UNDERGROUND VOICES: POETRY 12/2010
A Youthful Idyll
Without going into all of the details about
how I awoke naked at the zoo one night,
or drove my motorcycle up a flight
of stairs and onto a ballroom floor,
or about how a monk, in utter disgust,
swept my glasses from the stairs of his temple
and down into the gutter one fine morning,
suffice it to say that for a while I sowed
a path of destruction across several continents.
My sense of purpose wavered in and out of focus,
while, at least once, I leapt from a moving vehicle.
My body collided with inanimate objects.
My body collided with other bodies.
Our wishes and desires became entangled.
People incurred grievous injury,
and some suffered long-lasting harm.
A few didn't make it at all.
I could give you the lengthy explanation,
the one replete with capitalized German diagnoses.
They write books about this type of inexplicable behavior;
they have names for these pathologies. In previous eras,
there might have been whispering among the villagers,
something to the effect of banishment or even
demonic possession. In the not-too-distant
past they might have prescribed
electroshock treatments or hydrotherapy.
Whatever the final outcome of those days,
when everything is finally said and done
it's pretty hard to accept that the late
night incursions and the staggering
under starlight toward the gleam
of an illicit dawn were all brought on
by a simple case of unrequited love.
Taking Leave in Late Autumn
This is the season of rain and muffled footsteps
that made so little difference.
This is the season of late arrivals in the early dusk
and early departures in the cold, moonlit hours.
This is the season of moving away
through the wind and the damp chill,
caught unaware by an epic backdrop looming
in a late November sky.
In hindsight, of course, we may call these days
by any name we choose.
But for now we stumble, breathless and numb,
feverish and clad for milder seasons,
invoking this "we" as if guiding a tour
through a city thronged with kindly upturned faces,
embarking on yet another evening on endless streets
of smoke and fog and dutiful rain,
past shop displays of dazzling goods
laid out to serve some puzzling, higher purpose,
past houses filled with glittering laughter
and doormen alert with warning eyes,
through vast and windswept
here in the last, dim light
after the sun has paled.
I can't say for sure that the cold
this year is unseasonable
or that we are lost,
but these wet leaves and cobblestones
may have more to do than we know
with where we are going
and what we might have been.
The Old Fighting Spirit
I remember the fight,
one of many –
me and John Coletti in the backyard
and his brother Marco standing by
should things get out of hand,
and the old man, who happened to let the dog out
if I’m getting the worst of it,
which in this case I am –
and my odd reaction,
calling a time out,
being let up to put the dog in the garage,
then resuming my position
on the bottom.
Was this the passionless spirit of "fair play"
that made the country great?
Ask the Lakota, the bison, the woodchuck,
the two-legged and the four,
anything and everything that stood in the way.
With what courteous fate had I been negotiating?
And then, years later,
standing there watching her go,
performing with perfect equanimity:
"It is, after all, her life, her right, her decision.
What good would it do to smash the windows
and beg her to stay?"
Sometime later I finally understood the futility of my efforts,
and broke off all negotiations with a calm, dispassionate fate:
"Life has kept its promises, boy.
Who ever asked you to accept them?
Scream and beg and plead and maim.
Kill yourself, then her,
then everyone else in the vicinity.
Kill them all
to make sure you get
the right one.
Now you've got it."
Tim Hawkins has lived and traveled widely throughout North America, Southeast Asia and Latin America, where he has worked as a journalist, technical writer, and teacher in international schools. He currently lives in his hometown of Grand Rapids, Michigan. His poems have appeared in a number of publications, most recently in BluePrint Review, The Fib Review, The Flea, Lucid Rhythms, Shot Glass Journal, and Underground Voices and are forthcoming in 13 Miles from Cleveland and The Midwest Quarterly.
© 2004-2010 Underground Voices