Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Franconia

Willie and Tillie, my long-lived goldfish,
were put in the coffee tin
half filled with water
and lidded with plastic
for the 2-plus-hour drive
to northern New Hampshire.
I remember Route 3,
and a billboard
like a grim movie marquee
warning against drunk driving:
RIGOR MORTIS CAN SET IN
IF YOU MIX YOUR GAS WITH GIN.
George Benson was on the radio
singing "Give Me the Night"--
hybrid jazz/disco rhythms
delighting my eleven-year-old ears.

Between sixth and seventh grade, I was:
between the Joseph H. Barnes Middle School,
Marion Street, East Boston,
and venerable Boston Latin School
on Avenue Louis Pasteur.
I hadn't yet met Mr Halloran
or the poetry of Robert Frost.
I hadn't yet met Mrs Owens
or the second declension neuter.

But I had met the mountains of Franconia
with the Old Stone Face overlooking the Notch
and the dirt road of Lafayette Acres
and placid Route 18
winding its casual way
north to Littleton.
I had met August nights of forty-two degrees
and constellations of fireflies,
fitful bead-sized go-lights
in the deep North Country dark.

Willie and Tillie's limp little fish-corpses
have long ago been flushed to kingdom come.
Disco? Replaced by hip-hop, neo-soul,
emo, shoegazing, and alternative.
East Boston, praise Jesus,
is now just a memory to me.
But I hear they converted the old Barnes School
into elderly housing.

Mr Halloran's retired and writing books.
Mrs Owens is now Mrs Whittaker.
And no longer under compulsion,
I read Frost only rarely nowadays.
(I'd rather read Uncle Wystan.
In fact, I'd rather read you!)

Signs along Route 3
no longer carry cheerful rhymes
about deadly car crashes;
the Old Man of the Mountain
crumbled and fell to earth some years back,
but Route 18 still goes
from the upper end of the Notch
up to Littleton (the town of 6000
suburbanized and lately Walmarted)

--and the fireflies, still bright in memory,
lucent dots of nuclear green
against the thick nocturnal black,
doubtless have descendants
more numerous than the seed of Abraham,
bellies flashing and flickering
in the woods and valleys and clearings,
delighting the eyes of children
with an art transcending usefulness--
these fireflies, these tiny mutant stars.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Up Past Midnight

I sit and write to you,
who are probably asleep.
Here is coffee, lamplight,
air conditioning, boredom,
the compulsive cyberfidget.

I peek into Flow Chart
for inspiration, for amusement.
I'd be better off reading
Delights and Shadows.

Should I try for more sleep?
Should I keep the lights on
and jot dozens of three-liners
in the deep quiet?
Should I revise old poems,
lopping off weak beginnings,
making the blurry clear?

Wystan Auden,
Roethke, Cummings,
talk to me! some
input, please!

Household chores
ask to be done. I put them off
to write this letter to you.

I have friended the darkness.
We message each other
with words, with starlight.

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Arlington Town Day

Arlington Town Day: annual street fair
From ten to two on a Saturday in September.
Arts and crafts, and food, and a big book sale!

Local office-holders smile and shake hands;
Dentists have booths where they give away toothbrushes;
Grocery stores hand out tote bags.

First Unitarian offers tolerance and welcome;
St John's Episcopal offers welcome and tolerance,
And top-notch music at their liturgies.

Democrats bask in Arlington's kindness;
Republicans don't mind being outnumbered;

A high-school band blares Brubeck and Ellington
To a grateful cluster of parents and jazz fans,
A small clot in the circulating throng.

Citizens Bank offers a green coffee mug
And minimal monthly service charges.

Quiet white-haired ladies sell handmade scarves.

Tango gives us A Taste of Argentina;
The Sons of Italy sizzle mammoth sausages;
At a booth by Mill Street, you can get fried dough.

What can't you find at Arlington Town Day?