I only knew him late in life as a Russian teacher
He'd probably wonder why he deserves to be there
out of all the library's teachers and supporters
But he liked my poetry
including the one about a wayward whale in our Bay
I didn't learn Russian as good as I had intended
I wouldn't eat Russian treats he brought to class
(of course because they weren't vegan)
and I hated his big, draping Soviet flag,
a gift from his class he would proudly display,
still insisting Russian territory was the U.S.S.R.
despite the news of the struggling separate Eastern republics
he thought they'd demand it come back some day
Myer said he served in the German luftwaffa
but since he had not been a Nazi or an S.S. officer
was probably how he got American naturalization
But he probably felt he had to make it up for it
He learned Russian to serve the U.S. in its Cold War
But he was surprised when Russian refugees
suspected him for being a spy for the KGB
Especially when he said he sat in their churches
wearing shades and sitting in a back pew
thinking he was just being cool
He and his wife would invite students
for potluck dinners at their home
where they'd play and sing along with the accordion
and at Stolichny Restaurant near McClellan Air Force Base
He'd say Russians asked him about religion
and if he "went to church"
He'd explain, laughing, "Well I go to church everyday…
it is wherever I choose to be in nature…"
he'd say in a Robert Frost kind of way
Perhaps instead of a bench, a pew set in the woods
right next to his beloved Volga River
where apparently the year before he died
he took one last cruise
He said he felt bad for many on board,
especially an otherwise rather polite young prostitute
and he gave her payment anyway for no services
I heard he died following a celebration on his return
which is likely what he wanted.
Thanks also to Claire Baker for the poem that I've posted as Today's LittleNip. Claire has suggested we might post her email address, which I did. Feel free to do the same, if you want to increase communications for yourself that way.
Still in October, the woodcock,
Silent in the gold leaves,
Waits for the last breath of summer.
In the wet grass a firefly signals like Betelgeuse
Across the darkness; late lover,
Saving his flash for the death-boom
In the Northern lights.
On this ridge the nights flicker and fall with the Orionids.
Here on the ground I look up
Into the white haze of the universe.
The summer is in me like a readiness for flight,
And I search among the signs
For the flare, polestar, pulley toward the edge.
Like cutting the dry rot out of a potato,
There is nothing left in a moment but the skin
And a little milky juice. How awful to slice it open
And find the center fustating, malevolent.
THE TALKING FISH
My love’s eyes are red as the sargasso
With lights behind the iris like a cephalopod’s.
The weeds move slowly, November’s diatoms
Stain the soft stagnant belly of the sea.
Mountains, atolls, coral reefs,
Do you desire me? Am I among the jellyfish of your griefs?
I comb my sorrows singing; any doomed sailor can hear
The rising and falling bell and begin to wish
For home. There is no choice among the voices
Of love. Even a carp sings.
REPETITION OF WORDS AND WEATHER
A basket of dirty clothes
spills all day long
down the mountain
beating the rocks
with a horrible washer-woman’s cry.
Now two riders go by
horseback on the dirt road.
Young women talking of antique latches,
blind to the dirty linen,
smells of urine, bedsores,
bowels of old women
left on their backs,
fat and lye,
lies of doctoring men.
Strange weather mid-summer
is summer spent.
I open a book of poems.
All lies on the psalter, I say,
the dead are silent.
The riders come back
chatting like birds.
What would I not give
to return that way.
Their horses trot in a break
of sunlight over the road.
And I think, what’s done is done.
It won’t be changed with words.
Wish we could mercifully
point a "street remote"
at all the homeless—press
for them the escape button,
beam them to a haven
in calm suburban heaven
near the evening star.
The rest of the journey
would depend upon
how fast, how far—
and who they really are.
Claire J. Baker, Pinole