Wednesday, February 27, 2013

at least they’re not barking at you

When I was [supposed to be] a student at the University of Montevallo, I took a trip, along with a group of other [more scholarly] students, to England; we sojourned in London for several days then traveled to Canterbury.  One of the day-trips scheduled while in Canterbury was to the White Cliffs of Dover.  Naturally, I signed up and asked to be called when the bus was ready; after all, what self-respecting, aspiring poet would wittingly miss his chance to channel (pun, sadly, intended) Matthew Arnold's lovely lines in the poem"Dover Beach"?  

And so it was unwittingly that I missed the bus because someone, unwittingly [and here unnamed], forgot to call.  The closest I got to the cliffs and the beach was through squinting eyes from halfway up the hill to Dover Castle(There is more to this story that involves a persistent petulace on my part which no self-respecting,aspiring adult would care to memorialize.)

Anyway, here is the upshot--a poem I wrote in 2010 some twelve years after the event.  What the poem signifies, I don't know.  Maybe [probably] nothing important.  Probably something small--to do with hindsight not being 20/ 20 but rather squint-slitted against the sun-radiant straits of memory.

At Least They’re Not Barking at You

You still regret the white cliffs, Dover missed
For missing the bus.  From the castle hill
You flew the best you could on eyes
Meant for ogling women.

You ogled women—Canterbury
Pop-rock-hip-hop-and-gyrant dancing ones—
From France.  The yankee songs you left
Back in Alabama.

The Alabama where now you are this
Unkempt laze-monger cursing neighbor dogs.
Retriever—golden, Labrador—
Black, barking loosened hell.

What new hell is this?  What bastard regret?
White cliffs and long-lashed women speaking French.
The beach suggested over beer.
Hung-over in Malden. 

In Malden where the scraggled kitten nudged
Your shin and lunch was shit, you expected
To be wise by then or by now
At the very latest.

But lately, very often, nearly always
The dogs are wild with slather and slaver—
Ado for spandexed joggers juiced
From the sweat of doing. 

  (first published in The Louisville Review No. 72, Fall 2012)

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