Tuesday 21 February 2023

Five Poems by Michael La Bombarda

 




THE GOLDEN AGE

 

Everyone wants to live in a Golden Age,

And so do I. Maybe that’s why I’ve had

A desire to invent one for myself from time

To time. I do have a sense of humour about it,

Thinking a Golden Age is a period of history

In which I’m living, though common sense

Would seem to indicate that this period of

History is not the one. History is a prism.

When people look into it, they see whatever

Colours they want to see, according to their

Prejudices. A Golden Age is an elusive dream,

I guess, and as elusive as a bird or woman, but

I think I can create a functioning Golden Age out

Of a golden dream. I can construct a historical

Period in my mind that is amenable to all my

Aspirations and imagine myself fulfilled within it.

Then I’ll build myself a fieldstone house deep

In the woods of the New England countryside.

I’ll build two rooms in the house, both rather

Large. Downstairs will be for eating and enter-

Tainment, and upstairs will be for reading and

Writing. I’ll line the entire top floor with book-

Shelves, and all the spines of the books will be

Stamped in gilt. When I create my Golden

Age, there will be no need to read history, unless

I’m reading ancient history. Even the Middle Ages

Will be too contemporary for me. On a daily basis

I’ll imagine myself living in the Golden Age

Of my making, and I’ll become golden myself

Someday and valued beyond all colourful and

Hard-earned money and sexual liaisons too.

 

 

AN ELEGY FOR MY MOTHER

 

Although my mother was French she

Was born in Haiti and sprinkled her

French with words in Creole, such as

“M’ap mouri,” which means in Créole,

“I’m dying.” Insensibly I told her

We’re all going to die, though I didn’t

Say that to be insensitive. It’s hard taking

Care of someone who’s getting older day

By day, especially when you’re in a bar

Most of the time, calling to see if she’s

All right, after you’ve incessantly asked

Her to give you money to drink. I did

The best that I could while taking care

Of her, or was she taking caring of me—

That seems more like it. She did live

Until she was eighty-seven years old.

If I could have done better, I would

Have gladly. Growing up is learning

To accept your limitations. I know I’m

No closer to being a saint now, than

When I was younger. My mother had

A certain beauty to her as she grew older,

Which I can only call the beauty of old age.

White hair that calls attention to itself, and

A smile on her face that you would have to

Admit to being earned. Laughter was hard

To come by the last few weeks, and I tried

To make her laugh now and then. I think

I wanted her to laugh to take her mind off

Of me and herself as well. Soon I was going

To move her down into the living room, as

The stairs had become too difficult for her.

On February 21, 1999, she died at 11:40 P.M.

On a day I hadn’t been drinking. I had walked

Into the bathroom to get the green plastic tub

She used for her false teeth. When I came back

Into her room, she was hunched over the side

Of her bed, trying to steady herself while

Pushing against the night table. I lifted her feet

Onto the bed and removed her false teeth from

Her mouth so she wouldn’t choke on them, but

Minutes later she was dead. My thought at the

Moment was that I wished I had been a better son,

And that someday I might get a second chance.

Although I knew that I was trying to assuage

My conscience, I wasn’t getting off that easy.

Still, months later, I grieve for her and shake

My head in disbelief at the way I treated her.

I’ll probably feel like this for years to come.

If not, I’m a far worse son than I thought.                          

 

 

WALKING UP LAFAYETTE STREET

 

I pass many Chinese food shops,

And the men selling and repairing sewing machines,

As well as the buildings where I imagine sweatshops

And thousands of women working in steamy quarters

With no air conditioning, just fans whirring and blowing

A little relief for a while. I think of significant events

In my life and narrow them down to the pleasures

Of walking along an old street and discovering some

New buildings and new faces to look at on my fanciful

Walk. I stop before Lieutenant Petrosino Square, but

I don’t feel like reading from a book, though on some

Other day it could be pleasurable and relaxing—

Why is the lieutenant famous? I ask myself.

He must have been some tough cop, I answer.

It’s hot and humid. A statuesque blonde woman walks

Before me, though I’m not following her by design but

By circumstance. I’m positive I’ve seen her before,

But I can’t remember where. I love to walk. I could

Have seen her in a dozen places. While I think of her,

I’m distracted by another attractive woman. I keep

Walking uptown, however. After the Puck Building,

I cross East Houston and think about Lafayette, and how

He helped the United States during the Revolutionary War.

I think of a square or a street, and I dub myself a general

In the Poet’s Army and name a street after myself, but

I know the street is just a start, and my imagination is

Working overtime. A country or a continent, I

Humorously wonder, as I turn left on East Fourth.

 

 

A YOUNG LADY

 

There she goes with her breasts bouncing

In her loose brassiere, ignoring the effect

She makes on the men who happen to observe

Her as she walks by with studied insouciance.

One man has a better view than the other men

Since he is sitting in the coffee shop she enters

Into to buy some pieces of fruit, a pint of orange

Juice, and a black coffee. That man is yours truly,

The happy chronicler. Certainly this young woman

Is a historical event in my ordinary life, and an

Opportunity for me to resume my image of myself

As a man-of-letters and a poet, as I haven’t

Written any letters lately, nor have I blessed a blank

Page with a poem. Maybe I should throw an image

Into this poem to satisfy other poets who are visually

Handicapped and need a cloud passing across a wide

Mountain to feel they’ve read something akin to what

Has been called poetry in the last century. I’ll make

It really deep too, a very big cloud with galactic depth.

Aficionados of exaggeration—what lit-profs call

Hyperbole—now satisfied, I’ll continue to describe

The ease with which she walks out of the coffee shop

With insular bearing, though I suspect she wants me

To look at her because I want to look at her. I’ll never

Forget her short-cropped hair, her big brown eyes, and

Her stealing my heart by skipping down the sidewalk.

 

 

VERMONT

 

Leaf peepers might as well be pumpkin

Peepers, since pumpkins are as prevalent

As foliage followers. The grey, green,

Orange, red, and yellow hillsides and

Mountains are everywhere around me,

As well as the rolling farms and tell-tale

Silos. Driving through the countryside

On a bus, I can’t help but want to move

Here. The bookstores in the larger cities

In Vermont all seem to have book signings

And poetry readings, and I finally took

Advantage of one of them. I attended a

Poetry reading in Rutland, which turned

Out to be quite good. The poet was about

My age and concerned with his memory

And paying homage to the people who

Had influenced him. He loved his child

And his wife; he was building a new home.

Never having been married, I felt somewhat

Inadequate. Unfortunately I seem to be one

Of those men who are doomed to leave no

Lineage behind them. So be it. The weather

Is crisp, and the people I meet are polite

Enough to make me feel that life has promise,

Even in those moments when I feel that life

Is mostly habitual. Life goes on no matter

What we feel or think. I’m heading north.

I don’t know if that bodes well or ill,

But I’ll probably go to Montreal, where

I haven’t been to for twenty-five years.

Traveling is destiny; it’s either side of

A flipped coin, heads or tails. Call it!

 


 

Michael La Bombarda is a poet and fiction writer. He has published in many little magazines and in some anthologies published by Low-Tech Press, Autonomedia, the New York Writer’s Coalition, and Holy Apostles Soup Kitchen. He has three books of poetry published by Chez Michel Press.

 


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