Friday 4 November 2022

Five Poems by Douglas K Currier

 



Last dance                                            

                

Maybe it’s not the tune you imagined,

not a music somber and suited to momentous. 

Maybe the dancefloor seems foreign,

no place you’d choose for a last dance. 

Your partner has been chosen for you. 

You already know her, of course; you’re

waiting on the floor for her to join you.

 

You find you’ve not much choice at all,

except for those dances – music, partners,

lights, drinks, that trip rhythmically and

counterclockwise through your memory.

 

In this solitude, waiting for the band to start up,

the needle to drop, “play” to be pushed, it’s

nothing like those other ballrooms, milongas,

barrooms, family parties.  It is somber and formal

and so very last, and you hope to make it to

the end of the piece with some vestige of grace. 

 

 

Dancefloors

 

                                                                        for Darlene Hurlburt

                                                                       

I remember those that are no longer

– La Ideal in Buenos Aires, Montreal,

the old quarter, that studio that taught us

tango, the Champlain Club in Burlington,

where we put on milongas, then so many

high school gymnasiums – those basketball

ballrooms – and the bars with postage-stamp

floors – drinking in that hug and sway of desire.

 

The American Legion by the railroad tracks

in Randolph, Vermont, when I was 10 – socks

and space and dimmed lights – I fell in love

forever with the touch and smell of girl

and had no idea what was coming for me. 

 

 

Ballast 

                                                                       

There is a difficult generosity in age,

that willingness to give more of everything

than one has – money, wishes, time, hopes.

 

We learn it late, almost at the end, when

to volunteer means to be needed.  It is a sort

of redemption for our rush, our haste in

advancing to the head of the line, our greed,

avarice, our selfish thrift, cruelty.

 

My mother died, but the charities kept asking

for months – the return address stickers, the keychains,

small calendars, bookmarks, promotional postcards

– all those appreciations she hoarded.

 

We learn late the needful grace of utility and the lesson

of sharing drummed into us to no immediate avail

in childhood.  We learn that we own nothing, that the truism,

disbelieved and ignored by pharaohs and kings, potentates

and czars, tyrants and rulers of every stripe, is indeed true

– there is no taking it with you.

 

My father did not die before ridding himself of all

his children ever gave him and our mother.  I received

again the school photos, letters, books, awards, knick-knacks,

and whimsies I thought would please.  We carry them

for ballast and put them over the side into the water

of dark, wanting lightness and to float a bit longer.

I am finally learning this now; a lesson life shows

to be ubiquitous.  We own nothing.  It seems to require

constant reminding, needs to be believed the way

time is believed, the way flight is believed,

and buoyancy and love and death.

 

 

Lasts 

                                                                                               

Our optimism keeps us from considering

all of what might be last.  In age dwindling,

memory replaces repetition, revisiting flavours,

odours, a touch not as urgent. The lasts are there

the same – last times good and bad. 

Of course, some of them we’ve had already

– not realizing the meagre chance we’ll again

enjoy or endure a moment already taken.

 

Consider endings, bidding goodbyes, farewells,

the knowledge that we won’t be doing this or that

ever again – seeing, touching, tasting.  Age is giving

– giving up and giving in -- and recalling

the lasts, ever watchful.

 

The lasts – last day of work, last cigarette, last drink,

last fuck, last visit, last letter, last conversation.

Last touch, last chore – when breathless we say to ourselves,

“We won’t be doing that again.” the last pet, last snowstorm,

last swim, last book, last love – all so sweet, so satisfying,

we would do them again – plan and strategize,

but they are lasts, my friend, and so . . .. 

 

 

Fast food 

                                                                                               

Death stopped by my table

at the fast-food place on the corner,

you know, near the house.  She didn’t

sit, just stood by my shoulder, tapping

the table with her fingers.  “Really,”

she said, “a triple quarter-pounder

with cheese and bacon? You know, they

have to put the calories on the menu now,”

she said. “And a dill pickle slice for vegetable.

Maybe you want a diet drink with that.”

She took a fry, “Love these,” she said, “so salty.”

I stopped chewing, put down the burger. She

stopped with the tapping.  “What the Hell,”

she said. “Enjoy it,” she said.  “I’ll see you soon,”

she said, over her shoulder on her way out.




Douglas K Currier holds a Master of Fine Arts degree from the University of Pittsburgh and has published work in a number of anthologies:  Onion River: Six Vermont Poets, Getting Old, and Welcome to the Neighborhood and journals: “Café Review,” “Main Street Rag,” “Comstock Review” as well as many others, both in the United States and in South America.  His chapbook “Senorita Death” was recently published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company. He lives with his wife in Winooski, Vermont.

 


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