by Ken Haas
for Joe Miller
If you’re daunted by a poet,
imagine him in his underwear.
Boxers. Because he writes better when his balls
can breathe. Out on the deck in an old oak chair,
gray arms splashed with guano, knotty legs
splayed open to the come-what-may.
Beveled chin cocks up, so his moon eyes
can peer across at the innocent page.
Palm moves back to front across scalp,
like he’s trying to press an aubade
full-grown from his hairline.
Words do roll forth, three maybe,
then the butt-end of Howard Johnson’s pen
gets shoved between upper teeth and lower lip,
like he expects to blow a stanza out
through the tiny, frightened ball bearing.
He stands up, does a lap around the chair,
shifts it ten degrees West,
drags it under the shadow of a cypress,
then back into the sun. Black muscle shirt
goes off, then back on.
Twenty syllables go down,
which must be damn good
because his bare chest is out again,
lording over them.
But only for a moment,
before shoulders buck forward
and belly sucks in, attended by a barrage
of pecking and jamming, some twirling,
a bit of scratching and a lot of staring.
At the page, at the ocean,
at a crease in one of his knuckles
that might be new,
whereupon he jumps up, cranes out
over the deck as if he wants to puke,
squats to push his nose against one of the rails
because he needs to see how it all might look
through rusted prison bars, then executes
an oddly touching sidestroke back into the chair
from which he starts grinding the corn again,
stopping only once to run fingernail under toenail,
perhaps searching for a line break.
As the sky darkens, he’s just reading
when his butt ignites a shimmy
that rattles to his ears.
He likes it.
And 30 revisions later
he’ll ship it off to some magazines.
I have no clue what he’s written about.
Maybe a sea otter
beating its breast with an abalone shell,
or his father’s last day with the coast guard,
or the time Snow White blew Dopey and Sneezy,
or the knock-down, drag-out love
he has for his gal.
What I do know is: I want to read it
and I’ll be a tad jealous when I do,
like when my wife ran off with my friend,
because he loved her more
and worked harder at it.
As long as it’s all in the family.
As long as it all gets told.