The Sadness of Youth
Tonight walking my dog I heard Several young women call my name With an enthusiasm I haven’t heard in years. I turned toward their porch with a smile And almost waved until I saw the kid Struggling biblically up the sidewalk With a case of beer. His long hair and straggly beard could have been mine Forty years ago when all I shared With Christ was poverty. I turned the corner thinking of Elliot, Of Prufrock, the mermaids and all that “I do not think that they will sing to me” stuff. Elliot at his best, I guess, writing about age Before he got old. And then what? I thought of my namesake A fat and vilified tax collector for the Romans Who dropped everything To follow that strange young man Who heard voices in the night. And then I thought of my name In the mouths of those girls One last time. Hudson River School
Such idealized beauty, such lament In the mid-19th century For a disappearing wilderness, almost spent Already by commerce and the greed for luxury. Cole’s Catskill Mountains, Morning Offers an aesthetic luxury, romantic and as unreal Then as it is now. In the shadows just forming On the slope of dappled rock I can feel Constable dreaming of the New World He never saw, Emerson wishing He could paint a landscape swirled From within his words and from what was missing. I knew nothing of art when I was a boy Walking those worn out hills my father’s father Farmed. I knew little of books or how to enjoy The idea of pure thought. Rather I remember weak sunlight and too much snow. What if I knew then what I think I know now? The Geography of Home
There is no G.P.S. for the past. No way to find a way back To those nights spent ceaselessly watching For Sputnik to wander across the eastern sky. Or to those days that seem now As delicate as the cellophane wings of dragon flies Helicoptering over the rotting rowboat Sinking slowly in the green shade Of a lost lake. Or as sudden as the iron curtain of rain That sometimes swept that lake in late summer Like a boundary between then and the possibility of now. So much lonely time Measured in a place of fading light By the arc of barn swallows And the dying blue black panic Of bottle flies stuck to the yellow fly paper Hung over the ringer washer On Grandmother’s back porch. The Lost Sessions
My dawlin, Nawlins” —Little Queenie and The Percolators The year of my first city When the Neville Brothers were the bar band at Tipitinas. The year the Wild Tchoupitoulas Tribe Descended on St. Joseph’s Day — a firebomb Of feathers and blue sequins. The year spent two weeks at a time on a tow boat And one week of mischief at a time in the Quarter. (Is the Ètron Sanglante still there, Or has it vanished like a memory Of a bad memory?) The year the river ran like Dengue Fever through the blood Of Magazine Street. The year of dancing madly To the ancient drums in the turmoil of Congo Square. The year of the girls from the Desire Street Project With their golden wisdom teeth. The year of voodoo and zydeco and heat lightning Lasered against the trembling night. The year the Night Tripper played his broken squeeze box For all those troubled ghosts outside the Napoleon House. The year they dusted off Professor Longhair from his janitor job In a warehouse in the Irish Channel And propped him back up at his piano. And the year they released his Lost Sessions, Not lost, not even misplaced, merely an answer To how love is revealed. Merely scripture reaffirmed: “How stable the City of God. How disordered the City of Man.”