—Brian J. Daldorph, Lawrence, KS
I can't quite make myself explain
to my mother that Peter isn't exactly my roommate
like I said, and Peter's getting irate,
the way he does. "You promised you'd tell her, John,"
he hisses in my ear. "You're not ashamed of me?"
All very well to make promises to each other
when we were in our own bed together,
drunk on wine, happy.
I say to Mother, "Peter and me,
we're more than friends—“ "Peter and I,"
she says sternly. "I need you to speak properly.
And to behave properly too," she says, with ice
in her eyes. Peter prods me, "Go on, go on,
or I'll say it." "Peter and I, Peter and I—“
THE BROKEN WATER PUMP
That was the summer we rented
Jack's house on the beach
so you could write your novel
and I could finish my book of poems.
You'd said it was your dream
to live with each other, write all day
then read to each other at night.
We brought with us soup and soap,
flour and yeast and sugar, fruit,
tea and coffee. And bottles of whiskey.
To bring us down at night, you said.
That was the coldest summer in fifty years.
That was when the cold south-westerly blew
off the water and squeezed into Jack's house
where we had to stay in bed to write.
You started drinking whiskey at breakfast,
To keep the damn cold out, you said,
but then you'd feel sleepy and sleep till late afternoon.
There might be a feeble sun by then and you'd go running
along the beach. I couldn't write a thing.
I'd brought along Kerouac's novels,
and I'd lay around all day reading, snoozing,
my poems in my suitcase. That was the summer
the water pump broke and we got only yellow trickles
from the faucet. That was the summer we came home early,
when you said, This isn't working out.
I'm at this party
with family and friends,
great food, fancy wine,
and so much to talk and laugh about.
I'm happy, really happy!
Then right in the middle of all the good cheer
I'm served a plate of shit
by a waiter I haven't seen before,
a dark-jacketed, white-faced goon
who stands guard to see that
I eat it all up,
I do what's necessary.
No one else knows about it,
they're busy telling stories,
filling themselves with fine wine and food.
Brian Daldorph teaches at the University of Kansas, and at the Douglas County Jail. He has also taught in Japan, Zambia, Senegal and England. He edits Coal City Review (coalcitypress.com), and his poems, stories, articles and reviews have been widely published. His two books of poems, The Holocaust and Hiroshima: Poems, and Outcasts, were both published by Mid-America Press. Our thanks to Sacramento’s David Wright for talking Brian into letting us post some of his fine work.
To hear Brian read, go to kcur.org/post/listen-lawrence-poet-brian-daldorph-playing-poker-death#stream/0/.
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