Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems (6 page)

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
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pressed on.


I began to imagine a strange thing:

the palace never came any closer.

I began, nervously, to check

my watch, my compass, the stars:

they all confirmed

that I was almost certainly where I should be.

The vegetation was proper

for the place, and the time of year.

The flowers were dying,

but that, I knew,

was virtual, at this altitude.

It was cold,

but I was walking upward, toward the sun,

and it was silent, but—

silence and I have always been friends.


my journey's end seemed


than I had thought it would be.

I feel as though I have been badly bruised.

I hope that there is no internal damage.

I seem to be awakening

from a long, long fall.

My radio will never work again.

My compass has betrayed me.

My watch has stopped.


I will never find my way to the palace.


I do not know which way to turn.

My progress has been



I should locate the turning

and then start back

and study the road I've travelled.

Oh, I was in a hurry,

but it was not, after all,

if I remember,

an ugly road at all.

Sometimes, I saw

wonders greater than any palace,


and, sometimes, joy leaped out,

mightier than the lightning of my robe,

and kissed my nakedness.


came out of rocks and stones and chains,

wonder baptized me,

old trees sometimes opened, and let me in,

and led me along their roots,

down, to the bottom of the rain.

The green stone,

the scarlet altar-cloth,

the brown ball, the brown boy's face,

the voice, in Norman's Gardens,

trying to say: I love you.


My progress has been discouraging.

But I think I will leave the palace where it is.

It has taken up quite enough of my time.

The compass, the watch, and the radio:

I think I will leave them here.

I think I know the road, by now,

and, if not, well, I'll certainly think of something.

Perhaps the stars will help,

or the water,

a stone may have something to tell me,

and I owe a favor to a couple of old trees

And what was that song I learned from the river

on one of those dark days?

If I can remember the first few notes


I think it went something like


It may have been the day I met the howling man,

who looked at me so strangely.

He wore no coat.

He said perhaps he'd left it at Norman's Gardens,

up-town, someplace.

Perhaps, this time, should we meet again, I'll

stop and rap a little.

A howling man may have discovered something I should know,

something, perhaps, concerning my discouraging progress.

This time, however,


should the voice hold me to tarry,

I'll be given what to carry.


No, I don't feel death coming.

I feel death going:

having thrown up his hands,

for the moment.

I feel like I know him

better than I did.

Those arms held me,

for a while,

and, when we meet again,

there will be that secret knowledge

between us.


He was standing at the bath-room mirror,


had just stepped out of the shower,


balls retracted, prick limped out of the


morning hard-on,

thinking of nothing but foam and steam,

when the bell


Not knowing why,

for no reason,

he touched his balls

and heard his wife,



Then, he heard the children,

Joe, five,

Pam, three

(They had, more or less,

been planned),

giggling and conspiring

at the breakfast table.

(They seemed to be happy:

with more to say to each other

than they ever said to him.)

And, then, as he tied the towel

at his waist,

he seemed to hear a kind of


in his house

A kind of moaning, even,

and he looked at himself

in the mirror,

and, for no reason,

he was, suddenly:


He looked at himself,

seeing the face he had


and never seen:

not a bad face,

pink, now, from the steam,

laboring through the fog of the mirror,

to be scrutinized.


one more time.

No, not a bad face at all

cheek-bones high,

a cleft in the chin,

wide mouth, lips that loved

to open,

to suck, to close,

to laugh,

big straight teeth,

broad, wide-nostriled nose,

high fore-head,

curly black hair,

the face of a Gypsy Jew

And he was, indeed,


and had loved Spain,

when he had walked

and gawked,


years before he had become


Elizabeth now called him


And he was afraid,


not knowing why,

and angry at himself

for not knowing


he was afraid.


he called, again,

and, then, in the bed-room,

putting on his shorts,

looking for his shirt,

he called,

What is it?

And Elizabeth came into the


looking as nice as she always

looked to him,

and looking frightened.

She said,

There are some men here

to see you,

from the FBI.

The FBI?

That's what they said.

He laughed,

as he got into his trousers.

She helped him with his shirt.

If that don't beat all!

But, he realized, suddenly,

that Joe and Pam were not talking,


and Elizabeth, abruptly, left him,

and he put on his shoes.

He put on his watch.

It said: eight-thirty.

He was to remember that.

One was standing in the kitchen.

One was standing in the living-room.

The one in the kitchen

stood too close to the children.

He did not like the way

this man looked at his children.

He did not like the way this man

looked at Elizabeth.

He did not like the way the man

in the living room

looked at his books,

holding one in his hands

as though it were reptilian,

putting it down on the table

as though the room were a swamp.

Yet, if he had seen them

on the train to work,

in the streets, in a bar,

he wouldn't have noticed them at all.

They looked perfectly ordinary,

dressed as safely as he was


Anonymous, and, above all,


You are?

This was the one in the kitchen.

It was not a question.

It was a statement containing


He felt the blood hit his temples.

He put his hands in his pockets,


He said,
What's this about?

But his voice was another man's


He did not recognize his voice.

His voice:

now, he realized that he had never

heard his voice.

The one in the living-room

picked up another book,

dropped it,


We're asking the questions


Came into the kitchen

and patted little Joe on the head.

Joe jumped up and ran to his


who put one trembling arm around him,

and said,

I think I have a right to ask


What are you doing in my house?

What do you want?

They flashed badges.

He said,

That don't mean shit

They laughed. Pam began to cry.

Elizabeth went to her,

staring at the men.

Oh yes, it does

the living-room man said,

And you are in it

The kitchen man laughed.

He produced a photograph.

He seemed to take it out of his hat

Though his hat was on the kitchen table.

When did you last see this man


He wanted to say,

I do not know this man

He stared at a photograph of a man

who had been his teacher, once,

a very fine man.

A very fine teacher.

His name was Stone.

I have not seen him in some time

he said,

cold, now, and angry in another way,

and too relieved to know what this was

about, frightened

to be, for the moment, anymore.

Then, the living-room man said:

And you signed this?

And took out an old, rolled-up piece of


like a scroll,

and thrust it at him.

He read,

Genocide is among the American crimes

and we petition this nation to


He looked at this for a long time.

He remembered signing it: he did not

look for his name.

He ran his hands through his son's

abruptly electric hair,

and stared at the living-room man,

and the kitchen man,

and said,

Yes. I signed it. You know that

Why are you here?

The kitchen man said,

Your teacher wrote a book, too, didn't he?

He said,
. Then,
Not a bad book


He was beginning to tremble.

He wanted to laugh.

He felt his son clasp his thigh.

The living-room man said,

Well, he's in jail, your teacher

He was a faggot Commie spy

The kitchen man said,

I bet he made out with you

You, with your cute round ass

Yeah. That's why you signed this


He willed his thigh not to tremble

against his son's head.

He said,
Why are you here?

And they said, together,

We got some questions to ask you!

Then. Elizabeth asked,

Are you arresting my husband?

And they said, together,

Yeah. Come on, Buster. Move it

He woke up. The door-bell rang.

Song For The Shepherd Boy

What wouldn't I give

to be with you.

Hey. The rags of my life are few.

Abandoned priceless gems are scattered

here and there

I don't know where—

never expected to have them,

much less need them,

but, now, an ache, like the beginning

of the rain,

makes me wonder where they are.

If I knew, I would go there,

travelling far and far

and find them

to give them to you.


would be amazed.

I see your amber color raised

and those eyes—!

brighter than the jewels, far

more amazing than the loot

of my looted life.

Well. Then.

There is my pain.

I never thought to think

of it again.

And pain's no gift

it will not lift

you up from the mid-night hour.

Pain cannot be given,

can only be tracked down,


somewhere—somewhere within that catacomb,

that maze, that dungeon,

which my breath built,

and in which I begin to move,



for something to give to you.

May '86, Amherst

(for David)

For A.

Sitting in the house, with everything on my mind.

Stumbling in my house, watching my lover go stone-blind.

Come back from that window. Please don't open that door!

I know where it leads. It leads to hell, and more

than your blinded eyes can see. Come back,

come back, and try to lean on me.

I'm here, I'm here, I've gone nowhere away:

if only you could see!

How is it we have travelled, you and me,

through happy days, and torment, and not guessed

that we could find ourselves so black, unblessed,

so far apart?

You are my heart:

I watched you sleep and watched you play.

I slapped your buttocks every day.

I used to laugh with you when you laughed

and stand, when you stood up, and, with you,

watched the land drop down beneath us,

green and brown and crooked,

as we rose up, up into a sky

which we alone had found

and where we were alone. Too much alone, perhaps.

Perhaps we were as wicked as people said,

turning to each other for the living bread!

And, now: I have taken your hope away, you say,

BOOK: Jimmy's Blues and Other Poems
13.13Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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