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    Room 62 • Poetry Hotel 

Eleven Poems / George Guida

 

YOUR MOTHER

 

I celebrate your mother and sing your mother,

and what I assume your mother shall assume.

And though I could not stop for your mother

she kindly stopped for me. Your mother, after all,

is not so old I could omit her, because

there is no country for old mothers.

 

In fact I saw your mother the other day,

starving, hysterical, naked,

her eyes nothing like the sun.

I will not call her mistress

though she may be so. Sweet,

sweet, sweet, sweet, sweet mother,

next to God, America, I and

everyone stopped breathing when

your mother whispered along the keyboard

to Peter Quince, who placed her in Tennessee,

where ignorant armies clash by moonshine,

who turned to me and said, Ah, Love,

let us be true to your mother too.

 

And it’s true, I too dislike your mother,

but in her I find a place for the genuine

fear that she may cease to be,

not waving but drowning, washing up

on some farther shore, that I may stumble over her,

exclaim, I fall upon your mother! I bleed!

I fear your mother has not

a stately pleasure dome decreed,

for Old McDonald had a farm,

eee-ayye-eee-ayye-ohh,

and on this farm he had your mother.

 

So let us go then, you and I,

when evening is spread out against your mother

with sawdust in her hair, as

she wanders lonely as a cloud.

Had I but world enough and time

to make your mother run or walk in beauty

or sag like a heavy load or just explode,

I would take her to a cottage under the sea

and say, Nevermore will I go

gentle into that good mother.

Then a wine-dark muse will inspire

a tiger or little lamb or glow worm

to ask, My son, hast though slain the Jabbermother?

 

But what happens to a mother deferred?

Does she jazz June? Does she stop

by the woods on a rainy evening?

Good mothers do make good neighbors.

Does she understand how much depends

upon a high-heeled mother

glazed with bath water

beside the white poodle.

I hung on like death to your mother

for dulce et decorum est pro matria mori,

but when I consider how your mother is spent,

I know I have wasted her life.

 

So I am leaving a Coney Island of your mother,

aware she hands on misery to man

and deepens like a boastful self. And now

I see the apparition of these faces in your mother

and say, Oh, mother, your mother,

this baby is through.

-------------------------

 

WHAT SEEMS STILL WHIRLS

Fifteen, aboard a flight to Spain, 

“Twilight Zone: The Movie,”

fresh in my mind, its demons

not yet on the wing, not yet.

Still, any view is portal to fear. 

Fifty-one on a parlor couch,
finished with "The Blackboard Jungle"
Vic Morrow as a high school hood,
I ponder the terrors of turbulence
in swirling winds, the turbulence
of teenage love abroad or else
at home, the kind of love that West,
Morrow’s delinquent never knows.
Take your hat off in class, Mr. Dadier

(Daddy-O), his teacher commands,
West’s hair a whorl of chaos.
But West gets his revenge
in an alleyway combat of fisticuffs.


Coincidence that "Combat," TV drama,
will be Morrow's transport
into every living room.
The good morrow of triumph,
the day in the sun. A stage name

Morrow, for a tough Jewish kid,
a genuine Stanley Kowalski,
Morrow, a grown Jew now
taking t. v. Nazis down.

My first flight to Europe,
my seat aboard the boomerang.
Turbulence. No comfort in props,
the literalist's sign of flight,
only my classmates familiar,
my blackboard comrades
on a trip to anonymity.

Morrow knew Elvis and Curtiz,
director of "Casablanca."
The fascists lost the fight
and only a Clash song spun them
back to now. Morrow was born

a villain like us all. Born to live,

to strut, to suffer, to die, to live

again in children, actors acting

in our place. Morrow's

daughter suffered too the wounds

that open every day.

 

How could I know how many times

I’d cross the pond on missions

secret to me as everyone else?

Different mines each time:

Friends, lovers, parents blown

to smithereens on an alpine ridge,

in a peasant village near the border

that shifts in historic spirals,

rotation of ages and faces

and feelings come back to steal

the consciousness of moments.

Each time a hill to take and then

another, machine guns spinning

bullets, specific relations,

specific body parts, specific wars.

 

A landscape just like Vietnam.

The director showed Morrow in stills

how Indian Dunes could easily stand in.

It had so many times. The site

of motorbikes grooving circles in sand,

dunes shifting with the nearby tides,

and Magic Mountain Amusement Park,

the kid’s vacation giving way

to overseas flights and nights

on Spanish beaches, stirring sangria

that back home would have made us Wests,

the post-War city toughs, the gangs

that ruled the roost, the dynamos

of matching jackets and switchblades

flashing through the air, the ballet

scored by Bernstein, circling back

a decade later to radical chic,

a generation of sons at war,

different fathers from the G. I. Bill

Daddy-Os, unlike my own

who threaded needles between

the law and war, becoming cops

and firemen, accountants and clerks,

spinning us out to suburbs, spinning

off families whose mission it was

to learn what our parents refused to know,

what seems still (from a distance) whirls.

 

I was a straight-A first-date student—

the first like the hundredth—

to see that “Twilight Zone,”

with Morrow cast as a cynic

a-whirl through time, the Zone

with its animated whorl

to a fifth dimension

beyond sight and sound,

science and superstition,

the opposite of amnesia,

where Serling could have plucked him

from an eddy of wading actors,

but instead, a generation out,

the movie took him for good.

The heat of fake explosions,

the delaminated rotors

whirling downward

decapitating Morrow,

cutting the orb of a life

from this earth, and with it

children he meant to redeem.

 

I am here to watch the credits roll,

Daddy-O myself, confused about

this scene, my shoulders slumped,

no longer moving freely through the set

the world becomes, the stir of faces

and ages gone, the whirl of the done,

so that, in Morrow’s final words,

I’ve got to be crazy to do this shot.

I should’ve asked for a double.

-------------------------

"THESE DOGS HATE EACH OTHER"

They are pictured on a single chair,

haunches up, recoiled, each near snarl,

the caption writer quick witted, a friend

of my wife’s I’ve met just once

though we share this bond of dogs

who hate to share the couch

where I station myself, confessing

to people I hardly know. The dogs

crave the comfort not to be

always on guard, better off perhaps

in separate houses. Neither would think

Perhaps be damned! That’s our command

while they prefer urge. The Maltese

is ready to bite the dachshund’s ear.

And by now you might think, I see

where this is going. Well, actually, no.

We’re contenting ourselves with life

as lesser Prousts of cranky pets.

I pass judgment neither on the spotted one 

closer than her nemesis to the edge,

nor on her aspirations: fawning owner,

place of privilege in the bed,

ample yard and access door.

I doubt my friend provides all these

for if a dog is man’s best friend

it’s only because they have in common

the will to power poorly expressed. 

 

-------------------------

RUSSIAN BARBERS

 

When Yuriy parts my hair

he chuckles at a demon in his ear.

Boris, at the other chair,

speaks to him in Russian

until he answers with a frown.

They are saying these Americans

are fools to come to us

who learned to barber hair

between attacks in Chechnya.

 

Or they speak in their language

of the music that blares

from in back of a giant screen

where gangsters play in loops.

Boris says that Journey’s singer

intones with the power

of Putin’s Budyonnies.

Yuriy remarks that he wails

like an abandoned waif.

 

Everything around the shop 

is just what you'd expect: the jars

of Mane 'n Tail, the aristocrat

of Clubman talc on shelves

above the fade and trim

electric clippers dangling

from the hooks by tight arrays

of silver shears the giant mirror

casts as a bazar of ego stokes

only these two can wield.

 

Yuriy says no, my hair should never be

so long. "Has it been six months?"

Boris shrugs and juts his lip,

the same as when his wife is asking

what he'll do about their son,

who is ashamed of them

and won't wake up on time

for school, and lies he doesn't smoke

when of course they know

his tee shirts reek like workers' bars

in Niszhny Novgorod.

 

His is also the lip to ponder

how gray the hair is falling

on my lap and how if I mentioned

my latest scan, he might well say

“You know, we all have to go sometime,”

and how at another immigrant shop

I watched my father's fall

to the floor like all dead things

in chairs of foreigners whose tongue

he wished he could understand.  

 

For a time I believed I'd learn

to speak Russian, to read the greats

because the soul resides

in a crone's crooked smile

and a clerk's raving lines.

But now I'm thankful Yuri's learned

the English of his trade.

He waves a straight-edge, searching

for the word to conceal my gray

and yells "Dye!" as failures he knows

I don’t have the courage to regret

mock me with the curse of those

whose hair grows in the grave.

 

When he asks what color I want

I mean to answer brown,

but thinking it's too late

tell him to leave it alone.

Boris runs well-worn fingers

through his midnight mop

as if tonics could preserve the flesh

the way the tundra does.

I want to remind them how

winter chills us with wasted chance,

blizzards teach us to spend ourselves,

and icicles linger like stubborn hair

no one but nature is able to cut.

 

And the band born near the Russian River

plays another song insisting

we must always believe

we once belonged someplace.

“Yuriy, we are lost,” I almost say,

but catch him staring in the mirror

where a stallion in a meadow

brays at lullabies and strokes

of a dead babushka’s warming hand.

 

-------------------------  

THE MORNING MY SON'S FATHER CALLS IT QUITS

 

The economy is booming and his new double-wide

looks like it just rolled off the dealer’s lot

and onto the one we visited not three months back,

all sand and scrub on a Southland summer day.

My son is sitting in first-period English, a class

he says he doesn’t like, though he loves the language

the way I do, a struggle without end,

like my son’s birth father’s row with life,

America, the chance to buy a house,

the chance to go to jail and lose the right

to vote, the right to raise his children

with an empty bank account, the right

to bear arms and bare his soul

on line, the right to regret the classes failed

and felony arrests and uncle who got him

the laborer’s job on parole

and the woman he met at a bar

where they play country songs and sing

to hell with the government, to hell with the kids

who came along with her from other men

who weren’t the dads you see on TV

And maybe seeing his kids and his woman

and her men and himself on screens all day

was just too much for a hot summer night

with the meds running low and no one

traveling the dirt roads but dogs.

That kind of scene would speak to any man,

even one whose other son he rescued

from his mother’s boyfriend’s fists,

the mother, his ex, waiting tables and out

doing God-knows-who the rest of the time

when the boy was still in diapers. What kind

of man would leave the boy there? What kind               

would lose him again to pain and pills?

When you’re a man like that you don’t need to answer.

You’re thankful to recover, no matter how long,

no matter how many nights it takes of staring

at paycheck numbers to make them grow,

of watching the littlest girl drag her dirty doll

across the kitchen floor, no matter how many beers

with Uncle Timmy telling him the way

a man should be. Forget his life and children

who stopped talking to him years ago.

He’s the closest my son’s natural father has

to a sage. Forget that he’s more likely

to show his scars than to lift a man up

with a story of persistence paying off.

He’s more likely to drive a man around

in his pick-up through the darkness

leading out to cow pens and long tokes

and a tale about some no-good gal

twenty years too young, and ten

grand too expensive to marry.

No matter, though, because my son’s

natural father found himself

a decent woman who raises the boy

as her own, who works a steady job

at the parts supply, who believes him

when he tells her where he’s been.

And on this morning she’s on his mind,

and his boy, and the son he met this year,

and all of them so full of life and yet

so much to take in, take on, and the dark

coming back for the dawn, and the length

of rope he cut and tied and slung

on a branch just yesterday, waiting

for him in the woods behind the house,

waiting until his woman goes to work

and the children go to school

where they don’t pray any more

so he prays for them while he puts on

his best shirt and walks to the spot

and raises a bottle’s bottom to the sun

and raises himself on high, while my son

picks up his pencil and lets everything go.

-------------------------

INDISTINCT ANIMAL IN BONNET AND CAPE

Your bug-eyed pug at his most vexed

resembles Dalí or his figurines

But wait, you’re wrong. He’s just an angry dog

and next to him sits a fanged rabbit

about to impale your toe through a sock,

as you slumber into embryo

unsafe in a cracked vessel filled

with haggard men who can’t quite follow

the tune that Crecquillon set down as (somehow)

“All the Nights I Go to Bed Without You”

Everyone there both sleeps and wakes,

though you’re at least aware

the owl has perched on a nun

and the llama(?) is playing a lute.

 

Your sudden unconscious interest in art

has dozed you into the crucible

of Bosch’s “Concert in the Egg,”

which he likely didn’t paint until 

someone granted him the kind

of posthumous credit you’ll never enjoy

since you fled the garden of earthly delights

you called a child-bed marriage

to a smart, attractive, if not disrobed

spouse who lent you life and voice.

In your flight it’s also worth noting

the dead chicken in the hanging basket,

blackbirds perched and the owl (redundant),

vase tied to bare tree, monkey’s flute,

monk’s harp, arm reaching for grilled fish,

dangling snake, turtle and fox, fire,

and wee demons devouring

souls at lower right.

 

It’s only Wednesday and you didn’t plan

to see this masterwork, much less have it

creep into your life, yet it found you

through a labyrinth of synapses

for a certain artist demands the regard                                                 

of anyone who’s ever trod a scene,

reminding the figure he hasn’t achieved

the thing for which he wishes to be known, 

as a belligerent animal in bonnet and cape

suggests that human passengers find

little comfort in scripted song.

-------------------------

FOUND POEM: A LEADER SPEAKS OF WOMEN

 

I have tremendous respect for women

and the many roles they serve.

You know, it doesn’t really matter

what they write as long as you’ve got

a young and beautiful piece of ass.

 

She’s unattractive, both inside and out.

I fully understand why her husband left her

for a man. I’ve got to use some Tic-Tacs,

just in case I start kissing her. She could

only be described as attractive

if you like a woman with a bad complexion

who is built like a linebacker.

 

My Administration is committed to creating

conditions that empower women

to achieve even more. Grab them

by the pussy. You have to treat ‘em

like shit. Women represent half

of the population, but they care

about 100 percent of the issues

that face the nation. More women

in the workforce today than ever before.

That’s really terrific. Putting a wife to work

is a very dangerous thing.

------------------------

B. A. BARACUS

 

Palm Sunday as prelude to pietà.

A lector reads the Gospel of Barrabas

while I fold my cross and think B. A.

Barrabas, flubbing a namesake scholars say

may have been Jesus himself, the son

of the father, like Mr. T’s, absconded.

 

Mohawk, a kinky antenna to channel

four centuries’ whips. B. A. for Bad

Attitude, which he had, and ratings

and a movie role to bloody White Hope

who spoke Italian Philly, language

only half as old as a new world self.

 

Baldness bespoke Clean as much as T

if you were inclined to shine the token,

if you bought the hype. For a while he was

the hype, as they used to say. Baracus

had no pity, had no mercy for the fool

who, casting, set him only half-way free.

 

They called him John Henry, Stepin’ Fetchit,

a thick-necked Tom on his own golden leash

but the country preferred his muscled grunt

to blood-witted, hatchet-tongued black men

sentenced to spray misshaped topiary

with history’s holy water cannon.

 

Self-baptized Mandinka Igbo guarding

ten clothes designers, twenty-nine celebrities

twelve models, fifteen judges, and forty millionaires,

Laurence T. Tereud charged three grand a night,

if you could get him and his jewelry and his

two hundred law-suited tussles in tow.

 

He chewed and spit those numbers through his teeth,

through grins at wrestlers and President’s wives

planted on mats and laps as gifted gaffes.

He chopped the forests of Chicagoland

Paul Bunyan and ox, shedding chains

like qualms about playing a self to death.

           

Then came the Flood, absolving him of gold,

cartooning him for screens, aggrieving him

in the name of everyone who’s suffered

the cruelties of fiction on pedestals. 

Barrabas, Baracus, human abacus

on the altar figuring all of us.

 

-------------------------

BROOKLYN ABSURD

 

Here on a traffic island somebody’s chained

a bicycle painted entirely white—

rims, tires, handlebars, frame. Since September

rogue clowns have terrorized the public.

Is this bike one of theirs, poised for harlequin

getaway? I can picture it now:

variegated legs flung out in full flight,

submarine-sized shoes brushing the wheels

of parked delivery trucks, as the buffoon

hooligan coasts to a Smith Street blur.

 

At the asphalt junction of Flatbush and Fourth           

I've just finished reading "The Absurd,"                     

by a scholar who studied it for years,                         

now dead. He worked at Princeton, where                  

my wife taught seven boarding summers        

while she studied other seasons                                  

in Oklahoma, believing she could learn                      

from prepping the elite. Now we go                                        

back to congratulate ourselves for teaching                

poor kids who want to escape by bridge.

 

Before the towers died, shops on Atlantic

sold Middle Eastern foods, Persian rugs,

religious texts, hijabs, burqas, and thobes.

Storefronts with Arabic-lettered signs

survive with their windows bricked up or shrouded

like elders sworn to vows of silence.

Crowding these old heads, smooth-faced emporia

display artisanal teas, cheeses

of the world, rehabilitated armoires,

and hemp-lined underwear. Rising luxury

condos squat on their corpses, while lost

business-suited uncles walk still-veiled wives past

those same delivery trucks en route

to far-flung neighborhoods of detached houses

where their children are making Americans.

 

An old, stool-bound, waffle-coated woman claims

the corner of Bond for everyone

who understands what she doesn't say. She is

not begging exactly, but asking

the directions our lives will take, as a worker

approaches from the church's stone steps.

He refuses to crew the job across the way:

a billboard oathing future layouts,

doorman, underground parking, gymnasium.

He smokes as he tells her the story

she could tell herself. A hardhat waves from the hole

like a rescue vessel's fair weather

signal. The sunny city gale blows us

past these islands galleried with art

hung in the manner of old-world salamis.

 

Further down, the Little Wheel Cafe on Hoyt

perfumes the block with brewed Beirut gold.

Inside, an olive woman I loved in my youth

returns with date-nut cakes she now knows

I won't live without. She smiles as she passes

my plastic future through an Ipad.

Her obsidian eyes bid this aging body

adieu, and I turn to face the sun

reflected in a brownstone's double window.

This prism beams on a seat between cold heat

pipe and two women speaking Chinese

characters etched in the next table's would-be

jazz musicians' foreheads as they plot

the siege of small-town Jersey. Behind them

a jar of agave sweetens us.

 

Outside the leaded window new construction

rises for citizens people

streaming by are sure to become a decade

hence when they stop swearing the powers

that be understand the need for them

to do the work machines accomplish in half

the time. A garage on Livingston

reveals the truth: Life is a struggle for life.

Close read manholes, confetti showers,

comic books, pretzel salt, coming elections

to signify fury and sound. Whose

hands are passersby meant to shake? A jumpsuit

polishes bronze department store doors

while seven others board a window-barred bus.

Meter maids write tickets in Sanskrit.

 

I have to choose a route, as a squad car idles

alongside the erstwhile Board of Ed.

The bureau's moved to a borough we mostly

ignore. The renovated building

houses young professionals from private schools.

The cop in the cruiser doesn't care

if the influx translates to better lunches.

Anyway, why would he want to live

around here? Too many immigrants. No peace.

So I decide to turn north, to keep

my distance from the river and Manhattan's

skyline on the other side, on past

the cheap store, where a sports coat could always save

a sorry career, where the gyro

and souvlaki shop confronts the technical

institute, where students in perpetual

hoodies cluster at the door of a building

marked for next year's round of destruction.

The master plan's on nyc.gov.

 

The City and the Borough and the Mayor

and the Council all have master plans,

but the bagel shop on Fulton has pizza.

Even masters need their solid meals

to survive another day. The office-bound

green space placed on the next super-block

supports a cafe called La Defense which sells

pastries in shapes of corporations

I don't dare eat them, but I do drink coffee

called Louisiane. I wish I could

afford it more often, but then I wish too

the pigeons perched in the rowed locusts

were peacocks. Brooklyn has lost its strut. I've heard

the main museum here could have been

the largest in the world, if the foreigners

hadn't arrived when they did. But that

history lies miles away. Closer lie

the criminal court and the mobile

broadcast vans spilling their pretty reporters

like popped magnums of West-Coast Champagne,

sticky and cold, onto the sidewalk

widened as part of the mogul's zoning deal.

 

Today's lead story is the stroller derby

from the pre-pre-school to the gourmet

grocery. The celery is certified

organic and makes a great garnish

for selfies. If this scene seems too ponderous

remember what the dead scholar said:

There is no reason to believe anything

matters. As Groucho Marx may have quipped,

he had probably just eaten bad tuna

or lost an esoteric slap fight.

However it was, he must have felt himself

diminished in a fading god's sight,

fading like the taxi's horn as it speeds by

civil court, where a human black eye

barks into her cell, My baby's not even

in school. He can't even tie his shoes.

And his father don't care, as passing students

giggle at her mismatched ensemble.

Their laughter infects nearby business suits,

and pretty soon they don't care either.

Why should they when the temperature's this high

and all words vanish into traffic?

as I do to cross a street named Jay,

President of the Continental Congress.

 

In the building I aim to enter,

my wife is crafting lesson plans, not thinking

of how, when we met in another

city over barbecue and beer, I knew

I loved her at first sight because she

pulled a slip of paper from her purse and wrote

the name of a German theorist

I would never have time to read. I told her

thank you, and walked her to a drug store,

because we were both sick of cities, and once

or twice on the way to our hotel

we stopped to gaze at lights and not to embrace

until the loneliness made us laugh.

 

-------------------------

HERNIA 

 

The doctor says that like most things

you don’t expect, it’s roughly

golf ball-sized. But putting

that metaphor aside, you know

this won't be any game.                                                                                        

 

Last year a marble struck

your father’s scan, an enemy

to share with him, each day

crafting winning stratagems,

heedless as watching

 

a foreign soccer match

while the government bombs

the stadium you’d placed

on your pastime bucket list.   

So you make a date for surgery.

 

You wear a belt to keep it in

and repeat this can happen

anywhere, to anyone, at any age,

and what if you lived underground

in a country like Afghanistan?

 

You’d fashion supports

from rags, and tunnel under walls

until you pushed up through

the desert floor, where you’d believe

your family could bribe patrols.

 

to find a willing medic

when in fact it’s already too late.

The anesthesia’s all used up.

Your family’s abandoned the globe.

The core once yours is no more.

 

-------------------------

DID YOU THINK?

 

Did you think when I got old I would keep my mouth shut?

Did you think I would side with the people I'm dying with?

I might make noises about the old days, but I don't believe them.

We had no idea what that hell we were doing. That's the secret. 

But don't people mellow with age? No, with age we see

all the things we won't be around to do anything about,

and if that doesn't piss you off, what will?

But you're here, and I need your help. Will you help me?

 

We have some problems to work out,

like young Evangelical football players who call themselves J. T.

as a way to stand out on a screen because who wants to read

something as boring as John Thomas? Never mind that

every huckleberry south of D. C. is called J. T. or J. R. or J. B.

or B. J. or P. J. Am I supposed to curl up in my pajamas and watch

while these good ole boys and girls steal people's freedom

as the national anthem plays? Somebody's gotta tell them

they don't really know what God thinks. Take it from someone

who's a lot closer to knowing the truth. Somebody's gotta say something

about the difference between scoring a touchdown for State

and leaving a church because a man in a uniform says

that one book tells you all you need to know about right and wrong

and if you don't believe it, you'd better be afraid. I'm here to say

the only thing you need to be afraid of is men like that.

I give coaches more credit than to believe all the things they say,

and God more credit than to give away all the big secrets.

When the men in uniform had my boyhood ears they did tell

one truth: Life is a mystery. God is a mystery. Believe, but not me.

Believe and worry. Doctors and psychiatrists will tell you not to worry.

Don't believe them. Just get up every morning and make worry

a cup of coffee, so the two of you can sit on the back porch

overlooking the beautiful world, and study the landscape for flaws,

all those spots where the colors and shapes speak in absolutes:

the pure good of legalized marijuana, the pure evil of abortion,

the benefits of the free market, the universal justice of socialism.

Some high fool just missed running down a toddler in the lot

of a pot supermarket because he needed a night of tokes

to erase the family he made by accident and couldn't support

because he was born poor and had no guidance

from a father and mother who worked two jobs each,

so he did lousy in school and missed out on college

and now depends on unemployment checks. You see

what I mean? You need to travel around the landscape and see

the millions of ways people suffer are all one way,

the human way. To condemn them for it is

to condemn blue for being blue. But why pick on blue?

Colors are just accidents of refraction. Imagine

the landscape if they didn't all exist?

 

My hair is losing its original color, but I like to think

that all the color lost is returning to the universe,

not in some new-age, recovering control freak om-

mani-padma-om way, but in a way we can't understand

and shouldn't try. If I offend you with this thought,

take your yoga mat outside and disinfect it

before you give us all the flu or whatever other disease

is about to kill half of you before your time

because we diverted all the money for medical research

into the development of new materials for textured paving stones

around the pools and verandas of CEOs

whose corporations are people only obliged

to line the pockets of stockholders named all of us

suckered into counting on their money to keep us alive

in assisted living facilities and rehab clinics.

People have always needed their living assisted.

Even executives piss themselves in easy chairs.

   

So get your heads out of your asses, as my old mother liked to say,

and stop marching. Marching does more to help you die

on your feet than it does to help you live. Instead open your mouth,

but not in the way some old fool like me does when he's alone in a park.

Open your mouth to someone's face. Walk into an illegitimate meeting,

because they're all equally illegitimate, and say something intelligent

that will make most of the people there think you're crazy.

Many of them will not be intelligent, but don't hate them for that.

Love them because they need you to open your mouth,

and you need them to open their wallets. I would have said their hearts,

but I'll never be that old. It's all about money, even though it's not.

Make the guy with the new car see that one day after a glitzy party

he'll wreck it on one of those roads that isn't quite an interstate

and somehow survive to see that the woman he thought loved him

was really just trying to overcome her fear of abandonment

by placing her faith in a lifestyle rather than another human being.

Of course it may be the gal who owns the car, and the guy who

lies on the couch in front of the 100-inch screen, while she

click-clacks off in her power suit to strike a deal in the name of equality

for a new factory where the workers will make fifty cents an hour

and raise children who die well before they get this old.

Of course these people will know the value of togetherness

and see clearly in a way that only a car crash or non-fatal heart attack

can offer to many of the people we pass every day on the highway

or the sidewalk, or stand in line behind as they wait for a drug

or a service that we all should be willing to help pay for,

because if you can make it out of the hospital and recover

your senses and think hard enough about what you see,

if you're lucky that way, and you wind up with enough

in your pocket to buy worry the early bird special,

and you genuinely enjoy your filet of sole or salmon

as you watch the sun sink toward a horizon you know

is the same for anybody in the golden years

no matter where, then you'll be me and think to yourself

this, of all things, is the least I can do.

 

------------------------- 

George Guida has published seven books, including The Pope Stories and Other Tales of Troubled Times (2012) and four collections of poems, most

recently Pugilistic (2015) and The Sleeping Gulf (2015). His work has lately appeared in Aethlon, the Free State Review, J Journal, the Maine Review,

Mudfish, Poetry Daily, the Tishman Review, and Verse Daily. In 2018 George completed both a full-length poetry manuscript called “In a Time When

the Ghosts were Alive,” which was shortlisted for the Lauria/Frasca Poetry Prize; and a chapbook of poems called “Zen of Pop,” which was a runner-

up in the Foundlings Press Chapbook Contest and a semifinalist for in the Emrys Foundation Chapbook Contest. At the moment he is working on a

novel called The Uniform and on a non-fiction book about communities of poets across America, called Virtue at the Coffee House.

 

George also teaches writing and literature, as Professor in English at New York City College of Technology and Contributing Faculty Member at

Walden University. Having just stepped down as Poetry Editor for 2 Bridges Review, he now serves as the journal’s Senior Advisory Editor. Since

2015, he has coordinated the Authors Series at Dansville ArtWorks. He lives with his family in Dansville, New York and in Lynbrook, his hometown

on Long Island.

Acknowledgement: "Your Mother" previously appeared in Pugilistic by George Guida (WordTech Editions, 2015)  

Concert_in_the_Egg.jpg

Concert in the Egg. Attributed to an anonymous follower of Hieronymus Bosch (1561).

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