George, Originally Published in Contemporary American Voices

William_Butler_Yeats_by_George_Charles_Beresford

George’s favorite “modern” poet.

Recently I shared another video in which I was reading a poem.  It was well received, but what surprised and delighted me was a comment from a former, and favorite teacher of mine, that the “lady moon poem,” which followed that piece, was “fabulous.” I had forgotten that it was included in the video clip. Having said that, what follows is not the lady moon poem, not yet.

Not only is that poem unpublished, but to be honest, I had never even submitted it anywhere. It’s a good piece, so why have I been holding on to it? I think it’s because of something that happened at the last meeting I had with another major mentor in my life, Mr. George Pfister.  You see, he was ill, having been fighting complications of MS for years. I had been watching that tough, Bronx-raised, cranky old poet shrink. Okay, so he wasn’t that old, but his illness and disposition made him older than his years.

I remember asking him who was his favorite modern poet. With conviction, he answered, “Yeats.”

“George,” I said, “Yeats is not exactly modern.” *

“I’m doing the best I can,” he growled.

I don’t know how he managed to prepare snacks for us that day, let alone how he made the climb up those narrow stairs to his apartment, but using his walker, he had set out a plate of crackers and cheese and had neatly put out two glasses and a bottle of wine. He wanted me to bring some of my poems to read to him again. So I brought the lady moon poem. And the tough old bird had me baffled because he was wiping tears from his face, and softly laughing. I wasn’t sure if he was happy or sad. Apparently, he was both.

I asked what was wrong. He shook his head, and said, “That’s very publishable. Just do a little editing and send it out.” He waved his hand, anticipating my questions, “You’ll know what to do. It’s beautiful. Someone will publish it.” The thing is, I think he knew that we wouldn’t have many more meetings like this, and he confessed that he was having a hard time maintaining his focus for long periods of time. He seemed so tired.

Well, the moment was beautiful anyway. I will heed his word and send the poem somewhere. Maybe I’ve kept it mostly to myself because I wanted it to be perfect, to honor him the way he should be honored, or else I just didn’t want it to face rejection by an editor. But it’s been edited, carved, and polished many times since, and now and then, as in the case of the aforementioned video, I’ve felt the need to read it out loud. I’ll share it with you on the blog once it gets printed somewhere.

Meanwhile, the following poem was written before the scene I described above, before the walker had become necessary. But it was only a rough draft, and I never did share it with him. We had bonded over poetry and were really just getting to know each other. I was managing the front of the house at a restaurant and bar near his place, and I just wanted him to get home safely. There is much more to say about George, so I suppose there will be more posts about the scoundrel soon, and probably—hopefully—more poems about him also.

This poem in his name was originally published in Contemporary American Voices along with featured poet, Brian Fanelli and Jason Allen.

George

As children in the graveyard
we used to play a game
with flashlight and fear,
our minds scrambled
with a nervous delight,
a desire to be missed—
and then discovered.

Now we do like then,
but headlights pass on,
engines fade. No one waits
behind a tombstone here.

Tonight I help you home—
not far, just down the street
and across, but it takes time.
Weaving the sidewalk, we find
a stoop with three steps,
and rest a while.

No moon. No stars. No ghosts.
The other bars let out hours ago.
You and I discuss wives,
children and exes, our need
for gods, or not, thoughts
on the cross, crusades,
and inspiration, scripture
and verse, muses
and the history of prayer.

Eventually we rise,
walk wavering and slow,
not wanting you to go
as other greats have, downed
by a taxi near the tavern.

Seven more steps to the curb,
under a halo of light, you
bobbing slightly as I bring
you around. I am happy we are
here, aiming for your door,
and more than a little relieved
that the graveyard is outside of town.

©2014 by David J. Bauman. Originally published in Contemporary American Voices, June 2014

We could delve into the debate about whether Yeats was an early modern poet or the last romantic poet, but George pretty much knew where I was coming from on this issue.

 

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20 thoughts on “George, Originally Published in Contemporary American Voices

  1. I imagine some of your authors would love to do that. It would make the online version special.

    My voice, as I wrote in my poem of the same name, is not suitable for readings. I made a recording once for a project that requested it. I think I must have read the damn poem 30 or 40 times until I got something passable. I’ll stick with print.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ah, my friend, of course. I hope you don’t still feel badly about that. There are singers who don’t write music and writers who don’t sing. We all do what is our thing to do, as it should be. 🙂

      But yes, that’s what I was thinking, distinguishing the online version in some way, and not with each piece of course, just a few here and there, and I know a wonderful deaf poet, Raymond Luczak who does the most beautiful sign-language readings. It’s been literally thirty years since my last sign language course, and I remember so little but maybe a featured video like that might be good. I have at least one book/written word purist on the editing staff who might not be thrilled, but again, her thing is the written word only, and we all have our thing. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: My Debut Chapbook: Moons, Roads, and Rivers | David J. Bauman

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