"In the back," the mother screamed,
"he's in the back." My husband saved
a baby from a building about to collapse,
flames at all the windows. He crawled
under smoke as thick as walls, furniture
on fire, grabs this child from a crib.
Staggers out coughing, then fainted.
Partial disability from that date on.
His picture was in every paper.
A genuine hero. We need them.
My husband had the look, the
attitude. "It wasn't nothing special,"
he said. But we both knew
he gave five years off his life.
The baby grew up to be no good.
A thief and then a hoodlum.
It's a small town. We know.
The last rumor is that he
killed a man over drugs.
My husband's retired now,
not in good shape. I hear him
coughing, know he has to wonder:
maybe he should have let
the little bastard burn.
This'll surprise you:
never did like horses.
Dumb as big, they are,
watching you with swollen
brown eyes, like they're thinking,
but believe it, they ain't.
Don't like outdoors neither,
not cold rain sneaking
in everywhere, not snow
flicking my face, not those blazing days,
the sun smacking my eyes,
the steam of horseshit
atanding up off the street.
Nope, don't like one thing about driving,
not one thing you could see.
But I put in a life,
enjoyed it, too.
What I lived for was being everybody's
high point, the thing they carried away
in their hearts forever.
"We took the carriage
through the park," they'll tell their kids
thirty years later,
I swear to God.
I loved sitting up there high,
and I know all the answers,
like a priest. Know the mysteries
of the universe. People pay me
and I ride them around and tell them
all the secrets they can handle.
Only bad thing I remember
is some horse's ass, he's been before,
maybe lives in the city,
knows everything himself,
talk, talk, talk,
he takes my place.
I sit there wanting
to give him a good kick,
tell him what he should know:
you don't fuck with
a man's living.
MR. ALLEN'S UFO
Cannibals in New Guinea saw
airplanes, thought them
gods, built shrines. The pilots,
busy with war, never noticed.
All the beings out there
beyond the sky—I read
we hope to reach them
and I laugh. They know
where we are and
so what? Do we want
to speak to ants and snails?
It was Spring, the woods all new green;
I felt electricity everywhere,
leaves trembling, my hair straight up,
legs paralyzed, a scream held by static
in my throat. I went numb,
then blind, but light and heat
pressed and held me
as if in a hug.
Wife said I was gone 5 days,
people hunting my body in the mountains.
What could I say, that I was a lizard
some boys took home
in a glass jar?
To the police
I told the truth, and they laughed,
and that was that.
I go to another world,
talk to gods, what does it
change? This is the life
you go on living.
You know about my husband, most
famous pilot in the southwest.
Smacked his jet into a house,
killed people, ejected okay,
floated down a mile from the fire.
Plane past all control, nothing
he could do, experts all agreed.
Try to tell him. Took six years
to kill those gorgeous reflexes
the slow way, bourbon on ice.
I was so glad he came home
from the wreck.
Now I know better.
(A book-length collection; ask to see more.
Partly a literary experiment. So much modern poetry is thin and distant. Also pompous. I wanted to write poetry that didn't announce itself as poetry but always was. This philosophy is explained in the Essays About Poetry)
© Bruce Deitrick Price 2011