed us full of.

He said, "I have the reputation of being unapproachable,
but come to my office any time."
He had The Bard on the wall, Ferlinghetti on the book shelf.

He saw that I was famished and gave me loaves and fishes,
bound with glue and published by the University Press.

I let him down, you know, in the end.
My depression settled in and I gacked the final paper.
His appearance that last time, shocked me.
He said, "You're smart, but you don't try."

Gods kill themselves,
and when they do, nobody can believe it.
I thought it was my fault.
It wasn't, but

I grew all that spring and summer, even after he was gone.
My parents' lips hard-dried in a thin line.
Friends put their palms on me.

I never told anyone, and they all assumed it was some college boy.
Now I have one of my own, but when he was little
I would bitch at him to go sledding,
make a snowman,
play hockey,
anything, but just get your nose out of that book.

Then I'd feel bad and apologize to the air, and to Francisco
for all of my shortcomings
and the poems--the poems unwritten. 

For Magaly's "Carpe Jugulum" challenge at the Imaginary Garden With Real Toads. Some of this poem is true, the rest is my imagination.


Sioux said...

The line "lips hard-dried in a thin line." I think I produced the same in MY parents.

So soaring and above-real-life in the beginning, and then I loved the stanza about the son and sledding.

As always, in awe of you, Shay.

Outlawyer said...

Very strong story that you make into a beautiful poem. k.

Kerry O'Connor said...

I am quite such a person (mermaid) who would have sat entranced at the maestro's knee, so your poem spoke greatly to my own experience of both learning and teaching.

hedgewitch said...

Always a pleasure to watch you weave a strong narrative poem, full of nuance and mystery and our slow gropings toward identity and the light--whether burn of love or flame of mind...every poem unwritten (especially by you) is a loss to us all. I love this character, Francisco, you have drawn for us, also--part St Francis, allusively San Francisco and of course teacher and kindred on some level we as young people may or may not recognize, but can't absolutely connect to.

Magaly Guerrero said...

There are few things I love more than a poem that tells a story, a poem I read and reread because it's so delicious that I don't want to slow down to absorb all the good bits at a sensitive pace.

The imagery is a gift to my dreamer mind--a reminder to the child, younger woman... I was--your first line made a promise that grew into something I wanted to hold on to without letting go for a second. I also wanted to hold on to Francisco, and let him go, too... so that he could live and live and live... and create everything.

Susan said...

Mine was Coppelia Kahn, feminism and Shakespeare and contemporary women's fiction. The one I let down, I mean. Well, one of many, but she's on top of the heap. What an amazing cargo ship you've drawn for me! And I love how you brought it forward through progeny and prayer.

Lynn said...

I like that you imagined this story based on truth.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh my goodness, I ate and drank this poem as if I, too, were famished .........for exactly this kind of story. And no one tells them better than you.

Mama Zen said...

The dieting stanza . . . its placement is just stunning. This is a clinic, girl.

Margaret said...

The fourth stanza is beyond brilliant. The poem, I believe, reads so sweetly because it is rooted in a bit of nonfiction - but I love that you allow yourself to play with it and create a story - my favorite thing to do when I can make it work (you always make it work). ..."poems unwritten" just got to me.

Carol Campbell said...

Power drips from your words! You are most certainly a storyteller!

brudberg said...

This describes so much something that has been on the newspaper pages... the Culture Man... the one living off the service of women.. a consumer of adoration... yes this is for sure a cannibal...

TexWisGirl said...

heady and low all mixed into one.

Cloudia said...

"He saw that I was famished and gave me loaves and fishes,
bound with glue and published by the University Press."

So purty. Bringing memories of youth....hunger...filled..yet aroused

Susie Clevenger said...

I was always hungry for words growing up. Love your narrative. Your story telling is always stellar.

grapeling said...

superb telling: intimate, vulnerable, observant ~

hedgewitch said...

Those who have influenced us deeply always stay with us--and of course, when we're young we are always letting them, and ourselves down, because the world and our own skins are still too big for us--this is an excellent narrative poem that never loses its lyric lift--glad I came back to re-read without the medicated fog. ;_)