I really need to start adding dates to my poems. That is, etching the date into the upper right-hand corner just so I know when I actually began working on the damn thing. I used to do all of my writing — well, my pre-writing and initial drafts, anyway — in a journal. In fact, I always bought and used the exact same type of journal: black, hardcover journals with 8.5″ x 11″ sheets of white, unlined paper. I ritualistically wrote in it every morning for an hour, and then any other time throughout the day when I felt the need to write. Sure, back then (and even now) I found myself scrambling for anything to write on — an envelope, a napkin, a subscription card that fell out of a magazine — when a line or idea suddenly struck me. That journal, though, was my primary “canvas.” I still use my journals, but not so much for poetry these days. Typically I’ll use them to jot down ideas or to take notes on Lost (seriously). Nowadays I do pretty much all of my actual writing electronically. No old-style typewriter, no quill and ink. Computers have just made it too damn easy to write, which seems somewhat ironic in the literal sense of the word, as it’s not “writing” at all.
This, then, is more or a less a huge digression, as it’s got nothing to do with today’s poem outside of the fact that I have no idea when I originally wrote it (again, it was written on computer). According to my files, it was last updated on April 17, 2009. If I had to guess, I’d say I wrote the first draft in the last six or seven years. Outside of that, I haven’t a clue. Again, this poem was never read or workshopped, so have at it.
Long Dead, My Father Continues to Raise Hell
I’ve spent months imagining my undead father
dead, wandering the 26th Street Tavern
in his regular stupor, only this time more ghost
than man. Whenever he’d bump into a stool
or a drunk plopped down at the corner of the bar
midway between a bowl of pretzels and
whatever “big game” blared from the wall-mounted set,
this time he’d pass right through them. Sure,
even as a remnant of his old self he managed to squeeze
two fingers of bourbon out of Andy, my father
reminding the guy how he once helped stack and nail
planks of wood to the tavern windows one March
30 years earlier, and how Andy owed him one still.
So there’s my father, this transparent jerk,
stumbling from dart board to jukebox, muttering
about the factory job that never paid him
what he was owed, the boss whose face
was like a mutt’s but not so handsome. My old man,
even then without the nimble feet of the dead,
employs his regular stagger, plodding dangerously close
to four men half his age and twice his size
high-fiving about the “greedy Jews” over a fifty-cent
game of pool. My stupid old man, just lucid enough
to interject some small version of repentance,
an opportunity to share a cold pitcher of Pabst
before he tells them all where they can cram
their ugly mouths, and inevitably beaten so badly
that even the dead can feel it.