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.
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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