It still seemed like a hell
Of an idea, she thought, and thinking,
Just alone the smell,
The way they'll be stinking,
And certainly she tried to tell
Him just as much, linking
Her similes ungainly, commonplacely,
As if a touch of it sufficed to trace the
Entire ghastly picture—
"Gracious, Phil, it got to be bizarre."
She gave him a pretty good lecture
Laced with a car-
load of ain'ts and many a stricture
Just as agrammatical and far
More emphatical, denying good decorum, tense,
Making such precious little sense
That the mild-mannered man
Was shocked, reduced to tears,
Wrung at the hands and wailing. You can
See her railing as the moment nears
For our principal narration—
Frau Binder and her peers,
Supper at the Grand Seville.
I hope I'm not condemned for overkill.
She was indeed a mousy sort of thing,
Worried with worry, strained,
Given to work her wedding ring
Or crack her knuckles, explained
Her universe with common coinage, sing-
ing the praises, real or feigned,
Of Norman Vincent Peale,
And seldom bartered prayer for squeal.
She had lived her life for chatter
And the kids, Ducky, Marvin, Susy Q,
And watched the latter
Leave the nest, deserved a rest through
Thirty years of rearing, settled at her
Job and spouse, the tried and true
Zenith in the parlor,
Watching the soaps with grisly pallor,
A trip to the Baptists when the feeling
Struck, the family pew,
At most contained and seldom reeling
With the Light—she'd sue
For damages that most call healing,
Return to Schlitz, her favorite brew,
The closest thing she knew to Christ.
His stroke was in the spring,
Sudden as an axe, cleaving her sanity.
That brusque vital man, everything
Feeding her vanity,
Stroking her sense of self, and all she'd bring
To it was platitude, inanity,
Wilmer struck down like meat, a pillar
Of strength with a meaty pillar.
He spent three months on Rehab,
Trying to make a fist,
To curl his toes and blink, a slab
Of voiceless flesh. So difficult to resist
His plight in that drab,
Anonymous institution, a feel more twist
Than shock, painful as adolescence
Grinning at its own senescence.
He settled on the chronic list,
A hose in his ample tool,
A side of beef, a human cyst
Scenting his stool,
Attendants, nurses, interns failing to assist
Her in her need, stuffing cruel
Faces. What didn't fit they'd bag it,
Report it to the senior maggot.
The word might seem obscene,
Distorting her sentiment with rhyme,
And yet some extreme
Portion of her troupe in time
Agreed, sipping at coffee in the lounge, a schem-
ing worried set, prime
For a generous regret. But take to house
Your addled mother, drooling spouse?
Fairer to say that some had tried,
From cot to camper stool,
Lifting their loved ones. Chide
If you will it's no fool
That tires of mopping dribble, faeces, drool
With guests about, a bashful bride,
Her fickle mate
Turning his back on a family trait.
The guilt was great enough,
Larger than decubitus,
That this attendant, that, was rough,
That no one seemed to fuss
At Freddie, Marge, enough
But let them seethe like sacks of vermin, pus,
And loll their heads and wink
Like mad idiots in their stink.
Let's lighten up the ugly just a bit,
Regard the hopeful in a narrative
Too grim for mass consumption, scarcely fit
For any relative
Whisking a loved one to the county pit,
Eschewing drink for sedative,
Charmed that grandpa's twice removed,
The family tree improved.
Such trees produce peculiar limbs.
Let's speak of Phil.
Gay as a speckled trout he swims,
Kneading the air each visit, a will
Of scented Silly Putty, dispensing his gems
Of gummy wisdom—"You're never ill
That thinking's not the cause.
A pill's no contract, just a clause."
Or Meisten's ruddy son,
His florid politics, his hearty laugh,
Somewhere to the right of Genghis Reagan.
You've seen his photograph,
The flag in his lapel, a steady gun,
Protector of the golden calf,
His humanism strictly local,
Stern as an eagle with a dose of social.
Three stanzas go to Sedder's sister,
That shriveled gnome fumbling beneath the sheets
To check his Texas catheter,
Feverish as a tax collector, culling cheats
From dressing data, linen. A casual blister
Would arouse maternal teats
As tested as the fiercest nun
That ever felt a hand upon her bum.
She'd phone the board of health
And vent her ire, recount such gross misdeeds
As might convert a Croesus in his wealth
To shed it like a string of beads
And enter the needle's eye in stealth,
Mumbling official creeds,
A bureaucratic shuffle of such awful squeeze
That camels coming after pass with ease.
She'd phone the mayor, county court,
The local churches, synagogues,
Demand from rabbi, priest, a full report,
Dial for the meanest cogs
In the mighty mechanism crushing her dearest Mort,
A sorry lot of papered dogs,
And settle back with gin and tonic,
Her temperament more terminal than chronic.
The four were human, I suppose,
Grotesques, in short, the natural state
Of human-sort. Such species grows
Peculiar in this late
Bleak century. If I chose
Another set at random, some six or eight
Examples of the race from either gender,
Their sorry lot would set you on a bender.
A wider circle prowled the ward,
Anonymous as tombstones,
Clairborne, Douglas, vacant, bored,
Steering their grisly crones
Along the tile, wresting a desperate chord
From screeches, groans
More dissonant than any twelve tone misery
Cooked on an avant-garde rotisserie.
This wider circle grieved in part,
Massaged their sense of loss,
But sculling mariners seldom start
With leering dribbled albatross
As mascot for a maiden voyage. They chart
Their journey, mate to boss,
And if they list in oceanic tide,
The skipper seldom drooled before he died.
For some allegiance is a dreadful vice,
The type that sends a callow youth to war,
That puts one's wits on ice.
For sake of glory mice will roar
And functionaries take their slice
Of the corporate apple, crafty at the core,
But craft is seldom genius in the end,
And death will rather steal than lend.
There's such a thing when care
Becomes enough. Solicitation of a larger type
Is morbid in the best of settings. There
Genuflects are known to take the pipe
Rather than renounce their pomp or prayer,
And Gretta Binder was a zealot ripe
From 8 AM till Pilate left his post,
Succoring her Wilmer with a mealy Host.
"Oh Wilmer, honey, take a spot of tea,
And here's your bedpan if you have to go.
Miss Thomas has to check your pee.
I'll use this cup. Don't let me throw
It out. And let me tune that old TV.
The proper station stimulates your flow.
That colored nurse might take an awful fit,
So please don't stuff your jug with shit."
There was a touch of pathos in the way
Our Gretta hovered, lifting a cup to lip,
Ensuring he was covered. And then she'd pray
And bite her tongue and grip
A rosary procured one Saturday
When fundamental values took a fancy flip
And lighted on the Holy Roman Church,
Leaving her Bible thumpers in the lurch.
A swarthy weasel of a priest
Began to shove his wafers in her craw
When confidence and faith had nearly ceased.
The Holy Writ became her law
And sustenance. She pieced
Together hymn and matin, faster on the draw
Than Satan, and seldom juked the Eucharist,
Devout as any snake that hissed.
Poor Wilmer captive in his bed
Could scant resist her plaintive version,
Fumbling at the beads beneath his spread,
Her grand conversion,
Yet dribbled water seldom doused his dread
Or pacified a natural aversion
To waterways a Savior seldom charted.
He may have been too poor-in-hearted.
With Sleepy, Sedder's sibling,
She aligned, a stout defender
Of the Papal Brie from nibbling
Rat and Protestant pretender.
The former had a fix on Rudyard Kipling.
A dose of Gunga Din was known to send her.
He carried Holy Water to her weary spirit.
Her zeal was such that even Christ would fear it.
A certain Mormon in their midst
Was greeted like a sewer backup.
The honest sort had hugged and kissed
Many a dreadful since his crack-up,
And few there were that he had missed,
But kissing didn't quite stack up
With Gretta's Sleepy Sedder,
To think he'd rather court her Mort than bed her.
They watched him fondle Meisten
In the corner, fuss at his pillow,
Wipe his silly grin,
Whisper sweet nothings at the hapless fellow,
A rope of snot descending from his chin,
Who answered nothings with an angry bellow
And blinked and chortled like an ape in heat
And sucked his food and wriggled in his seat.
Such ministrations were not lost
On Meisten's son. That florid ex-Marine,
Defending the national pride at any cost,
Was bound to find such goings-on obscene.
The ladies might have crossed
Their sagging bosoms at the lusty scene
Of Burton Randolf groping at their dearests,
But Harry's indignation was the fiercest.
Fairer to judge that Burton wasn't gay,
Nor any other of the Joseph Smith persuasion.
The Tabernacle exercised its sway
Over many a genital evasion,
Though followers were known to stray
Through corridors more Kinseyian than Asian,
Eschewing drafts of coffee, tea,
But bedding down with stranger company.
The raging bull that tramples
On a pansy will often scar a daffodil
In process. Such coarse examples
Carry crosses. They burn to kill
The widest spectrum that the pollster samples,
The Democrats that fill
The Senate, all anthropoids of certain hue—
"They'll bus the planet fore they're through."
When Phil appeared the tempest jumped
Its jar. He sauntered debonair
From room to corridor and bumped
His hips, wielded a geri chair
Like Cleopatra, pumped
At their spotted hands with vapid air—
"And how is pretty Ruth today?
The weather's inching grim, I have to say."
Phil's mama was a Breckenridge.
The family once had money.
In time their hopes were in the fridge
From gambling debts to runny
Checks, a smidge
Of graft more murderous than funny.
The father choked on rancid beef.
The mother burst a vessel in her grief.
A county claimed its charge
When funds depleted,
A swarthy heap upon the barge
That trawls with the defeated.
The barge was large
But soon depleted.
It floundered where the wisest hold their breath
And grunt and stink and pray for death.
The son declined to deign
His mother ill.
He deemed her wasted brain
To be a frill,
A touch of character that came
To coat the geriatric pill,
That came with wisdom, beauty, age,
And if she seemed to snort with rage
Or wallow in her stew,
He knew he'd bring her up to snuff
Before the week was through—
"Oh sure, it's tough,
My sweet, to chew
Or pass your gas or sweat enough,
But happiness is often like a gem
Consumptive poets bury in their phlegm."
The week was past
Before he caught it, and weeks
Before he bought it—the leaks
Of poets cast
No gem-like fire on Emma Peaks,
Whose composition was no kin to Keats
But mostly Rorschach dribbled on her sheets.
In such a state we find the best
Of men, Phil Peaks and Harry Meisten
Struggling to acquit themselves, hard pressed
As princes at the guillotine they're sliced in,
A royal banquet for the stressed
But bargain priced in
Even lighter times,
As difficult to match as double rhymes.
Frau Binder drew those anguished souls
Together, the daffodil and trampling bull,
Two offspring with their geriatric ghouls,
And rather slaughter pride than pull
A pansy, she clipped their tools.
The pansy flowered full.
The bull became a steer.
Transitions of the like are often queerer.
Miss Sedder joined the other three.
She stood along the ground
And aped the grandest troupe since Calvary.
From dizzy height to safe and sound,
The foursome made a splendid company
(A maggot likes a mound)
And gathered as we've noted in the lounge
To savor the latest gossip they could scrounge.
Strangely Harry Meisten calmed our Gretta
When fancy Phil proposed an evening out,
A sumptuous entertainment for the older set, a
Dinner party fit to raise a gout,
And if our Gretta was a bit upset, a
Skeptic where her usual faith was stout,
She hastened to arrange the grisly feast
For carrion comfort better off deceased.
Such principals are bound to lift a lid,
The Meistens, Peaks, Binders, Sedders in a clot,
Eight wholesome sorts whose lives were in a skid
Toward slobber, stench and rot,
And if such terms grow wearisome, I did
My best with dribble, drool and snot.
Their synonyms from various thesauri
Are scarce as teeth in hens, or brontosauri.
Yet after all it was a splendid notion
To give those tortured stiffs a needed break
From pureed beef, decubitus, A&D lotion,
And Howard Meisten, lolling like a senile drake
From dose of Mellaril or other potion,
Would trail a scent of flowers in his wake
Down the elevator shaft.
To coop the poor man up so long was daft.
Logistics of a sort
Required to take a loved one out to lunch,
To speak one's mind or land in court,
Are far removed from dining such a bunch
Of rancid blossoms, inclined to snort
Or root for acorns in a crunch,
Incontinent as buzzards dropping pellets
On Moonies, Krishnas, Popes and other zealots.
The van was properly equipped
But ill-prepared to tidy up a chin.
And then they'd need be shipped
With some expedience, a gentle kin
Like turkeys on a skewer gripped
And trussed from cheek to shin,
The catheters concealed, the piss bags drained,
Umbrellas safe at hand in case it rained.
Hope that roots in human hearts
Prevailed again in this bleak setting.
By casual fits and starts
They pried assent from each MD, petting
The pertinent authorities, old farts
Perhaps and hard to budge, but betting
On the longer shot—the shot was heard
Around the ward. Easter Sunday was the word.
My God, you're leaning hard
On symbolism! I hear a chorus whining
From the pit. As if the card
Was dealt improper. Such souls could take refining.
Your Milton was a bard
That countless eons need defining,
And yet he justified God's ways to man.
I'm not pursuing such a plan
But rather setting avarice to rhyme,
And mercy, pity, stench and stink,
And other odors more sublime
Than Milton in his blindness cared to stop and think
Or even took the time
To consider. This barge might swim or sink,
But Gretta and her gruesome friends
Will dine in style before my story ends.
Be patient with a poet
Who came to rhyme so late in life
The country nearly claimed him. I owe it
To a superintendent's wife
Who saved my doggerel when I would throw it,
A prosody of adolescence rife
With similes one seldom finds in verse,
As catchy as the universal hearse.
We'll thin things down a bit,
Restrict our scope
Before you have a fit.
Address the Pope
You land in it.
Is simply bald description.
Let fools and bigots cheer at the restriction.
Let's start with Gretta's bonnet,
As prim as any nun that clipped a hedge,
Carnations, asters, lilies on it,
Whatever ornament her weary soul could dredge,
And though she scanned her Monet Monnit
With diction setting Webster's mind on edge,
Her taste in fabric felt like Rod McKuen,
As colorful as any pot he'd stew in.
I'll tantalize you with her jumper,
As powder blue as Jesus in the crib,
A hatpin lest some colored mugger jump her,
A lilac sash that doubled as a bib.
The Vanderbilts themselves would never dump her
(I cannot drop a hint or tell a fib),
As radiant as the day of Resurrection—
Her patent leather shoes were insurrection!
A stanza goes to Sleepy in her frock,
As sprightly as a poet at a wedding,
But such a face in frill and lace would shock
Even Whitman waking from a bedding
To view it in the naked light of day. They mock
That master for his meddling
With culinary feasts of either gender—
But what rough beast would dare to bend HER?
Phil Peaks approached the grand gala
In lilac suit and buckskin shoes,
In Western tie. He was a cheerful fellow
By any standards you might choose,
A dilettante perhaps and know to sell a
Policy or two that left his debtors in the juice,
And yet to see him prancing by
You'd never think he'd ever stink and die.
We pause for the impressive,
Harry Meisten primed in battle dress,
His World War uniform, perhaps a touch obsessive
In its braid and hash and press,
The swagger stick he clutched possessive,
Tapping the bright regalia on his chest,
Strutting like Himmler in his prime—
One stanza for such brilliance is a crime.
Enough! What care have we
For such restraints?
I'll set the Muse on your complaints
And take to bed a grander company,
Ironic shifts, such stabs and feints
As might reduce the misery
Of verse that speaks to data banks,
Such academic cranks
As deem the only statement just
That's gleaned from image
And precision fussed
Into vapidity. I gauge
The wider public's raw and mussed
(You've seen their rage)
From chin to chin,
As eager for some structure as a saint for sin.
Be well advised that farce
Is on its way. Just Saturday
I penned six stanzas of some force,
A couplet that exploded on my way
To the toilet. The source
Was scented, I must say,
But fertile, a muse
As sacrosanct as any one might use.
Let's widen up the rhyme scheme just a bit
To lend a tad of juice to my sestet,
But keep the couplet rigid as a coffin
Or its contents, a pret-
ty grin to greet you in the offing
(Don't fret, cadavers often soften)
And hasten to describe the other foursome
Before this commentary grows boresome.
Consider Meisten leaking in his chair,
Clutching at space like Popes at straws,
A smear of pomade in his hair
(Teach us to care and not to care),
The controvert of all God's laws,
And pious bleats and empty saws,
Suited up like Pilate for a Mass,
With hoot and whistle, rooting in his ass.
The slight of Wilmer Binder creaks
Our load, strapped to his chair
And grunting like a toad, fouling the air
That wafts about his diaper,
The plastic bag that traps his leaks.
No Guiness book of records really speaks
To his condition, man's awesome ambition
Reduced to this grotesque and our contrition.
Mort Sedder was no real exception
To this catalogue of ghoulish seniors.
He had fallen on his own lean years,
His eyes like dimes with no direction,
Form or focus, a grin without connection
Gracing his obscene course
Toward the elevator, as Sleepy gripped
His FM radio, slightly ripped
On gin and tonic, skirting the spotted fish
That cluttered up the aisle
Afloat on inner anguish, arthritic swish
Of fin and claw, hard put to smile,
Inching their own bleak way the final mile
Toward mortal banquet, a tasty dish
Of larvae in their craws
(I write the poem, not the laws).
Emma Peaks, transmogrified from side
Of beef to siren, wired to her geri
Chair like grief to Satan, defied
Description, a powdered face unsavory
As most of Francis Bacon. Phil tried
His best to gussy up her merry
Breast with scent of lace and blossom,
The whole effect more terrible than awesome.
Enough again! You're mixing metaphors.
A spotted fish with claws
That inches on all fours?
You give me pause
That virgins can be whores
And Hitler Santa Claus.
Let's get those cards above the table
And stick to just decorum if you're able.
Besides, the meter's unwinding.
It the nastiest drag.
You toss in that old hag,
And pretty soon you'll preen and brag.
What a nerve! What? I'm minding
My own business. It's simply yours.
Leave off a while and do your chores.
Could Buddha take a hint
Or Christ give up his stint
At loaves and fishes?
All right, I'll heed your wishes,
Carry out the trash and do the dishes,
But even Jesus must have spent
Time in a pretty gummy aquarium
To hook a fish that multiplies ad nauseam.
The load that tumbled toward 6-1
Was nastier than any one
A porter hurtled. It was alive,
So to be speaking, and known to thrive
On paradox and porky fun,
Such folly as might stun
A Dryden creeping from the tomb
To spark a bit of satire in our gloom.
They cackled like a hoard of geese
(Let Dryden rest in peace)
With grisly hoot
And raucous bleat. It failed to cease,
From dribbled leisure suit
To spattered boot,
From lolling chin to mealy grin,
A clutch of hearty devils sick of sin.
I'd pay my landlord's rent with pride,
Attend the funeral if he died
And stroke his spotted hide
If one of them proved quiet
Or changed his diet
From such unseemly riot,
And settle back with manuscript, demanding
A peace that passes mass's understanding.
You've had enough?
Of course the going's rough.
But settle back, our journey's not complete.
They'll quiet down before we hit the street.
The van is primed, the driver tough.
There's plenty a shock he's had to greet.
And if you can't imagine their arriving,
In Vietnam he learned to do his driving.
Yet battle stars for bravery
Were no credentials for that unsavory
Lot, a sluggish mess of slime
And faeces it seemed a crime
To thrust toward broad daylight. Poor Mavri
Slipped it into first in time
To beat the scene. But then relented.
An income is a salary no matter how it's scented.
A host of carrion trundled
Up the walk, four geri chairs
Clacking on the cracks, the dreadfuls bundled
Up like geese in sacks, fondled
And fussed and free of cares,
Like converts to the Church, in pairs,
Into the Ford—Meistens, Sedders, Binders, Peaks,
As cute as any rat that squeaks.
I typed that stanza in the AM
After a certain mayhem
Of a sleep. I dreamed
That fools won't budge unless you pay them,
A man that schemed
To sell Venetian blinds that seemed
To take off like a kite
But dropped their loads like dynamite.
But dreams don't match
This nightmare I've devised,
Long held in thought but scant revised,
A hearty stew to catch
Such flies as Byron prized
A quadriplegic's back
Or save the gourmand from a heart attack.
So eat your full
Before the evening's over.
And if the going's dull
I'll write another
You back to dig a crack or smother.
The geriatric set is fertile soil
For the poem that festers and the rhymes that boil.
Such extremes as we describe
Are seldom witnessed by the tribe
Of man. Perhaps I err
In couching them in humor.
Is this simply diatribe
Or something other,
Something wrought from my despair
Picking the bones of man's unanswered prayer?
Oh yes, I halt my levity
For the briefest brevity
Of stanza. You who have pursued
Material gain, rude
Power, fame, without trepidity
Or sense of loss, glued
To ambition like a fly to faeces,
Are a sad species,
Impervious to rhyme,
Biding your time
Until a greater master speaks
To your condition. What sublime
Consolation is the meeks'
Inheritance, an earth that creaks
Arthritically, the one you've scoured,
Chasing a fly that turns, in turn to be devoured?
The master fly that charts our course
Has no remorse.
It lingers at the source
Of avarice and pride
And seems to side
With all a simple man denied,
But each of us could cheat the master plan
On Mavri's van
Just in the simple way we touch.
It's not too much
Or comfort. An aching heart resists
No true affection. Such
Souls as sweep to the rhyme and twists
Of this sad farce
Are not in essence coarse
But simply twisted,
And even flies must die
(We can't determine why),
A fate insisted
All living creatures.
What pretty mask distorts God's features!
My God! I came for humor
Not for Lent.
You seem to have a pastor's bent.
It's either doom or
Hug your neighbor.
There seems to be a Christian in your tent.
I'd rather cut this silly class
Than see you riding homeward on an ass.
I'm sorry but the van will quite suffice.
Besides, the weather's nice,
Meisten and Mavri in their glory,
Exchanging many a battle story
(No need to worry).
I'll put the homilies on ice
And rev the engine for the final mile,
So stark that even Sisyphus would smile.
So kiss your brother's burro
If you can't his lips,
And squeeze your mother's hips
And bugger Satan when he slips.
I'll never borrow
From my soul again.
And if you must just lick my can.
I chose the word Seville to match
A rhyme. There's no such diner
In God's blighted universe. And yet the finer
Diners are similar. It takes a bit of scratch
To enter. They'll seldom serve a minor
More than Mammon and catch
Their customers with rib of beef.
You spend the aftermath in gastric grief.
What grief was hurtling
Toward their door, Howard Meisten grinning
Like a duck in drag,
And Emma Peaks, that slavering hag,
Mort Sedder, Sleepy's addled snortling,
The elder Binder like a manic stag,
Gripping his middle antler and the vinyl hose
That fed the bag beneath his pretty toes?
The final thirty yards were on macadam
As broad as any stricture lent to Adam,
But studded with the latest guzzlers,
From Coupe de Ville to Datsun,
Such various puzzlers
In between, obscene from grille to muzzlers,
As humankind devised in troubled sleep,
Counting the various parasites that creep.
The hostess was a pretty thing,
As cute as many a starlet pressed
From last year's mold, and dressed
In tightest sheath, her breasts
Like knots upon a string,
Pouting instead of shouting,
As ill-prepared for Mavri's crew
As someone Biblical (I wish I knew)
Who turned and ended pillar,
Salty as the pork in grandpa's cellar,
While hubby carried on without her
And started up the world again
(Such tales are grim)
From Coupe de Ville to Mavri's van.
The story's straight
But ill forecasts our gruesome eight.
That perfect smile was trained
Like athletes for the meet,
Designed to greet
Courtesy whatever entered from the street,
But smiles were shortly to be strained
Like grandpa's piles when Mort ascended,
All courtesy rescinded.
Four geri chairs upon the walk
And finally struggled up the ramp.
The briefest rain had put no damp
On Sleepy Sedder ogling like a vamp
Or Philip's vapid talk
Or Harry stalk-
ing Gretta Binder. His load was in the rear,
The senior Meisten grinning ear to ear.
Kurt Mavri wedged the door
As Sleepy slipped her dearest through,
Mort Sedder dribbling on the floor,
Saliva on one shoe,
The other graced with something more
Odoriferous, a clot or two,
While Emma Peaks came on thereafter,
A pretty sight encountering laughter,
Shock, astonishment, dismay
As ill-concealed as Wilmer's tool
(To mention it seems cruel?)
Or Howard Meisten's list and drool
Or Harry's bark and bray
In battlefield array, a strutting fool,
But fools are numerous as witches in their covens
Or functionaries stoking Hitler's ovens.
Oh yes, we've made a lot of them,
That human phlegm
Strutting like Satan in his coffin,
That clutch of maggot-life, doffing
Their braid to such as Him,
That thing, that heap, that grim
Specter of a human, his voice the grimmest lullaby
That ever laid a culture down to die.
A Goethe, Schiller, Heinrich Kleist?
You'd think they even thought up Christ
To serve with their Beethoven
And salted it with Mozart even
And snuck in seven
Apostles, whatever they could determine
Arayan. But levity aside, whoever thought
The race that cooked up Kant could serve such rot
As Goering, pompous, preening,
Or Streicher, that mess
Of worms that fed on twenty million, more or less,
More sinned against than sinning,
And some lined up and grinning
Like Meisten in his battle dress,
Just different hash and different braid,
To journey home sans limbs, tool, soul, betrayed.
I had a distant uncle on the SS team,
Werner by name and quite obscene,
The commandant of Berchtesgaden
(He later reaped official pardon)
Who had a spat with Himmler's queen
(He had for her a hard on)
And ended on the Russian front (another stunt)
To sniff at death instead of cunt.
His strategy with Binder's wife
Would capture your imagination,
A hearty whiff of cyanide,
The kind that Goering tried.
Lest Binder send him off to war
He'd do him in with Paris green, an ample ration,
Strychnine for the other six,
And pick their teeth for silver and for kicks.
But such as Werner are in chains.
Only their memory remains
To haunt us. The strains
Of Wagner linger on
Perhaps in Bayreuth, Frankfurt, Bonn.
Where our eight have gone
To supper only disco dares to drawl
To the gents that jiggle and the grubs that crawl.
Four geri chairs were seen to skirt
The salad bar,
Where florid types recoiled from caviar
And gaped with grimace more bizarre
Than serves an ancient flirt
For rapt allure,
Trying to land an adolescent fish
With creepy scent and swish.
No fish were landed by our crew.
The hostess steered them through
Such anguish as the sacrificial Jew
That Pilate slew
The simile's unsavory
But apt to tease. Who didn't stand along the ground
And clap and squeeze and eat their pound
Of suffering flesh? And then the flesh
The chaser sweet,
A tasty dish
Old Pilate's treat.
We've dined that fine for twenty billion years
On saints, messiahs, seers and queers.
Enough! I catch your bent.
Indictment of the human race
Is your intent,
As if such carrion as your eight were sent
To ape and trace
Our every gesture. You can't erase
The good that's being done,
The mercy, laughter, pity, fun
With such despair.
So clear the air
Before I lose my appetite.
Dispense with prayer
And tipple just a mite.
I'd rather see you roaring drunk than tight.
Those dinner guests deserve a better fare
Than pureed beef and geri chair.
Besides they've parked them
Fit to raise a fuss.
Your story's Mavri's crew, not us,
And Kafka's done his best with pus
In jars and gems in phlegm.
We're tired of him.
Just tend to dinner for a weary guest
Who wants to laugh before he gets depressed.
A certain couple in the nether room
Were filled with gloom,
Their marriage on the skids,
With several kids,
A house and car, a stereo. Sid's
Job was selling airplanes to the rich.
His wife was felt by some to be a bitch,
But nice enough by the usual standards
Applied to landlord's
Wife or vestal virgin.
Such as Grace required no urging
From this or that greasy sturgeon.
Her appetite was know to burgeon
At the sight of something male.
Many a male had feasted on her tail.
Tonight they slummed for certain,
Something quick like Burton
And Liz might have devised
Before they split. The curtain
Rises on the duo flirting
With a sticky menu. As such they passed their days,
Whining and dining at the latest craze.
"Oh Sid, there isn't much to choose.
I'd try the steak; it's likely leather.
And then the salad's bruised.
I've seen the dressings that they use.
Perhaps they'd rather
Punch their home fries out than bother
With the slicer.
Couldn't we go to some place nicer?"
"Oh Grace, there is no other place
On Easter Sunday. Everyone and his brother's
Dining out. Besides, it's no disgrace
To settle on the simple. Display a trace
There's such a grimace on your face
You'd think you'd stopped off at a stable.
Ignore the grease stains on the table."
"My God, dear Sid, what's coming here?
It seems to foul the air"
(Teach us to share and not to share).
"That horrid man is dribbling snot,
And then the others in a clot.
They've parked them there
Beneath the chandeliers.
I haven't seen such filth in years."
"Ignore them Grace, it's just an apparition,
MAN'S AWESOME AMBITION
REDUCED TO SUCH GROTESQUES AND OUR
I think I read that once
Together with another bunch
Of platitudes. So order lunch
Or breakfast if you can't your supper.
Don't let your lower nature get the upper
Hand. Demand a glass of water, wine,
Your sensibilities. Take pity
On your colon. I know it's not a pretty
Sight, such swollen frights, more like swine
Than human. Such cards lie often in the kitty.
Just order up and play your hand.
Let Milton justify God's ways to man
And such as Byron dine in splendor.
That swarthy fellow's Wilmer Binder.
I sold him several policies
Before I switched my companies.
I never thought he'd end here.
Grace, for God's sake, pull yourself together.
I'll order several burgers and some fries.
Ignore whatever crawls or flies."
Howard Meisten, doubled toward his hands
To juke erect and wink and leer,
Was ordered beer,
The rest old-fashioneds.
They issued bleat and groan, such queer
Cacophony as never heard by ear,
And sucked gefilte fish with straws
And licked their craws
Like porcupines in stress,
The linen napkins on their breasts,
The strangest host
That ever laid a bridge to toast
Or dribbled dress.
Let restaurants boast
Exotic fare or meager,
No guests had ever been so eager.
Not so the others at their pork
Or lima beans or basted stork.
Some blew their cork.
Some resisted, others craned
A neck. Some refrained
From comment. Others strained
To keep their faces just as bland
As nature could permit or understand.
Another couple were of coarser means
And eating up, beyond their dreams,
From penny saved to petty schemes,
Plowing their lobster under
With gastric thunder.
What cosmic blunder
Bade them choose this Easter Sunday
For full repast before the ash of Monday?
The male was brawny, unemployed.
Plumbing was his trade.
With sniffs and leaks he played.
The pipes of princes he had toyed
And fussed and prayed
Into proper fit. He made
Them hum and gurgle like an aqueduct,
But lately they had chucked
Him in the street
To plumb the sewers of defeat.
Marsha, his wife of seven years,
Was filled with fears.
She earned her income clipping ears
On pimps and steers.
They lived from check to check,
A second mortgage on their neck.
Thus plumber plumbed hairdresser
In the dead of night.
He laid his pipe.
The fit was seldom tight
But leaked three children, Wright,
Junior, Maybeline and Chester,
A pretty Bruce or Esther on the way
(Teach us to stray and not to stray),
We find them rooting gloom
In the sumptuous dining room
Of the grand Seville.
It may have been a tomb
(Teach us to kill or not to kill),
That plush décor of pomp and frill,
A sepulcher for plumbers and their pets,
Plumbing their regrets,
And how much money for the tip?
Even the babysitter had a grip
On their lean wallet.
However fate might call it,
No two were ever less equipped
To give old Mavri's crew the slip
With bland composure,
Will Binder gripping his exposure.
"Good Christ, girl, don't look up.
There must of been a muck-up
Under the chandeliers.
Imagine, a stuck-up
Place like this, bunch of old farts and queers
Sucking at shots and beers.
It's a damned disgrace. My God,
The oldest one is whipping out his cod!"
"Wright, honey, don't excite yourself.
And put that awful language
On the shelf.
It's better for your health.
Well enough. Enjoy your drink. Here's to health,
Fame and riches.
Ignore those grisly sons a bitches."
"But Marsha, one of them is peeing
On the floor.
They're dressed like gypsies.
That ugly whore
Next to the Marine is straight out of Poughkeepsie's
Lowest cat house. I think she was the madam.
The rest I never knew from Adam."
And so the language went, from cup to lip,
Perhaps a hundred in that table setting,
The largest contingent fretting
That they'd ever gave the kids the slip
And chose that Sunday for an outing.
The ones with children at their side
Were least to let the moment slide.
They kept the waitress, busboy busy
From agitated group to dizzy
Couple. The manager was frazzled
Trying to account for that grizzled,
Lot of seniors. His charm fizzled
After twenty minutes chasing scorn
That few maître d'hôtel had ever borne.
Some shrieked for checks and fled
That sucking dead
Apparition, impelled by such dread
As seldom feasted out or fed
On their usual tidy souls,
That nest of vipers, ghouls
Sucking at prime filets,
Picking their teeth and dribbling on their trays.
"Harry, I know it's ghastly. And Ruth,
You've never seen a vision so uncouth.
But Bob, don't look around.
You won't endure what looking found
By prying rocks from dubious ground,
Such larvae in a mound
That even maggots seem exotic.
All buzzards feed on the necrotic.
And Billy, stick to your spaghetti.
The poor boy's so upset he
Dropped his fork.
And what to do with darling Betty?
She's fiddling with her pork.
Raphael, replace the cork
And save the Beaujolais for later.
Who's the SOB suggested that we ate here?
Millicent, please don't stare.
It's simply not polite.
They're probably out just for the night.
I know it's such a nasty sight,
And now they're getting tight.
Just order up. I'll take mine rare.
What'll it be for you, my pretty dear?
Oh God, that old man's piddling in his beer!"
Or—"What nerve is this?
They even let them piss
In public. I'd kiss
The ass of any man
Who choked the creep that planned
This horror show. I'd kiss his can
And carry out his trash
And bring him home for supper with the wife.
I'd follow him all the days of my life
And dwell in his duplex
Forever. As for the hex
The other put on me, that sex-
ual pervert, I'd set him free
To grovel with his rosary,
A bead for every wrinkle on his brain.
The jerk's insane.
Him well enough.
He'd find the going tough.
Him up a bit
And set him down to eat his shit."
The widest survey might be taken
From the customers that night
But some have taken FLIGHT
And can't be reached. Others, shaken
Profoundly, couldn't answer soundly. Perhaps a trite,
Meaningless cliché, quite
In the way of the general crowd.
Others, certainly less cowed,
Would take the larger view
On Binder's, Sedder's, Meisten's spew,
The leaks of Emma Peaks.
Their stoic, noncommittal stance speaks
For itself. And such as you?
Well ask yourselves. Maybe freaks
Are your purview, a dose of the horrid
More to suit than something torrid.
No one slit his wrist, I guess.
Or rammed a car or joined the Guard.
Or overdosed or stabbed his chest
Or voted. Mankind, it seems, is soundly blessed
With resilience. Things get hard
They quote the Bard
Or shake their beads or raise a stink,
Then ever down toward dreamless sleep they sink.
How serious I've become.
You'd think my story's done.
As if tragedy weren't one
With humor. Just check the faces.
In every grin we find the traces
Of greater pain than fun.
A smile is just a shrug at fate,
Who seldom smiles at what he's ate.
The mystery we've charted
Has merely started.
So what if certain customers departed?
The glue that sticks to flies
Will catch a larger prize.
Even Herr Maggot cries
Yoked by his greed to human error.
So sit a while and eat
Your rib of beef.
Dispense with grief.
Chuckle at the human meat
Across the street.
But those of you who cheat
Our lonely triple rhymes
Would kick the ladder that the cripple climbs.
Oh yes, what resolve does human humor
Serve beyond the faintest murmur
Is doomed like all the rest.
And such as we are pressed
In final patterns,
Nurses, interns, priests and slatterns.
The shift of my grim wit
That brought poor Mavri's crew to sit
For dinner at a diner
Had no finer
Motivation than a bit
I'll sell this hopeless cause
To Santa Claus
To print in limited edition,
Full of hope and contrition,
A tad of pity for the poor,
We find in 1980 fact or fiction,
The faintest tedium of curse and verse
That ever set a corpse to hearse.
As for our dinner guests,
They're also laid to rest,
Fussed at ten for streaks
Of faeces on their chests
Or faces. At best
They are asleep, at worst,
At nine that night
A lesser soul took flight
From greater pain.
We will not see her again
(Teach us to strain
And not to strain),
Sucking her daily bread,
We say that of the tired,
The recently retired,
Taking flight. I was hired
To tidy up their stool.
I doubt they'd find this poem cruel.
Father, Son and daily bread,
Dottie Walkerson is dead.
Let the pretty lady lie,
Stretched to sleep with lullaby.
Let the anthem and the hymn
Rock to this grim
Farce. Let the creak of passing litter
Calm the child and babysitter.
Let the Muse enjoy her sleep.
Let the joy of chorus creep
Onto ward 6-5.
Let the broken heal and thrive.
Let the sorrow and the pain
Never come again.
Let the rhymes that fill my verse
Usher out immortal hearse.
Let the ruins clap their hands
With greater joy than death demands
Of our lean wisdom.
Let the fountains kiss down
Slopes of innocence toward Eden.
Let the eater free the eaten.
Father, Son and Holy Spirit,
Dottie's dead, we CANNOT fear it.