Three Poems by George Wallace

These three poems will appear in George Wallace’s latest book, “Shadow of the Slow Decline” (Blue Light Press, SF Ca), scheduled for release in the spring of 2017.

 

SHE LIVES IN A LITTLE PLACE OF BOATS

Like a house cat put out after dinner
like a sailing man with noisy pockets
like one of Neptune’s nasty daughters
or bicycle chains or mopping water
she lives in a little place of boats
with a stranger’s baby for a bride
with a pail of hooks for a heart
with a cloud of seaweed for eyes
O crazy sea chains! o net of lies!
O fish guts caught in cobblestones!
This is no sea shanty, and she is not
a lie. O wharf rat bigger than a porkpie
hat! She lives in a place of no dreams,
where the lungs of fishing boats,
in the slapping prison of night,
fill up with yawing silt and slinky brine,
and she walks the streets with the moon
and throws down moon beams all nightlong.

photograph by Hal Hirshorn
photograph by Hal Hirshorn

 

MIDNIGHT IS STARS AND IT’S HALF PASTMIDNIGHT

Midnight is stars and it’s half past midnight, and a man
may sing, a man may sing, and a jug of wine is the full
measure of joy, all this talk about the beauty of the world
and universal suffering, heaven is in the air and always
with us, air still hot but it feels like 50, and we’re sitting
by a sputtering fire, so what! Two shyBuddhas content
with rain in our joints and a set of wrenches you can
depend on, two traveling gentlemen our backs to the
dark and our eyes on each other, and the flame leaps
up, higher than missionary walls

And no we are not much more than a couple of bums
in leather jackets, but with temporary work and our
shoulders hunched up we are something else tonight,
bullshitting kings, two beautiful imaginary lords of
money, philosophy, women or nothing a tall, two
burning stars amid all the usual west coast mythologies,
a band of coyotes in the grapes, a nightfall of calamities
and rust in the rail yard, rust in the brakes, rust in the
kitchen and the hotel pipes, and friendship is trust
and what can two strangers do, hold secret with hope
and true to each other,

The rattlesnakes still bite, the old remedies apply, rust
is the linkage of a thousand other stubborn mechanical
difficulties and a jug of wine is a roadmap through stars

As for rust it will wait til morning,you can mix a little salt
into lemon juice and set it out in the sun awhile, sleep til
noon, by the creek I mean, where the yellow grass sings,
and the crickets gone slumbering in the lavendar shadows

 

I’M A CLOCKED OUT COWBOY AND CHECK OUT TIME’S ELEVEN

Who dressed you in that outfit, throw your shit in the back of the Toyota and hop in, I’ll tell you what it doesn’t mean to be from around here. needle’s on empty and I’ve been running around in circles all morning looking for cheap gas. Never mind the mutt in the back, he just can’t live in a little box like he’s supposed to.Guess he’s a lot like me only i keep my yap shut and don’t fart like an outboard motor, not to mention I keep my nose cleaner than that. Sponge in the bucket if you know what I mean.

They used to call this town ‘Paradise on the Love Canal’ but you’re ok if you got skin in the game, it’s a good old town, a good old town, even if everybody knows everybody’s business and if you want to get your bait wet you better head down to the lake. Pay no attention to the girls leaning on the counter at Piggly Wiggly, checking out the cowboys and bagging groceries. best to save that for downtown, gets roughneck as hell on the weekend sometimes, I haven’t been in awhile but the place is dynamic. Most of ’em can’t dance, but a man’s a man after a hard week’s work and some still got legs.

Yeah that’s where I work,you can fuck that forklift, I lift those crates myself.

Sure you can come in for a minute, mom’s got dressed by now and she’s cooking breakfast for the twins.Ignore that guy on the couch that’s Uncle Fred he has a persistent cough and a memory of growing up on a farm, he won’t stop talking about it, that old boy can tell you anything, including just how pretty it can be in the park in July. Yeah hot as jaundice but those trees throw a lot of shade in the afternoon, and the firehouse does an annual fundraiser and puts up a carousel.

You call this coffee,where’d you get this shit it tastes like gravel.

No I did not violate no law except seeking to be left alone. Yes I bought this hat at the truck stop and I resent that remark. Yes that one there’s charlie embers, you’ve heard about him I suppose. Some strange notions in his head but he’s basically solid as a rock quarry, I saw him at the high school, that’s a man who knows his football.

Let’s stop for cigarettes,there’s change in the ashtray. Hop out and stretch your legs. I know the springs are shot on this old heap but it’s the roads in this town, not me, all these potholes dug by snow plows and eighteen wheelers. There’s plenty more to be said about this town but the big thing’s this — keep moving fast forward,nowhere is everywhere, that’s what counts. At least we’ve got a stake in this damn country unlike some, and respect the flag.

OK yeah I almost forgot, I want to take you down to the lake. You can toss that beer can in the back if you want to. Next to the dog, I’ll clean it up later.

No of course no great book was ever written about this place, no great picture ever painted. But there’s sound barriers to shatter, speed limit zero and in the morning if there are any fences left to mend just give me the coordinates and I’ll mend ’em.

Because I’m a clocked out cowboy, my checkout time’s eleven.

Because I’m a bombardier in the back seat and you can have your shotgun, buck naked in the blood red sun.

–George Wallace