Yesterday was James Dean’s birthday; had he lived, he’d be 85 years old. Like my dad, born five years later who was a hardcore fan, I have my doubts James Dean would have reached 85.
James Dean is on my mind, since the first poem I had published, in the kind of journal that wowed my writing friends, was about a James Dean poster that hung in my 80’s living room. This poem became my go-to anecdote. The editor, Beverly Voldseth, was so enthralled, she put her own poster on the cover and told me that she had particularly loved a line in the poem, which was powerful (her words not mine) –a particular phrase… which, to my chagrin, was a typo. So, in nine lines, 72 words I could not avoid a single typo. I was ashamed, embarrassed and disappointed. I often wonder at the serendipity of fate, with that typo foremost in my mind. The shame of it, prevented me from submitting more poems when the editor asked for more. Now, I looking back, I know I should have grabbed that typo and ran with it –as fast as I could.
That poster is long gone and I can’t seem to find another –one with Club Ha-Ha in the background… not meant to be, I guess.
I’ve had a few poems published since but none recently. And now, with a new husband and new name, I wonder about those orphans gathering dust in literary journals long out of print and business. There is a lot to be said for this digital world but somehow, I think those words are happy on the crumbling, yellowed pages unread and sleeping.
As I struggle with prose and stories destined for the digital realm, here is a recent poem:
Morning Archival Senses
Absent morning sounds nibble at my ear. Once upon a time,
The sound of a newspaper shifting in his hands and the rolling
Gurgle of the rotary dial as Mom called her Mom. That once
Good smell of raisin toast and coffee. Coffee on the stove.
The percolator shaking with excitement, not knowing
When the toaster would pop. Dad’s chair scraping angry
Over the linoleum. His need-a-beer shaking hand tapping ashes
From his Lucky Strike. My dog snoring under the table.
In the blue light of Facebook, I like-click the image of a meme
Of pretty shoes and also a percolator coffee-pot. My phone vibrates
Near my elbow as a generated voice asks if I’ll vote
For Hillary. A dog sleeps under the table with his head on my foot,
Not the same dog, but could be. Unaware that this bamboo
Floor is safer than that old cracked linoleum memory kitchen.
Jetsons’ failed millennium. No Rosie the robot jarring an absent Jeeves
Here; my robot vacuum died young –choked to death on dog hair. My car
Tells me what to do, when to turn, when I’ve arrived but not what I wanted
Which, was a chauffeur not a drill instructor who thinks I’m an idiot. I could,
If I wanted or so desired, make coffee on my stove, in a chic cheap Italian
Barista that still terrifies me with steaming rumors of flying shrapnel.
My toaster wears many buttons and makes more false promises of perfect
Toast. Must add it to my app, which says I can eat another slice – no butter.
This dog likes burnt toast and his view is the same as the many others
Who lay under the table before him. His tail wags a wedge in dust as
I sit and listen to birds eating seed and make lists, mostly unchanged:
Dishes, laundry, vacuum, dust – with ‘write words’ underlined thrice.
Christine Gasser ©2016