Sunday, May 10, 2009

On the Trail of the Lonesome Pine

God-damn, I'm writing poetry again. I bath myself in curses. I curse the poetry in me because it only comes out when I begin to feel like a kid again. Childishness. Running back from endings. Reseeking beginnings. Such foolishness. Like pining for something; that's foolish and childish, too. Like hoping.

Pine \Pine\, v. i.

1. To suffer; to be afflicted. [Obs.]

2. To languish; to lose flesh or wear away, under any distress or anexiety of mind; to droop; -- often used with away. ``The roses wither and the lilies pine.'' --Tickell.

3. To languish with desire; to waste away with longing for something; -- usually followed by for.

For whom, and not for Tybalt, Juliet pined. --Shak.

Syn: To languish; droop; flag; wither; decay.

Source: Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary (1913)
What I'm pining for, I can't really tell you. Of course I'm writing poems because I'm feeling satirical and when I feel satirical, yes, I start to "lose flesh" and "wear away"--at least that's how Tickell defines it, whoever in the heck Tickell was (one of the French Tickells?), and I assume all dictionariests from 1913 are men! Men rule and that's perhaps a part of my pining...wasting away longing for something to rule. I'm like a droop-eyed wolf, prowling the hills and howling at the searchlight moon. What am I longing for? And what does all of this have to do with the fact I'm writing poetry again?...

Love! I don't believe in love. It's a second-hand emotion like Tina Turner sang. I can't remember when the last "good lovin'" I had was. Probably with this Jewish girl I'm friends with in the front seat of her fairly slick Chevrolet--some good lovin' that we knew wasn't leading to sex--nope, it was simply just good lovin' over having spent a fun evening together as friends. God, that sounds so dopey and wrong. Of course LOVE is spelled LUST with me. I'm a prowler. A backdoor man. Me and the Howlin' Wolf. A Wang-dang-doodle man. A Ding-dong Daddy from Dumus man. An Oozler. My mother didn't know how to love. My father, like me, spelt LOVE LUST. And after I read my brother's last published book, I saw my brother in a different mirror, this last book he completed before he bought the bookstore--I can't see my brother on a farm--a book of poetry speaking in parallel lines with me--hello, Debbie Harry--an old lady now--OHHHH! Time eater of all things lovely. I attribute that to E.E. Cummings though it sounds like T.S. Eliot. And T.S. Eliot was from Saint Louis and that relates to me being in Saint Louis while I was in the U.S. Motherfucking Army and eating big steaks with Bacardi cocktails--oh Jesus X and Mohamed how I loved Bacardi cocktails--like they made them at Ruggiero's--or even over at Biggy Munn's, Stan and Biggy, Stan being Stan the Man, Stan Musial--and for one brief moment way back when I was blooming little idiot kid I played with a bigger boy named Chinky 'cause he looked Chinese of course, and he was always the Saint Louis Cardinals when we played backyard major league baseball with those miniature bats they used to give out at Texas League games--Chinky had a Fort Worth Cats minibat and mine was from the Greenville Majors of the Big State League--and Chinky was always, like I said, the Cardinals, and I always had to be the Boston Red Sox--and even then I was a Yankees fan, but Chinky always made me be the Boston Red Sox--and I got to being Jake Early, and the Splendid Splinter, and Johnny Pesky, and Billy Goodman, and Vern Stephens, and Big Walt Dropo, and Mel Parnell, and Birdie Tebbitts, and Ellis Kinder, and the strike out whiz Mickey McDermott, and Joe Dobson, and Al Zarilla, and Matt Batts and Buddy Rosar and Clyde Vollmer--and Clyde Vollmer brings up the Washington Senators in my memory and right above my head as I type this is a Ted Williams rookie manager baseball card from the first year the Thumper managed the lowlife Senators. He got them almost into the first division....

Here's a poem I wrote after reading my fatalistic brother's book of poetry:

Beatin' the Devil

My brother said
He beat death thrice:
The first time:
When his heart failed,
And they stuck another person's heart in him,
And, yes, he beat death once.

The second time:
Was when a rare cancer
started eating out his left eye,
And chemo stopped it in its tracks,
And, yes, he beat death twice.

The third time:
It was his brain that cancer craved,
And this time
a skilled surgeon cut the tumor out,
And, yes, he beat death thrice.

It was the fourth time,
A fourth attempt at beating death,
At foiling its persistent threat,
That finally cut my brother down.
And he beat death never again.
Just as Lightnin' Hopkins (or was it Smokey Hogg?) used to sing, "The car I drive is a V8 Ford/I don't claim to be no chauffeur/But I can hold it in the road" [ah the sexual innuendo!], I am singing "The poetry I write is like a mental reward/I don't claim to be no poet/But I can write 'em, Lordy Lord"--I am a blues-idiom poet. The car I drive is a Blues-Idiom automatic, with a 4-barrel carburetor, and double overdrive--and I'm doin' the shim-sham-shimmy on the running board. I'm showing my age writing about running boards on automobiles. When I was a baby, my dad's Oldsmobile had running boards. My mother's Nash Custom didn't. My grandmother's Raymond Loewy-designed Studebaker didn't have any running boards either. The big Chevrolet bobtail truck I drove for the wholesale grocery company did have running boards. You had to mount that truck like you mount a horse--put your left foot up on the running board and then whip your body up and around, right leg first, and into the driver's seat. My first car, a 1955 Chevy didn't have any running boards--they were so out of fashion by then.

My Brother's Poems

like night prowlers
exposed in a sun-lit zoo...
but they are revealing
when let out of their cages.

Take my brother...
I think of him as
Healthy, Wealthy, and Wise
And yet,
In his poems he says
he was
Unhealthy, Unwealthy, but...

And here's the puzzle,
How could
A man so wise
Allow himself
To be trapped
so dumbly
in these poems?
My brother, as he was dying those 3 times he escaped death, always told me he wasn't afraid of death, and I don't think he was. In one poem, my brother says God's name is "Myself" and it is this "Myself" that controls his destiny--his fate. I thought thedailygrowlerhousepianist might enjoy contemplating, Platonically, my brother's looking in a mirror and seeing a God he calls "Myself." We grew up in a typical WASP, White Anglo-Saxon Protestant, home. He was encouraged to follow the Protestant Work Ethic. "Toil for the night is coming when we'll toil no more." My brother also grew up in the thick of the Great Depression. That made him, I think, a little distrustful--not cynical, but distrustful. He, like Dan Rather, had a grandmother who made stone soups in those days. What my grandmother did when my brother was growing up during the Great Depression was she'd go out into the front yard and pick first dandelions, then some wild onions--they grew in lawns too--then over an open fire in a sauce pan she'd bring water to boil, then throw in the dandelions and wild onions, start them boiling down, and then after they were boiling good and getting thicker, she'd go find a stone snuggling in some sweet earth, red clay earth in the case of where she lived, and she'd put that stone in that pot of boiling soup. Then she'd take the pot off the fire and serve that stone soup piping hot. That stone gave the soup an earthy flavor, plus the hot stone kept the soup hot long after you took the pot off the fire. Oh boy, when the old man could score some chicken necks or fat back! Then that soup took on a glory sort of taste!

My brother, I know, was jealous of me. He grew up busted and poor--he had to work his way through high school, live with his grandmother while our mother and father were traveling all over looking for work for the old man--and my dad finally found a good job in Enid, Oklahoma, and it was in Enid that I entered the family portrait--knowing myself from that moment on--and my brother was there in Enid at that moment I first recognized "Myself" in me working his way through college, Phillips University--and my brother was like an uncle to me, not a brother. He was already in college; he was already an adult as far as Baby Wolfie was concerned. In Enid he was 19 and I was friggin' 3 so we never really were on parallel lines until I was much, much older, until I was in my mid-twenties and married to a "girl" (She was 18 when we married) who he thought was the prettiest "young thing" he'd ever, and there's one thing that runs in the male end of my family and that is our appreciation of "young female things"--and because he liked my wife so much, we became closer as real brothers, though my brother was still jealous of me and I always knew that. I grew up fairly Middle-Class in the middle of World War II. The Depression was over. My father was a business owner who always drove a big Cadillac--OK, my dad was an actor, a phony, but a funny phony, a character actor with a fine singing voice, a tenor--and my mother was a dietician with the public school system--so nobody knew we really were as poor as Job's turkey when I was growing up. When I was in high school, we had three cars always parked around the house. I'd always get to use one of those cars, even my dad's Cadillacs sometimes--like when I started dating--hey, I picked 'em up in a big forest green Cadillac Fleetwood. "If you love your woman/You'd better pin her by your side/Otherwise, the first Fleetwood Cadillac passes/She's gonna want'a ride." What a great old blues; "Too Much Competition"--done by Tarheel Slim, better regarded as a man named Alden "Allen" Bunn.
Allan Bunn as Tarheel Slim
Slim was also in the Larks and made a big popular album with Little Ann.
Theodore "Teddy" Bunn
I don't know if he and Allen were kin, but Teddy Bunn was once probably the best up-and-coming jazz guitarist--hell, Teddy could play any style. He pal-ed around with Bernard Addison, another now-forgotten guitarist. Promo shots from the 40s always had jazz and blues dudes smoking dangling-from-their-mouths cigarettes. Promotion--you gotta know how to promote.

My brother's poetry scared me a bit. It caused me to "pine." What a strange word. "To lose flesh." My brother's poetry caused me distress, a longing for something old, a pining for maybe a chance to go way back and become my brother's twin or something mutational like that. Remember Thomas Mann's The Transposed Heads? I'd like to transpose heads with my brother. I guess I'm sillily pining for my closest kin, the man who was probably most like me of anybody else on the planet--and in one of his poems he expresses his loneliness when he looks out into that big full wide-open wild prairie million-mile-high sky full of billions of stars and thinks surely we are not the only planet in that vast array of stars that houses human beings--human animals--animals able to breath the air and drink the water and contend with the forces of nature--though ironically all the while my brother is believing there has to be some other planet out there that is our twin yet all the while he knows probably there's not. We're unique. We pine for relatives in outer space. We do hope we have brothers and sisters out there, though in our fiction all life in outer space is alien to us! Hostile to us! Coming here to eat us, as the old Twilight Zone show portrayed the friendly aliens from outer space saying they were here not to destroy but to SERVE mankind, inviting the lush and fat humans on board their spaceship--and as the humans board we notice one alien is holding a book--as the camera closes in on the book we see the title is How to Cook and Serve Human Beings.

My brother mourned the fact he had no music in him--he talks about singing and yet no song coming from his throat; he talks about wanting to write great symphonies--but he has no symphonies in his head--just words--and soon, my brother is making analogies between symphony composing and composing a book--words become his notes, sentences become his measures, and paragraphs become his movements, and pages become his scores, and the finished book becomes his symphonic composition.

A poem I hastily composed on my brother's poetic view of DEATH:

Being Grave

Why fear death?
(And we all do...
it's instinctual)
Why not attract
Death's attention?
Why not break into
a conversation with death?
Why not try and
See death's point of view?
Why not hang out with death?
That way
When death comes for you,
He'll be a friend
Now I'm thinking pine boxes and how my brother used to jest, "Yep, just bury me in a damn pine box--at least, it'll smell good for the spell I'm living in it." Plus, they make creosote out of pine--and creosote stops bugs and worms and grubs...

My grandmother wrote a book of poetry--she called it Clay Bound. My grandmother wasn't a catfish; she was rather a lump of clay. That's what she believed. That's what she learned from her God "Myself."
Jesus X, I'm writing poetry again...and ironically I've spent two weeks trying to get through the first two stanzas of Ez's poem Cino...

"Bah, I have sung women in three cities,
But it is all the same;
And I will sing of the sun.

"Lips, words, and you snare them,
Dreams, words, and they are as jewels,
Strange spells of old diety,
Ravens, nights, allurement:
And they are not;
Having become the souls of song."

Yes, folks, those are the 2 paragraphs I have been contemplating, reading and rereading and reading and rereading again and again rereading--or as Gertie would put it "Rereading what has been read and has been read by reading over a period on long periods of reading what has already been read." Still I'm still stuck on "Bah! I have sung women in three cities,...." And, I, too, have sung women in three cities, so I know what he means there, but why sing of the sun?...but then, I don't know who Cino of the Luth you?

Here's a quote I found and I love it--dammit, it's a good quote in spite of Norman Mailer not loving its author, Mary McCarthy--and Mary said, "We are the hero of our own story." And that's what keeps me writing poetry and singing women in three cities, or boroughs in my case. McCarthy once upon a time...
Mary McCarthy right before she died (only a year or so ago)...Time, eater of all things lovely.

Get out the Pine Sol--
and let's hit the trail of the lonesome pine--those pining pines...

for The Daily Growler

1 comment:

Language said...

I gotcher Cino right here.