Poetry Life & Times November 2001 Continued:

Poetry By Ric Masten

Ric Masten's web link

See Main Page for biography.

Index of poems:

1) The Wasp Nest
2) The Dixieland Jazz Festival / or The Longest Afternoon in History
3) Troubadour And Traveling Salesman
4) Birth To Look Forward To
5) Learning Disabled?

All poems are from Ric's new, fully-illustrated book,
Let It Be A Dance

© Ric Masten

it held my attention
like the ash on the end of Grandfather's cigar
taking shape slowly the way some poems do
the mind flying to and from it
unable to leave it alone

it hung in the eaves
on the northeast corner of the house
a small gray planet - inhabited
a papier-mâché world parallel to mine
benign until the child was stung

coexistence is no longer possible
hissed the canister
breathing violence
into the cells of this geodesic dome
and from deep within the abbey
a choir of small voices swelled
in a final angry "Ooooooommmmmmmm"
a sound that clutched the evening air
like a hand sinking in a pool of silence

next morning I took a broom
and once again the Hindenberg came down
like a cardboard head spilling its beaded brains
then sweeping up and burning the remains
I had intended to put the incident away

and would have
were it not for that tiny star ship
coming in from a distant exploration
returning to the place where earth had been

and I could do nothing
but sit at my window
my God's eye
watching the lone survivor
cling to the moorings
having only himself now
as proof of something more
hanging on somehow
'til the darkness took him

the wasp
who knew what it was to be human

or the longest afternoon in history
© Ric Masten

I recently spent a week one afternoon
in Dixieland
outnumbered and overrun by hordes
of latter-day flappers with lavender hair
and paunchy old guys in Panama suits
truckin’ on down
my reaction summed up
in the wince and pained look
on the face of a kid
in the local high school jazz band
the one on alto who could really cook -
standing next to Nathan
my grandson who
as you might guess
was the only reason I was there

the first hour
passed pleasantly enough
though I did wish Nathan
had been asked
to do more than just play backup
the caste system of high school I judged
Nathan being but a mere freshman
it was during the lengthy wait
for the kids to perform again
where time refused to budge
Nathan abandoning me
"to enjoy the rest of the Festival"
preferring to "hang with his friends"

and so
for forty days and forty nights
I wandered from clinic to clinic
a bored cynic pushed along
by crowds of loud aficionados
wondering what ever became
of the Dixieland fan I used to be
the foot stomping collegiate
who drove to San Francisco
twice a week
to dig the beat of Turk Murphy
long gone it seems
my taste in music having relocated
to a cooler less intrusive place

yet there I was mired
in this unrelenting ragtime morass
tired - lethargic
on the verge of snoring
torturing myself
I stayed awake
by making connections
between being bored and being boring
between wishing time would pass
and suicide

then abruptly
I heard the trombone player shout
"take it Nathan!"
to which my grandson stood
and belted out his first solo ever
with a shy self-conscious smile
it made
the longest afternoon in history
all worthwhile

I suppose
such fluctuations
seem routine
to those of you going through
the Little League and dance recital years
but not for me
who in a former life
missed every game and concert
while persuing my career

© Ric Masten

at home
my heart is a wristwatch
and there is always a dog
in the calendar

suddenly I am a rabbit
breaking cover
my ears up in the wind
I go sailing

the mountains
drain from the window
underfoot the floor moves
the waiting is over

outward bound
we clear the harbor
like farmers
coming in from the field

© Ric Masten

would it be easier
to live life in reverse
like a videotape rewinding

oh, I'm sure it would take
some getting used to
walking backward that way
things constantly flying into my hands
but if I could start at the end
putting death behind me
at the beginning
just think of that!

going to sleep each night
waking up a little younger
mind clearing -- strength returning
able to thread a needle
and throw a fastball again

and desire
stirring like a summer breeze at first
the flag barely moving
then flying triumphant
in the prevailing winds

as the days lengthen however
I realize
I am trading away lived experience
for adolescent energy
and a full head of hair

my father comes back to life
and once again I take him for granted
I begin to shrink
until sinking to my knees
I roll over in my crib
and wave good-bye to my feet

stripped of all identity
toothless and bald again
I slip back inside my mother
to dissolve in the absolute darkness
of never having been

© Ric Masten

in a candid moment mother once said
"Show me a man
who thinks he's in control
and I'll show you a clever woman."
and certainly
she was the sovereign head
of the kingdom I came from

I didn't go to college..... I was sent!
off to study optometry
to step into my step father's shoes
another "sight for sore eyes" she'd joke
another professional man
she assumed

thank god
I was learning disabled!

I may have jumped
when ever her majesty spoke
but I couldn't spell my own name
let alone "ophthalmology"
a fatal flaw
even mother couldn't remedy
each spring the educational system
cleanses itself of dummies like me
in those days a dyslexic
was labeled "slow"
"A nice guy but a brick shy you know."
no one to be grinding your lenses

five times Ma tried to slam dunk me
five times academia had to flunk me

and so
much to mother's dismay and despair
her failed optician wound up
in rock & roll - song selling
going on from there
to a unique and rewarding career
speaking poems - story telling

learning disabled?
hell, I was learning advantaged

they say
"It's all in the timing." and I agree
because if the PC with "spell check"
had existed
back when my mother held sway
I'd be trapped in the life
of an optometrist today

I did, however
wind up making a spectacle
of myself

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