God, Dad, and Cars

I had an interesting conversation with a coworker this morning. Unfortunately, my boss asked for his promotional postcard for my upcoming chapbook to be sent to the main library. So the impression was that I was being pushy since we received “multiple” postcards (I think really only the two unless she’s referring to the other branches as well).

Ah, sometimes the negativity bugs that crawl around work places–they just show up, no matter how good your intentions. The first question asked was why the library wasn’t getting donated, signed copies. I quipped (half-jokingly) that I didn’t write the book to just give it away. But I eventually assured her that copies were being bought and donated to all the branches and I would happily sign them. I just wanted my coworkers to know about it and share my joy.

Then she said that she didn’t “get today’s poetry.” I confess I was annoyed for a half second, expecting the old “but it doesn’t rhyme!” complaint. But then I thought, well, it’s really a fair, albeit broad statement. I mean, I’m not crazy about some poetry today either.

She and I don’t work together often, only once or twice a week when I am down at the main branch. And it occurred to me, what a great opportunity this was to talk about poetry! So I asked what she liked and she quoted the opening lines from “The Children’s Hour.” In response, I shared a recitation from memory, “Ask Me” by William Stafford, which she was surprised to discover she very much liked. “It’s beautiful, and it flows!”

I told her it was a favorite of mine, that the poet had died a few years back, and that he was one of my heroes. While my writing is not as brilliant as his, he was certainly an influence. I like to play with sound and line endings, to find a rhythm in the language that might not be expected, and often isn’t traditional.  Then I pulled up the following poem, originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine. I told her this is a small sample of what’s in this chapbook, though there are some other more surreal pieces as well.

She looked over my shoulder at the screen as I read it aloud to her. She seemed to brighten even more and said she liked it. I’m hoping this was a step toward making a convert.

God, Dad, and Cars

I’m 8 years old, perched
on a headlight under the raised hood
of our white four-door Chevy,

which has somehow stranded us
at Uncle Bob’s farm.
But this isn’t like the time before,

in Canada, when we broke down
along a country road, far from home.
Across the back seat Crystal and I

had played cards with mom while you
paced, and raged how God must hate
you. I wondered, why you thought

He’d bother a little family like ours,
only on vacation. Wouldn’t He
have more important things to do?

No one home at the farm,
but you know where the tools are—
your hands gloved in grease.

You are in control, under sweat
and sun. I hold something in place
while you work. Afterwards,

when the engine cranks,
you thank me, slap me on the back.
“Thank God you were here,” your smile

wide and rare as the words you say:
“I couldn’t have done it without you.
I couldn’t have done it without you.”

Originally published in The Blue Hour Magazine, August 2013

Please consider pre-ordering the chapbook, Moons, Roads, and Rivers, from Finishing line Press. Just click here. 

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My Debut Chapbook: Moons, Roads, and Rivers

Image by Michael B. McFarland

Moons, Roads, and Rivers, my first chapbook, is now available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. Click here to order your copy!

The official release date is November 17th, so if all goes as planned, you’ll have your copy of Moons, Roads, and Rivers in time for the holidays. Just be aware that these things sometimes take longer than anticipated. I’m looking now to schedule readings for the new year.

What’s this Chapbook About?

Moons, Roads, and Rivers is a small collection of poems set along highways and side roads from Pennsylvania to Indiana, from backyards and bar stools to graveyards and broken-down cars. You’ll meet a boy who hasn’t learned how to swim and a little girl “who cried / when the moon fell in the river.”

Find out what my dad has in common with Hoover Dam. Discover my favorite graffiti and why my neighbors shake their heads. Some poems were previously published in places like San Pedro River Review, The Blue Hour Magazine, and Contemporary American Voices.

What some good people have said:

With images wrought in highly perceptive verse, David J. Bauman’s poems speak eloquently of what we love, and what prevails over the artificial and transient . . . Such poignant natural details, personal and reflective, “slowly / raise the relics to light,” recalling the land and riverscapes of James Wright. The poems of Moons, Roads, and Rivers embrace and take solace in what blesses our lives, generously offering a luminous, enduring work.
Jeffrey Alfier, editor of Blue Horse Press and San Pedro River Review

David J. Bauman threads dynamic energy throughout Moons, Roads and Rivers, which leads the reader to palpable angst and longing . . . movement between floating and sinking as you travel the circuitous curves of his journey . . .
Dawn Leas, author of I Know When to Keep Quiet and Take Something When You Go

David J. Bauman‘s debut chapbook, Moon, Roads, and Rivers, is a celebration of  everyday elements that we often take for granted . . . Bauman’s lines and rhythms are precise and fine-tuned . . . At the heart of the book, the poet celebrates humanity, despite our flaws, and acknowledges that we are at our best when we are attuned and respectful to the greater world around us.
Brian Fanelli, author of Waiting for the Dead to Speak (NYQ Books)

Read the complete book jacket blurbs at Finishing Line Press when you pre-order Moons, Roads, and Rivers by clicking right here.

An excerpt:

Age 13

I stood on the bank, under the old
Black Bridge, my toes secretly
digging pebbled sandstone.
My friends had just transformed into fish.

We’d been splashing in the shallows.
Now their feet kicked spray.
Arms over arms, faces turning
to breath with each stroke, they swam
through the deep water, all the way out

to the first pier. Knee-deep on its
concrete ledge they were calling to me.
I’d never told them that I hadn’t learned how.

—from “Swim”

Order your copy of Moons, Roads, and Rivers from Finishing Line Press (You guessed it, by clicking right here).

Barely South Review and Other News

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Yes, I took this photo.  A one-word poem on a tree.

I’ve been so busy working with Word Fountain, the fantastic little literary magazine that my employers enable me to edit (along with three super-cool coworkers who are editors and artists for the mag.) that I forgot to post about the excellent lit mag Barely South Review where my poem “Advent” was recently published in their spring issue!

Check them out. Check out the rest of the issue, and do all that stuff like “liking” and following on social media. All that sort of support is helpful, especially now as Continue reading

Three Poems at Yellow Chair Review

Yellow Chair Review’s new issue is up, with three of my poems included. Read, “Coyote,” “Cleaving,” and “Timothy” by clicking right here.

Also, please read an excellent little piece that just embodies the art of saying it between the lines by checking out “Reel Mower” by Timothy DeLizza. I had just moved this poem into the “Yes” folder for Word Fountain’s winter issue when Timothy contacted me to let me know that it was already snatched up by Yellow Chair Review! So now I guess I can’t complain. It’s good to be in great company!

Check out the whole issue of Yellow Chair Review here.

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.

 

Swing, a School Bus Poem

In keeping with the request that I share more of my published poems, here’s a clip from part of a longer reading at the Joseph Priestley Memorial Chapel in Northumberland Pennsylvania. Two months later this poem appeared in the pages of Contemporary American Voices alongside the excellent poets Brian Fanelli and Jason Allen.

Swing

While I was waiting
for the bus, Miss Shaffer said
“Get off the gate!
It’s not for swinging.”

But I knew better.

Another, on the playground—
I don’t recall her name,
But she yanked
me by the arm, right off

the swing set, and screamed,
“Don’t call me ‘old Lady!’”
I was only trying to yodel
(Yodaladie, yodaladie…).

And one time I wasn’t doing anything,
so I was sent to the principal’s office.
That was when days were for doing
nothing when you could.

When swings were for singing
anything that came to mind.
Fences were just in the way
and every kid knew the truth;

gates do that for a reason,
and it goes against nature
not to swing them.


©2014 by David J. Bauman. First printed in June of 2014 in Contemporary American Voices.