It’s remarkable how many things people do as poetry. I’ve regularly attended readings here in the city at three different venues, and they’re like the difference between jazz, bluegrass, and a string quartet, and that still doesn’t include any long epics over a feast of roasted mutton after pillaging Troy. Poetry can go from Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs and Ham” to T. S. Eliot’s “The Wasteland” (that is, from coherent to not quite so). I think poetry is alive and well, in spite of the efforts of some poets and academics to seal it off from common people.
Being one of the common people, during my lunch hour at work I occasionally scribble about on poems. I like having something creative to play with, as it gives the day a greater interest. Lately the style of poetry I’m working with has moved toward deliberately fantastic imagery, without any clear intention to tell a coherent story. In the poem below, there is no secret meaning behind the lines, and it can mean what you make of it. Think of a character from the movie “Casablanca” dancing across the screen, winking mysteriously at the camera, making us think “What was that about?” That’s this poem.
Someone by the Sea
Like a train come down from Heaven
blowing smoke along the line,
like the curls of God’s black beard,
rolling, roiling, out in billows,
the train stopped at Roscoe Station
and stood there hard and tall.
Standing on the platform
holding her worn blue hat,
Belinda Rose smelled smoke and coughed,
and thought of Jesus on the cross.
Beside her was her luggage
as tall as Jesus stood.
She looked at those bags on the platform,
then turned and climbed into the train.
The engine hummed like a jazz crescendo,
quivered like a preacher at work,
vibrating off and on like quarks
that exist, now they don’t, now they do.
Belinda Rose took a velvet seat,
removed her shoes,
and dreamed of sleep.
The steward came slowly down the aisle
selling laughter and weeping and sighs,
and with baskets of bright, subtle roses.
Every fifteen minutes,
or sixteen whenever he smiled,
he paused to double his prices,
calling “Now is the time to buy!”
Belinda Rose bought a single blue rose
in memory of her name,
then she took the name off,
and tossed her name out in the snow.
Someone looked out the window.
Someone looked pensive as well.
She thought of the town she had come from
where the houses were always on fire,
where children were taught to walk with one foot,
a town where time would flow backwards,
then stop and flow forward again.
When morning came, in the early light
Someone saw trees decorated
with glitter and beads and gold balls,
and the fondest desires of the heart
wrapped in petite paisley bows.
The train rolled by an ocean
as green as emerald eyes,
where the fish sang songs about water.
The clouds sailed by like songbooks,
and the air was like jasmin tea.
Until they arrived at the place where they were,
and they stopped in that spot by the sea.