Saturday, May 15, 2010

poemS of the day 05.15.10

May 18th is the 3rd anniversary of mine and ally's car trip across America
and back. We left on the 3rd Saturday of May in 2007, the 18th, but since today is the 3rd saturday of May, and because i've been daydreaming the trip all morning, here
are 3 poems from the road back then. My suggestion to anyone young and reading this blog, the ones who have time on their hands right now...go and travel. see your country. see the world. there's PLENTY of time for college and to make money.

at poe’s grave

standing at poe’s grave,
fayette street, baltimore,
and i am trying to think
of something monumental
to say,
which is a fatal mistake
for any writer
trapped in the moment.

besides i’ve never read poe.
not the raven
not the tell-tale heart.
so he doesn’t mean shit
to me anyway.

yet i put a penny
on his headstone to spite
realizing that you have
to appreciate a city,
like baltimore,
as beaten and lowdown
as it is,
for recognizing the merits
of a poet,
even one who died
drunken, diseased,
and piss-filled
in the streets.

not many cities do that anymore,
dedicate anything
to a writer.

in camden, new jersey,
they’ve dedicated a bridge
to walt whitman,
and once people forgot all about that,
they gave his name
to an interstate plaza.

it’s there, man,
i tell you,
written in red neon
above the burger king sign
and the one for sunoco.

it looks good there, too,
but not as good as the sign
reading $2.91 for a gallon of gas,
which is worth more to me
in this economy
than ten copies of “song of myself,”
as i sail southward
in this hapless nation,
thinking of two old gods today,
far enough away from myself
that i might never come back.


carondelet street, approximately

catching moths in my hair
and mouth,
carondelet street, new orleans,
one year and nine months after,
as drunks stumble by
with dixie cups full of beer
and a brass band plays
michael “fucking” jackson’s

the footaction shop
across from me
is boarded up,
and surrounded by bums
passing a pint back and forth,
and the footlocker store
down canal street,
the one i saw being emptied
on tv,
is taped up and shackled with chains
like a ghost town saloon.

nearly every tourist
junk shop
in the french quarter
has a t-shirt celebrating
the arrival of katrina
and the folly of the geniuses
over at fema.

it’s healing via ironic statement,
the american tragedy
brought to you with a
palpable consumerist bow,
only i remember when we used
to celebrate our triumphs
over our defeats,
in this country,
so the saleable shit doesn’t seem
like such a deal to me.

but the scant returning masses
are eating this crap up
like rotten rice on an empty table
at a famine,
paying top dollar for commemorative
and a bus tour of the devastation.

i guess they wouldn’t have
this healing happen any other way
in america,
the kind that can turn red into
that digestible shade of
faded green,
the shade that makes us all feel so
safe and secure.

but new orleans is life rebuilding
yet still rerouted,
like everything else always is,
so i can’t blame it.
and this is a statement that
explains how i got to this place
to begin with,

a traveler in need of a second chance,
at a lowly bus stop
on carondelet street ,
as another king-sized louisiana moth
has its way with me,
and the band strikes up
another number by the king of pop
to the applause of a scattering crowd
moving on down bourbon street,
with their neck’s full of mardi gras beads
to pass out to all of their friends
back home,
once the illusion has been
completely glazed over.


karl marx does salt lake

we had dinner with a marxist
in a bar in salt lake city, utah,
after driving ten hours through
the great basin and the goddamned dessert.
we didn’t intend on it.
all we wanted were a few beers and a meal,
but the marxist kept talking to us
about worker’s rights
and the malfunctioning of the system.
trying to escape the same malaise
for a few weeks, by getting lost in america,
how could we argue with that?
it’s just that politics don’t mesh well
with tiredness from the road, hunger,
and thoughts concerning the next
two thousand miles east.
so hearing enough, i abandoned my wife
and turned to the two girls sitting next to me,
to strike up a conversation.
they were reality tv stars,
on their way from los angeles to cheyenne, wyoming
to film some show called
“urban girl meets cowboy.”
i wondered what the marxist would think about that
so i introduced him to the girls,
and for the next hour he bought them glasses of wine,
until he was broke.
then he left, mumbling something about
being late for work the next day.


Bukowski's Basement said...

i love all of the travel stuff... I wish I could do more myself like this

John Grochalski said...

we got lucky with it. were in grad school in buffalo, and the wife wanted to move back to NYC. so we moved back, crashed with her parents, and applied for jobs in the city. we took 3 weeks and traveled. a one-time least for now.