Last Stop For A Traveling Salesman

Not looking so good, Joe.
A little weathered
around the edges,
and that collar wrinkled;
that hat’s a little big
now isn’t it, and those shoes
a size too small, and grimy – whew,
Joe, did you wash and shave;
and my-oh-my your eyes, Joe,
one’s larger than the other now,
what happened Joe, they put you
out to pasture; now, I know, Joe
we’ve been friends a long time,
and, yes, I owe you,
but Joe let me tell you
the economy
here in Podunk, USA
ain’t what it used
to be, no sir’ee, Joe; you know
Joe, let me buy you a cup of coffee,
maybe a donut for old time’s sake;
oh, you need to go,
oh, ok, I understand; now, Joe,
you don’t need to be like that, I mean
we’ve been friends so long
and all: what; buy nothing;
but Joe I tried to tell you
these things just happen,
no fault of yours or mine,
just this heat wave, the money;
now Joe no need to get all riled,
I’ll have to throw you out,
well in that case… oh Joe,
why’d you go and hit me?

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: I remember when traveling salesmen with their sample bags were a mainstay of small town American and the smaller mom and pop shops across the country. Of course in the late seventies that era closed down with all the larger convenience stores forcing the mom and pop stores out of business, and with them the need for these lonely road travelers and their wares… just another victim of our market economy and its relentless drive to oust the human from its own market. And of course what’s missing in the poem is Joe’s voice which being left out tells everything.

A Postcard From Nostagiaville

Home’s just a state of mind.
One needs no place at all.
Sometimes I look for it

around the bend,
knowing well it’s diffident;
never in the plot of things,

just an artifact hiding up
in someone’s attic closet:
a shoddy canvas rotting

in the dark corner,
or a fantasy postcard
sent from paradise.

I’ve come home to her
more times than count,
but it’s always the same

a quick boot back out.
Like I give a dam – not,
it’s just a place to hang my neck.

Some say it’s metaphysical,
propositional, a blast from the past,
a fake destination no one believes

existed, nor thought possible or reliable
for justificatory redress of such crimes
as kin will want to do upon each other.

Pines, magnolias, sweet berry pies –
the myth of home we all know so well;
a pipe dream for every sucker born,

a sort of dime novel
for the poor and rich alike,
an old saw we paste down

on town signs to fool
the innocent
of their bleeding hearts:

“Welcome to Nostalgiaville!”

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Note: this one is a sort of projection of episodes not in my own life but of an amalgam of people I know so well it could have been my life. I always remember Thomas Wolfe’s You Can’t Go Home Again … one of those great, but neglected novels of the Depression era…

The Tick-Tock Man

That old clump of wood
used to chant. People round
about for miles would come
hear that old preacher’s son
sing like an angel; we all
used to sit outdoors in spring,
gather our children and pluck
and tuck them chords
till early evening hours closed in;
that tower above would ring
and ring – I can almost hear it
even now – ding, ding, ding.
They must have taken
it with them. He died
you know. Some say he’s still
there. Still preaching.
I don’t know much about
such things. Ghosts? They seem
to float from our dreams
don’t they? I just drink this whiskey
and they don’t bother me none.
Once before I retired
I drove Comax down these woods,
where he stayed a night
possum hunting down there –
that boy came hightailing
it up next day,  sheet white
like those blisters
you get on your feet:
his eyes were strange,
had little sparks in them –
said he’d seen a monster
out of hell, some black thing
crawling from that old church,
a veritable procession.
I told him to lay off
that bootlegged shine.
Funny thing: that tick in his bad eye.
Still there: tick-tock, tick-tock, tick-tock.

Like a bad dream. From then on in these parts
he was known far and wide as the tick-tock man.

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Arnold Hauser: On the Baroque

 Caravaggio – Supper Party

“The striving after the ‘painterly’—that is to say, the dissolution of firm, plastic and linear form into something moving, hovering and incapable of being grasped; the obliteration of frontiers and contours, to arouse the impression of the unlimited, the immeasurable and the infinite; the transformation of static, rigid, objective being into a becoming, a function, an interdependence between the subject and the object… The artistic outlook of the baroque is, in a word, cinematic; the incidents represented seem to have been overheard and spied out; every indication that might betray consideration for the beholder is blotted out, everything is presented in apparent accordance with pure chance. The comparative lack of clarity in the presentation is also related to this quality of improvisation. The frequent and often violent overlappings, the excessive differences in the size of objects seen in perspective, the neglect of the directional lines given by the frame of the picture, the incompleteness of the material and the unequal treatment of the motifs are all used intentionally to make it difficult to see the picture as a lucid whole. The normal progress of historical evolution itself plays a certain part in the growing distaste for the all too clear and the all too obvious, in the process which moves within a particular, continuously developing culture from the simple to the involved, from the plain to the less plain, from the obvious to the hidden and the veiled. The more cultured, fastidious and intelligently interested in art a public is, the more it demands this intensification of artistic stimuli. But apart from the attraction of the new, the difficult and the complicated, this is once again an attempt to arouse in the beholder the feeling of the inexhaustibility, incomprehensibility and infinity of the representation—a tendency which dominates the whole of baroque art.”

– Arnold Hauser,
The Social History of Art:
Volume 2 – Renaissance, Mannersim, Baroque

 

The Watchers Are With You

One would hope for weeping. But this?
This silence surrounded by strange clouds;
doubts and forebodings, black muslin –

an unknowing darker than you’d imagined
even for this gray zone of purgatory. Or,
have they come to judge you, hiding
as they do in sackcloth and ashes?
They know or do not know your past sins,
and even you have become forgetful
of that burden that shadows your shade:
a bird of night – a grey owl swoops
ready to pluck and devour, snatch
that silly grin right off your dullard lips.

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Table Rumors

It sat there like a bullfrog waiting; watching.
All week those porcupine quills jutted out –
spiked soldiers of some fruited war.
A leafy top-hat turning yellow in the sun
broke through the crown – a chieftain’s plumage.
One day mama sliced it clean down,
and sunshine fell around us like little clowns.
You tasted it and spit it out
as if it were some strange rock
your brother’d teased you into sampling.
Next day you came home to this:
an upside-down cake filled with golden circlets,
and a cherry picking line scrawled across it;
candles lit, people smiling: a birthday for your turning!

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.

Fatal Strategies

Do you think you could have saved her?
The martyrdom of leaves betrays you;
the livid cast of sky above reminds
you of all the lies that broke this plastic life.

There will be no place you can hide,
no haven for your pride and sly
deft hubris of the bone and nerve:
the troubling motion of your sleep seeps in.

Her bright blue eyes, truant as the skies
still see that shade of grey, grey twilight above the river;
the soft repellent odor of the infested swamp resides
in your mind like some forgotten thought of yesterday.

You sit there calmly in your cell tonight
as if the ache of it will walk away one day,
as if you could just change your mind
rise up turn round again toward her and say:

“It was all just a big mistake. I’m sorry!”

Steven Craig Hickman ©2014 Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author is strictly prohibited.