bitter wine, long version



i was unsure of myself,

and the first kiss came late,

and it was chaste. since then, many kisses,

but none so sweet as the first,

until my north country girl.

prospero said We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, 

and who am i to argue? we are.

how long does such stuff last

when it fails to sate? dreams are 

the stuff which is redeemed as compensation

for being good, the unsated's reward.

i live on possibilities

that have no chance of being realized.




my grandfather, my non-gardening grandfather,

found himself living a life he never imagined,

forced by circumstances to be a hard case,

i guess that's where i get it, lawrence, — 

finding himself on the road three or four 

days a week, selling, drinking, who knows what all. 

when he came home he drank out of habit 

or to sooth his nerves, and to put up with a wife 

and family that he loved but understood 

about as well as he understood nappies 

and infant formula and parent-teacher conferences.

which was nil. he had a generous nature, 

a world of friends. they all seemed to need

a little extra help, a something to get them through

the tough times, and he always came through.

you should have seen his funeral, packed it was.

the one place he could let down was on a fishing boat

in baja, or fly-fishing on a river in iceland for salmon,

but at home, he was in a knot, and lord help

the one in his path when he unleashed himself.

we speculated that it was his childhood,

a nightmare which must have stayed with him

through his waking hours, until, even after

it was forgotten, almost, it was the essence of him.

Aggressive, more aggressive than any other man

i've known, or may know, and he knew it, 

and it haunted him when his children recoiled.

but he was there when the hard times came,

he came through adversity, others, in a big way, 

and i think it was all he needed, a chance 

to redeem himself, and he did. his children

talk of him as a phenomena they survived, 

but they loved him, and, in truth, admired him,

for in the end he was there for them, and left

a legacy, and they knew that no other father 

cut a swath so wide, so deep, with so much wreckage

in its wake, and still came through as husband 

and father, unswerving, dedicated, confused 

by the niceties, but there, doing his best, 

in his own furious way. Given the raw material 

of his childhood, he remade himself 

in the image of men he admired, and in contempt 

and loathing for his own father, a weak man, 

so he, my grandfather, fought his way 

to school every day, picking fights if he had to, 

a skinny kid in a tough world, and it made him tough, 

that, and fighting japs, as a gunnery officer 

on the u.s.s. yorktown at the age of nineteen, 

a skinny, hard-drinking kid in over-sized khakis, 

and little yellow men shooting at him. the niceties 

made little sense to him after that. he was 

from the south and a bigot nonpareil, 

and it extended widely, his vituperations 

made our blood run cold, but he was raised 

by a black woman whom he loved, and a black woman 

cooked his breakfast every morning, and he loved her, 

and when his granddaughter married a black man 

he came through, and stood and a made a toast 

wishing them a long and happy marriage, 

and he meant it, he only needed that chance, again, 

to redeem himself. and he did, and if that wasn’t, 

or isn’t, enough to redeem him, if his sins 

were too unforgivable, i won’t be the one to say so.

what can you do with damaged goods, but

wait and hope, and don't judge too harshly?




i have dreams, too. 

i want to be held, sometimes

i don't care by whom.

i dream of lying in someone's arms,

listening to quiet words,

feeling soothing touches, a hand

stroking my hair,  

that, more than anything, is what i want.

i love terri, but that isn't her.

is it my north country girl?

i'll never know, which is why 

i taste bitter wine.




i have seminar tonight, and it's already late.

i have to get going. 

no time for loving, or running, barely time

for coffee, and though i'm steeped

in this reverie of can'ts and won'ts and woe is me,

i'm feeling randy, and i'd give a lot

to have a hour with terri

and i don't care who knows it, though

being the quiet type, no one will know it.




han shan said the peach would pass the summer blooming,

but wind and moon cannot wait. 


that's me, out the door. maybe i can distill this into a poem later.


























Poetry by one trick pony The PoetBay support member heart!
Read 402 times
Written on 2015-03-31 at 14:55

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The short version is a fine little poem, complete unto itself. The longer seems to me mostly an elegy, how not at the time but over time understanding leads to forgiveness and back to understanding ourselves better. For better and sometimes worse, our parents have been profound influences. There is a kind of paradox, at least for me, is that the older I get, the longer my parents have been gone, the greater their presence.