Sunday, March 15, 1992

FOR THE ANCIENT MARINER (Beyer ditty)

An occasional poem for George Beyer from the Rebstocks

No coyness is needed to introduce the slayer of dragons
The swashbuckler is restless, and philosophical flagons
Spill the time-tested aspiring Bayer wisdom of the ages
Desire: mere pearls before rime are courageous adages,
Say the sages. Old flames. Love knows no limits, no bounds,
Nothing less profound than your heart resounds.
For it takes lengthy experienceómore than that of accolades
To measure, so brilliantly, the full breadth of your decades,
As you celebrate with passion, your 80-odd years
(If I may take the liberty to explain); it appears
That nothing, except breath, comes as easily as praise
Issuing forth (in arrears) for our man Beyer. We are all ablaze
Speaking in heroic couplets, and blossoming forth from our lips
Loose quips capable of sinking even the most stalwart of ships.
Harken to the stern! Damsels in need of rescuing ahoy!
No need to dwell on those lost opportunities of the past.
For you, a life-time supply of rubbers to curl your toes fast,
To make your knees weak; this is no blanket condom-nation.
(Now, try and explain yourself out of this ticklish situation.)
And so to the ends of the earth, we send you French Letters
With postage due (in the hopes that you may still find something better
To do with your time than to listen to those silly old nursery rhymes.)
Rise to waken and take your rising slow (in dubious paradigms)
For the gentle cock that percheth in thy lady's chamber is naught
About tough old roosters or gamey hens ready for the stew-pot.
These jib lines are for sale, no insurance pitches to gum up the works.
A package of life-preservers (what the doctor ordered) lurks
Waiting to set the infinity of 8 on its side, and zero on its head!
The big eight-oh oh oh . . .take these safes to thy daily bed. . .
(Oops! I think I've said more than I ought to,
A good thing this is Novato, not Kalamazoo.)
Time's a wasting, me matey, to celebrate the beauty of her.
Keep a stiff. . .er, upper lip, don't be a heart-breaker.
Stalwart ship, raise thy mizzenmast, let the wind play
Out your sails, for at the ends of the earth
there be dragons to s(lay).

4/17/92
1st draft 3/15/92

(This was a commissioned poem for a birthday roast...)

Sunday, March 1, 1992

LATE AT NIGHT I GET CALLS


LATE AT NIGHT I GET CALLS
          —for Igor Tischler


Late at night I get calls from strangers
who speak good English with thick Russian accents
from places like North Carolina, New York, Iowa—
They are homesick, or want to send packages of shoes
to daughters left behind in Moscow, Leningrad, Cherkassy.
In this way, I find out about my friends in Russia—
via the Slavic grapevine. It's always the same news:
times are hard, life is a struggle, the price of bread in every conversation.
Igor says: I get homesick for America when he is already living here.
He has grown used to conveniences, the quality of food, the sameness.
He says: in every store the bananas are in the same corner.
Here, I don't have to worry about where to find them.
Natasha says her family is fine, they eat lots of bread now—
when they can get it. The lines are longer than ever.

I think of all the dried bread in every Russian apartment,
so glad I didn't throw out Valera's stored bread
when I cleaned the cabinets—meal bugs, stale food.
Guilty of what little food I did toss—bugs are protein too.
Cereal laced with insects and mouse shit sticks in my craw.
In America, I'm not reduced to such choices.
The green canned meat he wouldn't let me throw out,
or the furry sausage saying, it's good. Vicusna. Hotchish?
In America we throw out food that's still good.
In Russia, any food is considered spoils;
a people constantly at war with bureaucracy.
Booty in the form of dried bread, a bank account.
Daily bread to feed the birds. There is no equation to be made.
In Russia, all of life is punctuated with lines.

Late at night I talk to friends of friends who I've never met,
we share something in common.
Always they say: Khome veesit our khaus in Ameerika!
And I know they mean it—
their doors to their hearts always unlocked
for the potential future friend.
Because in this way, they will survive.
Friends are everything. Isolation is death.
Better off in Siberia, or Magadan with friends.
Here, we are voluntary exiles, xenophobes used to the soft life,
we slam doors on our own thumbs as a matter of course.
The more Igor and I discuss American and Russian psyches,
the more we discover we are alike,
having traded places somewhere during the first thaw
of the Cold War. The final thaw, irrevocably.

Censorship comes to mind. Michael Jackson's crotch.
Igor laments Edward Albee, the American Chekhov
is unknown in his own country.
Those who recognize his name ask: is he still alive?
Albee met Igor with a bouquet of flowers at JFK airport at 6 am,
easing his transition into the den of iniquity. Albee? I'm stunned.
Flowers for the death of one way of life and the birth of another.
But what of all the daughters of Russia waiting for American shoes?

Igor says: I do fine here, but sometimes, late at night,
I go crazy with fear. What he can't do is send shoes to his daughter.
Like Vadim who keeps buying more shoes on sale,
because the others have become too small.
Neither can send shoes home: the package is small,
do you know of anyone going to Russia? 

I say: Yes. I will ask, so they can ease back to sleep,
knowing the storyline by heart, how hell is named,
with shoes, becomes tangible. It is empowerment.
Here, they have money to buy shoes, no way to send them.
The choices are: to stay in Russia together as a family
and have nothing, or to escape to America's golden streets
and send things to the family left at home.
Most never want to go back. The well-muscled
American night is filled with longing for homeland,
all those orphan shoes walking in the night
towards all the daughters of home.


3/92

Igor Tishler: A Fantasy Come True 5/1/92