Another installment of poems still waiting in the archives to be heard. Finishing up loose ends.
If you want more details, here’s the Big Long Explanation. Otherwise, just read as many or few of these poems as you’d like. And thank you, as always!
These poems are all from Pink Chalk, published 2018.
Forty-Year-Old Memory on Paper
A manila folder empire.
The file room and its shelves
full of paper. Thousands of documents
live here. Millions of typed words
notarized and filed. Look at all of this
work in and on and using
Paper-induced fret is non-existent
on the faces of the two ladies
who rule here
who keep the file room
straight. Every day there are mail carts
arms and elbows pushing
mail carts full of paper
of paper into
that get sorted into
neat piles that triple trisect
the work table continents over which
the file ladies preside
Paper-dust-induced sneezing aside
(remember to replace the tissues
in your handbag tonight)
the file ladies coax out
alphabetical order and nest the files
secure and tight.
by the volume of paper and
filing that paper
they tour the aisles
pushing their metal carts with the screechy wheels
along the letter/number grid system architecture of
this restricted-access basement filing room.
Laugh if you like
try to do anything at this company
(Fill out the request form completely and legibly)
the necessary manila folder
full of paper.
you let the lady at the department store
spray you with sample perfume
in the main aisle near the counter
you breathed in the rich heavy scent
on your wrist
you took your car to the garage
check the tires new wipers
top-up fluids before hot weather
you breathed in the rubber-oil scent
of years of repairs
you unlocked your front door
the crockpot you filled this morning
dinner waiting in the kitchen
you breathed in the cumin-heavy scent
of a bowl of chili
you opened the window in the bedroom
pulled down the blinds
turned them for the air flow
you breathed in the wet-rain scent
of dark and night and sleep and rest
folded back on itself
its black covers
standing nose to nose with each other
like two passengers
crammed in the train car aisle
standees unable to move back
breathing each other’s breath
praying to get through the time
to the station stop
lying on the table
loose papers interleaved
among the original sheets
so that the whole thing
like a guy stuffed into a too-tight T-shirt
he bought when things were different
and before so much time had passed
new and never opened
Polished smooth pages
fanned and separated for the first time
like the butterfly who emerges and
stretches its wings
flexing and preparing for time beginning again
And now it is impossible there was a time
when the pages were not crisped up
edges were not curled
by ballpoint pen and hours of writing
on both sides of the paper
when this notebook was
anything but assertive
always there to consult
like that older person
reviewing the memories
stacked one into the other
time pressed into other times.
two black birds
standing in the gutter
of the bank building
by a lady about to get into her car
and doing nothing
to interest her
in the gutter
chilly spring morning
on the sunshine slant side
of the parking lot
watched by a lady
about to get into her car
Oh I got lost
tiny purse and car keys
dangling from one hand
while she pulls up her too-tight pants
at the waistband
with the other hand
crosses her legs
pulls out her phone taps the screen
all in one motion
who’s been waiting
everything is found now, I guess.
It’s Not Just Academic
sorting through his bag
bad. Shakes a pile of papers
a thick book
He’s tired out
a raft of stubby pencils
too, it looks like. Frowns
at the book
scribbles in notebook
I sense a buildup. Brain wave
or brain explosion?
The wren out of context
in chapter four of my novel
overrunning plot lines I cherished
becoming more important than the protagonist
or any of the minor characters
by page two hundred
regarded by me as an infestation
by page two-fifty
sending me into an anxious snit due to
the vast oceanic erasure needed
to remove the presence of the wren
at the press of a finger on a key
of course I could do it but
I had come to understand
I could not remove it
I could not face the loss.
I was writing a book
about a wren.
all its flowers open full
in strong sweet scent.
This will be their best day.
The dead robin lies under the bush
one leg flexed up
the other leg angled back
The flowers breathe out.
feet run in the sand
the vast green
the tiny silver fish swims
parallel to shore
turns and darts
out to sea. The waves
catch young feet
The tiny silver fish calls
if only you could
Toot sweet the caravan
pulls out of the drive
home video material
I’m sure someone’s filming
thank goodness for the phone and
we’ll be able to show
the gang getting on the road
before we hit the city limits
Here we come
Three carloads full
tot to grandma
everyone has to go to the bathroom
one hour later
Eureka there’s the rest stop
count heads remember that time
Uncle Eddie was left behind
he grabbed the bus back home
lost on purpose
he did say the peace and quiet
of the empty house
was heavenly. Not this time.
I see him sitting in the back seat of car #2
looking carsick. Not me! Hasta luego
everyday life and how do you do
Skee-Ball and the Bongo Room
sipping your beer on the beach
and not getting caught
Favorite flip-flops and that coconut suntan lotion
I do not hold with sunscreen. All right.
One more hour
I’ll be unloading my beach chair
waving goodbye to the madding crowd
as they sputter off toward
Wacky World Theme Park and Campgrounds
they’re just dropping me off
on their way. I’m considering
mentioning to Uncle Eddie
I can find room for him
if he’d like to ditch this crowd
and come along with me.
What do you think?
6 thoughts on “One Dozen or So From the Archives: Episode 3”
I love the elegiac quality of “Funeral” and the way it reminds me of Catullus and the sparrow but in a less foreboding way because you’ve tied the death of the bird into the cycle of life. The robin’s remains will decay to nurture the plant and the plant will provide oxygen.
Another favourite was “Elixir” because of the way you so evocatively portray smell as such an emotive sensory experience. For me, your poem is a potent reminder of the importance of smell to memory too.
My final note is that “Forty-Year-Old Memory on Paper” completely charmed me. I would want to work with these two ladies who keep the archives in order and without whom, I’m sure, nothing would ever be successfully filed or found. It appeals to both my enjoyment of old archives – the smell of that vintage paper! – and my love of organizing things.
Thank you for reading these and your comments. “Funeral” is a favorite of mind because I feel like I said exactly what I wanted to be saying here, to express the balance of feelings I had. “Elixir” got started because I was thinking how much I like the smell of a car repair garage. And the Forty Year Old Memory on Paper, well, I was thinking of my early years at the bank. Of course everything was paper based and to me, well, the info on paper records will always be more meaningful and real just because it is tangible. And…there were several places at the bank that were concentrations of paper records, and the people who archived and sorted things, you needed to respect them and the system! Or the bank would grind to a halt.
Wonderful vignettes of life! I especially liked the filing room in the Forty-Year-Old Memory…
Thank you. I worked at a bank way back when and so much wonderful paper and folders and so on. I still feel information on paper is more real that anything on a screen.
I love your poetry its always cinematic
I love that description of it. Thank you.
Comments are closed.