Monday, September 5, 2011

Eight Poems by Charles Plymell


November 3, 1998 Dark Afternoon
and the clouds are heavy metal
rolling oe'r the vacant bricks of Utica
where Ray lies in his death throes
at the Faxton Cancer Hospital.
It's not a happy sight, a
finality about the rooms and service
his roommate's exposed privates
both he and Ray seem far away.
In and out of sensed reality
I fear to say, eyes like animals in cages
Ray's eyes sometimes intense
screaming "I want to die"
not in a philosophical mode
but the growl used for prison guards
rattling his bones against the
iron bars of New Jersey.
Squirts of daylight on the sidewalk
like used rubber gloves thrown
among the slimy Autumn leaves
Study the sight, oh latter night Beats.
Another is passing into the night
like T.V. tonight Jimmy Smit
on NYPD the line of fictive reality
unto death, what to do with life's purpose?
If it's to understand life (loved the old comedies)
from those eyes just make ourselves over
Ray watched the old realities in black and white
He pulls on the bed rails : "I want to die."
His eyebrows move and he briefly conducts
a conversation he can't partake in
or a Katchaturian concert or a poem.
He leans back, eyes glazed, goes elsewhere
further than shooting up decades ago
the history gone like our rides for Terpin hydrate
finding village drugstores while the world went on.
What history can a human have.The history gone
the religions, the politics, the last fiction...not that
there's just never enough to go around.
Don't tell me his spirit has to hitch a ride
'round about midnight'
to make a visitation when the sky
rolled back its spheres to let the gold sun
wail like a sax over the stage of East hill
for an original hipbeatster camping at
the Committee on Poetry farm
where he said he used to talk more shit
than the radio which he didn't own.

Neal Cassady

An ego pressed onward
Like a tight skirt in the night

Popeye and Olive Oyl
Swaggering down the street
Jumping parking meters
doing exercise gyrations
Expectations surrounded him
in crowds and beach boy cronies
Tarot card sharks and wood shooters
The Fastest Gun in the West.
I showed him pictures
Of Butch and the wild bunch
"Neal, Was he your father?"
That worried orphaned-look
I'll not forget.
He lived fast, his beds, death rows
to blow genius away, like The Doors,
A race over rails from time's windowpane
sun hot on the Mexican landscape--the
Railroad tracks chromed with cocaine.

Madonna's "Love Like a Virgin"

(in the manner of Arnaut)

Some will say "appalling"
to "Love Like a Virgin" (a true simile)
a bra falling
No shy peeress in white lace, she.
All classes meet
in her song of love
the woman of the street
turns swoon of royal dove
to roll, to rub the stage
of delight and desire
the ballerina's paraphrase
lips, hips and sexual fire.
Great challenge and threat
to all pretentious fools
worker, professional, bureaucrat,
who loose their tools
when facing this talent
that sulks and erupts
to such embellishment
the strut bust lusts.

Was Poe Afraid?

On these same old brick streets of
Baltimore tonight--was Poe afraid?
Of all night rusting sign patent verse;
new neon juice from foggy tavern door.
Afraid of the florescent eyes of dogs,
the raven's reflection, the rats scat
through sawdust in Hollins Market,
the smell of rot and burlap thick as fur.
Afraid of roaches, disease, of poverty,
loud poverty boom-box crackle crack whip
poor ponies pulling carts full of greens
up Greene Street - overloaded with greed.
Afraid of the thick fast sky over
Cross Street's cloud draped rummage day
crimson cloak, threaded from the hill
down to the curling dark water bay.
Black statues swirling great pleated sheets
when street lights go dim, losing the stars,
Like partygoers streaming to their last car...
some on twilight's slightly twisted cane.
Afraid of the beer, the drugs, the vault
of shoreline's fractal ragged fault
floating in a dream grave afraid to yell
disciples repeating smug versions of hell.
The whirl of a wash, a tangled thread
sets and alarm that turns to dread
makes the vision flow instead to
creation and how such grace is fed.

Pathos in the Towns

Technology, ironically
has tortured them again.
Babies crucified without brains
from toxins
that provide
the wealth and power
for the empire of world order
once again unstable. Squeaking
through this last abstract dream
muffler and broken tailpipe
or nightmare vacuum cleaner
deleting the particles?
Its tentacles
again too long
sucking free
citizenry, again the slave
no matter what alliance.
All creatures big and small
dying, some species gone
the air ancient
chemical warfare,
sulfur dioxide
evaporates the greed and avarice.
No pure dawn since Sappho.
Water giving up mutations.
The internal combustion engine
sounds through the night
eight cylinders heard eight miles
poverty is loud, the last requiem of wounded earth.

Going Home

For the Kanza (in the manner of Rihaku)

Great Mountains formed the eastern slope,
Shallow rivers stretch their ancient beds;
Here a new stream must separate our trail,
To forget a thousand miles of dead commerce,
And wrap our minds to a floating white cloud.
While the sunset washes the unrevealed eye,
We bow and clasp our hearts to the distance
That every living creature knows we left.

From Ancient Lands (Vernal Equinox Dream)

Washington, D.C. 1984

They walked the sunrise, soul-burned travelers,
wearing hats tilted like Autumn's landscaped hills.
Rough faced sailors, eyes laden like water rills
scanned the horizon till shorelined stars unfurled.
New wind in the air for those waft on the seas,
new smell of earth dug away to align the leys.
And they came forever wandering, as if set free
from cracks and rifts and vortices, as when some
great stone moves from its natural mortises; they
sailed the wind, a front of chaotic charges ignited,
careless in radiance of patterns of heaven unsighted.
(At 5:30 a.m. I awoke from a dream of Vernal Equinox
like a farmer called early for spring plowing, or a
driver with an early start knowing the aching miles
that stretch across the long heart of the prairie).
In the early days my father left his coffee pot
on the stove in his sod house, and he drove
cattle down to Galveston town, and he saw the
lights beckoning on the port side of the bow,
heading for Italy, brought back a color picture
of the Isle of Capri, and when he returned the
next year, the coffee pot was in the same place.
And the picture for years was the only decor in
the farmhouse room under angry rolling cyclones,
with their terrible pitched-moan to stillness,
silent as trowels through the loess and grass.
Blowing dust through cracks of doors and windows,
sculpted the still waves day and night. The house
took in the wind of the wolves' howl, the song
of the coyote, and the long train whistle dragging
the reptile's whispering scream of time; the pioneer's
pitch of desperation, first loud then soft, and
then distant into the stars where cowboys herded
the dark clouds out of the sky, where sailors lined
the beads like stars while the bodies of wanderers
happily grew again from the earth's bed with gentle flag
and stay; the blossom'd buds in May blew like many
visitors who come when the new wind comes that
keeps me half awake half dreaming... so very many.
My father rode down through the equinox in a perfect
visioned dream as if he had never been away. I
wanted to show him the nation's capital, but he
was here on other business; he wanted to find his
merchant marine papers, why, I don't know, maybe
to show passage through eternity and beyond,
like a journey pulling toward yet another shore.
'Look at the beautiful masonry,' I said to him, 'look at
the Merchant Marine Building with its exquisite work
of brick and tile, and bronze doors, and frontispieces.'
We went down to a little section of the city by the sea.
'Oh,' I said to him, 'this is just like Italy.' The marble
and the little streets and the glassworks and the women
who walked there, the women he joked with, and the sailors,
and the bricklayers, and the carpenters, and the threshers
from Kansas long ago, drifters passed in the street
recognized in memory, composite in chirality, patient
in formality; they, the lined-faced, the rough-hewn
people who walked the narrow streets by outdoor cafes.
He knew where to go, not up to the marbled entrance
but down a side street low, near a building, where,
in the dust of the sea bottom, beneath a small cupola
stood a woman by a counter of endless floating files.
'Draw me a picture of the last scene you remember
as a mariner,' she said. He drew a picture of himself
sitting on a bed, his sailor's hat cocked to one
side, a coffee cup on the table. He asked her jokingly,
'how do you want me, ma'am, hobbled and ironed?' She
helped him look. 'How far back?' He didn't know.
Down in the sea dust of a bottom drawer they found
his papers waterstained brown. He pulled them out
and waved and yelled as if he had found passage
toward the wild fix of stars, or Isle of Capri.

  For my mother in the hospital
Your grandmother married out of
the Trail of Tears.
You were born to a trail of fears,
a soddy, your brother dead.
Now you mistake me for him.
Then came the dust storms.
You put wet wash rags
over our faces so we could breathe.
Many women went mad, “God’s Wrath”
in the storms, miles from anywhere.
It took strength, courage and prayer.
You shot jackrabbits to feed five kids
and even fed hoboes from the tracks.
You gathered cactus for us to eat.
(I saw some at a gourmet market in D.C.)
I’ve yet to see snow ice cream
or mayonnaise & sugar sandwiches.
I did see fry bread recently
at Harbor Place in Baltimore. . . .


  1. Yr poetry has such an authentic vibe to it. I mean to say that when I read yr prose or poetry...pretty much any work that I read by you Mr. Plymell, seems to always maintain a constant state of realness to it. You don't write no bullshit, yr who you are, and you tell it like it is. You don't hit us with no flowery picture perfect postcard poems that seem like they were written up by a short-order cook doubling as a pretend poet. Instead, yr the real deal. And you've got the words to prove it!! Right on!

    1. Thanks, Hank. I will pass this on to Charley. I agree with what you said about his writing. He IS the 'real deal' as you said. That's one of the things I think people like so much about Charles Plymell is the fact he is genuinely authentic. Thanks for the comment. See ya around town here in Nashvegas!