Sunday, January 9, 2022

John Gorski -------------- three poems


Questioning Poets


Queries for Keats


Why did you walk through twenty-five

miles of November rain

in a flimsy springtime waistcoat,

immune to thoughts insane?

Did you think death was no more

than a laudanum dream –

an apparition murmuring

of that not fully seen?


But you knew it had arrived

like the Italian sun

in your fevered rooms in Rome

of breathless consumption.

Did you ever hear portents

in the nightingale’s song

that you wouldn’t live to Wordsworth’s age

or even half as long?


A Query for Clare


Why did bird song stay in your head

from Emmingsale’s heath

where Night Jars called and the hawk

whistled like a thief?

You didn’t heed the cold-eyed

men of science in London

who peered through the sterile glass

at the corpses of robins.


Ignorant henchmen of commerce

lived in that city,

their black thorn hearts icy toward

avian poetry.

How could they hear other bird tunes

as nightingale music

which you still heard within the walls

that housed lunatics?


2021                                         John Gorski



Childhood Idles


Teddy Bricks, my one-time ursine companion,

slouches in a corner chair – his faded green

vest and feathered Robin Hood cap askew.

His metal limbs are old and twisted.

When I wind him up, he can no longer

execute his mechanical somersaults.

Sad in disrepair, he commiserates

with my sister’s bear, Teddy Bebe,

who’s grown pudgy and moth eaten.


Now they rest in the spent morning’s

shadows, as I reach for my shoe box

of baseball cards. I shuffle the smiles

and stances of Walt Dropo, Elroy Face,

Ted Kluzewski and Yogi Berra through my hands.


After lunch, I go out to our back yard

with my bat and rubber ball and pretend

to be Gene Woodling – the only Baltimore

Oriole hitting over 2.60. I’m swinging

for the fences (sixty feet away) and

trying to hit that red orb all the way

to Glen Burnie (a half mile away).


Through the kitchen window, the Coasters

harmonizing “Young Blood” draws me out

of that August Maryland swelter to drop

a lemon-lime Fizzie in a glass of ice water.

Then, I look through my collection

of Rhythm and Blues trading cards

to see if I can find one of The Coasters

among Laverne Baker, Little Richard and Elvis.


At twelve years, I finally learn

to ride a bicycle and pedal out

with my friends to beaches on the Severn River.

There, I watch sails billow over glittering

liquid blue towards Chesapeake Bay.


2021                                                       John Gorski




Hamilton County Purgatory


    “He would have convicted Jesus Christ too,” the thirtyish

Corrections official exclaimed when he saw me enter

the third floor of the Hamilton County jail. I had just come

from the Common Pleas court of Donald White where I was

found guilty of possession of marijuana – still a felony in 1970.

    I guess I looked innocent in my suit and tie and Ivy League

short hair. I said, “ I think I’ll get probation because I’m

going to college.” “So, you’re smarter than the average bear,”

he shot back, using the culturally dated TV lingo typical of the

Ohio River valley.

     Then a guard escorted me to my cell and I met the other

occupant, who was waiting to be remanded to a hospital

for the criminally insane. Other detainees drifted into my cell

over the next twelve days. Some would be going to the Ohio pen.

Some asked if I had brought any weed with me. Of course, I hadn’t

since “I was smarter than the average bear.”

     During that time, I met an assortment of interesting people. One

of them was in for smuggling. He was from my high school and a first

string member of the basketball team. He told me about my senior

class president who got busted with two others for smashing a plastic

statue of a llama in a city park. The llama was stuffed with

packets of hashish. Another was a member of a motorcycle gang

who discussed the merits of eating grasshoppers. One got drunk

and forged a check.

     One day, the warden let us watch an old black and white B movie

from the forties. In it, a gang of convicts were on a train chugging

over an elevated railroad bridge when one of them was thrown

from the train. Everyone cheered.

     On Sundays, Top 40 radio was piped in over the public address

system. Melanie wailed “Candles in the Rain” while someone said:

“That white girl sounds kind of weak; why can’t they play Aretha.”

Then Norman Greenbaum was singing “Spirit in the Sky.” I closed

my eyes and saw myself in a dark earthen cellar, looking up at

a door flooding with white light. It reminded me of reading

Pilgrim’s Progress where the pen and ink sketched sun seemed

to expand at the end of every chapter.

     Then one day the guard said I was getting out tomorrow. The next

morning, the “key” arrived in the form of a probation officer. It seemed

“The Curse of Harry Anslinger” was beginning to lift and the 1930’s era

marijuana laws were receding.

     Then my father arrived and we rode into a pulsing March morning of

of rainy light. After two weeks in windowless halls, it lifted me in a rhapsody.

That night the purgatory of jailed voices vanished from my sleep.


2021                                                                                         John Gorski









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