Wednesday, August 12, 2009

At the movies / Poem: Song for William

A whole lot of us went to the movies together. Some of us, myself included, saw the recent release of The Hurt Locker, indisputably the best film of the American involvement in the Iraq War. Filmed almost entirely in Jordan, near the border of wartorn Iraq w/displanced Iraqi refugees and fighters used as extras, the film realistically portrayed the sandy grittiness of everyday life in a platoon sent to dismantle bombs. Close-ups depicted the naturalness of the soldiers. It was hard to believe they were actors. The heavy uniforms they wore made us feel we were right there with them, a palpable sense of cinema verite.

The music combined haunting Arabic strains and mullah calls with thunderous battle cries, all for an exhilarating and suspenseful two hours of unmitigated suspense. There was not one superfluous moment, nor was there the gratuitous violence or sex we come to expect in American-made movies.

Go see it!

When my neighbor Charlie passed away, I went thru my computer documents trying to find some of the poems I'd written about Charlie, including one of my favorites called "All Life Has Charlie in it." I couldn't find it.

Question: Should a poet share her poems with the people she writes about?

Each poem must be considered on a case by case basis. As we know, I love the poems I write. At the advice of a friend, I mailed Wade in the Water Dry to the family I had written it about. Like many of my poems, it was an entire story. "Wade" referred to the waders worn by Ron, the Fisherman. The family never mentioned it to me.

While searching for my Charlie poems, which I never did find, I found about 7 others I'd totally forgotten about. Here's my Song for William.


Before tonight there was never a William
You will write a poem about me, you said.
I looked down and wondered, will I?

I was in your living room, your wife had died
three years ago, you had kissed other women
but never slept with one
though you waited for the girl from New York
to come back to the bar
Perhaps I am she. We don’t know yet.

In your living room I told you,
William I asked three men to dance before I asked you.
The first one said, I have only just gotten here and am
drinking my beer.
Oh, I said, are those the rules we play by?

I told that to Bill on the couch and you laughed and said,
You told him that?

I did, I said, hunching down my red sweater.

When you said you’d dance with me I didn’t care who you
were, I just wanted to dance.
We danced and I looked at you a couple of times
You looked nice.

I guess we’re about the same age, I said looking at your flat stomach
and slender thighs
I wore a red v-neck and my hair looked nice

You dance like a teenager you said

I want to hit the floor, I said,
can you hit the floor with me?

We both did
You could keep up with me
You were short and slender
I loved the way you moved
Good dancers make good lovers
I was looking for a lover
to love forever

You invited me over
Told me your wife had died.
I saw her picture. Gail was her name.
She was on a boat and smiling wearing white.
Why not smile, William?
She had you.

I’m awfully hungry I said. What you got to eat?
You opened up the fridge and from my seat
I saw the rotisserie chicken.
Can you heat it up for me?

You did and I cut it into bite size pieces
put a little salt on it and ate it with my fingers.

You said you got bored and always needed to
learn new things.
Would you like to learn about me, Bill?

I’d like to see your house, I said.
We went to the room where the bench press was
and the big television set
There was another room, a shop,
with a Chase and Sanborn can of screws
and a deer you shot and had stuffed on the wall.

This was Churchville. Not my neighborhood.
And signs of Support the Troops all around the house.

You’re an intelligent woman, you said, and never once
apologized like they do for not being educated.
You’d had your life spread out like a red carpet
leading to today,
you'd worked as a crane operator downtown
moving Philadelphia's ancient soil
to build new skyscrapers
while I was far away in Willow Grove never having
met you or heard about you or even known about your existence
while you wore your helmet and your muddy boots, a small man,
Boy, you said, can those construction men drink.

I asked to see your bedroom. A giant bed right in the middle
on a raised platform.
I’ve bought some plants, you said, and showed me
the new plants you’d bought,
I barely looked,
then sat down on the bed. It was a comfortable looking bed
as big as they come.

You sat there so I sat down too.
We talked some more
eyes magnetized to the other

You leaned over on your elbow
and said I’d like to kiss you.

Well, that’s all right, I said as you came near
and I waited to see what it would feel like
what William’s imprint on me would be

It was a big wonderful kiss
Warm and open like the sea opening up and
wave upon gentle wave came inside me
and swept me away

It was a great introduction to a symphony

and you tried to pull me back for the second movement
I wanted to pull back with you but I couldn’t go
my strings were not tuned up
and you tried your best to tune them
a brief struggle to pull me back
and then defeat

It’s just that I’m so tired, I said,
and making love takes so much energy.
It don't either, you said,
it’s the most natural thing there is
like calveing

but it was no good for me.

I hope you’ll invite me back I said.
Do you think you will?

I just might, you said.
I just might.

My bet is yes. And I will content myself
with the symphonic kiss and plan
four long romantic movements on that
long bed of yours as the moon rolls
around in its eternal orb but William
you never rang.

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful story poem, fresh and emotional, yet with the detachment at times of an acute and talented observer, which you are. How you look at the world and take it all in and note it is the sign of a wonderful writer.

    And should we share our writings with the subjects is a tough question. I have seen both incredibly positive and disastrous results from having done so. The jury is still out on this one for me.