Sunday, March 14, 2010

lover

by horace p sternwall

pictures by rhoda





you look so fine, baby, coming down the stairs
with your eccentric millionaires
a mellon and a dupont on each arm
how could you ever come to harm?

down in the shadows, behind the band
that's me with a tray in my hand
but you need not be impressed
i'm serving the chauffeurs, not the guests



i know your new friends would never believe
that you could ever plot to deceive
with your baby eyes and perfect smile
but i have walked with you many a mile

on feet of dreams down a highway of lies
under burning, black and rainy skies
but why speak in symbols, why talk in riddles
your hell is real and i'm in the middle

remember the gray nevada sand
when we walked into vegas hand in hand
the bus blasted by with its black exhaust
but we never stopped to count the cost



vegas - the american vampire night
lit by money's undying light
24 hours of non-stop cancer
the tunnel of love for two cons without an answer

third time unlucky, you always said
the third mark we rolled turned up righteously dead
you took one look at the sucker's i d
your eyes got wide and you said to me

this guy's the boss of the whole east coast
but, baby, i still love you the most
no need to be scared of this dead mother
as long as we are true to each other



and remember the cafe in laramie
when i became you, and you became me
and the world was buried in cold and snow
it was not so very long ago

now that i think of it - yes, whenever
i'd wake up from a dream of love forever
your eyes were always clear and bright
checking out everything, everything in sight

when we held up the liquor store in ukiah
i thought i heard the heavenly choir
but it was the deputy's turn to die
you saved me then - now i wonder why



and what would mrs purvington-smith
say if she knew who you hung out with
and the things you did and the things you knew
and the jokers and johns you conned - the whole crew

and mr and mrs burford jones
would shiver in their upholstered bones
and cry for their mamas if you ever admitted
to all the murders you've committed

remember the time on 34th street
when you got blisters on both feet
we went into larry's sandwich shop
the rain began falling, drop by drop

and there was that pink cigar smoking god
callahan from the vice squad
but he just nodded and stirred his tea
stirred his tea, so wearily



larry's was kind of declasse
the american sub was his forte
you liked yours so much you ordered two more
the rain began to really pour

a guy at the counter with a purple face
told a sad story about the seventh race
the hustlers and losers and shoppers outside
went by in a single watery tide

at times like that it seemed to me
they were all slaves, and only i was free
the world wasn't old, the world wasn't new
the world wasn't anything, but i had you





4 comments:

Dan Leo said...

Of all the literally millions of poems scribbled in mankind's sordid history this poem is surely the finest poem available as yet to this paltry race.

Until perhaps we are gifted with another Horace Sternwall poem, unworthy as we are.

(The illustrations ain't bad neither.)

human being said...

.


another gem from the great storyteller, horace
not an ordinary one but an ace

heart-rending and beautiful
you never forget it even if you're forgetful

it starts with a dark present
followed by flashbacks wryly smiling like a crescent

it's all about a lover with a faithful heart
and a beloved who didn't know falling in love was a holy art


.




this work is a WOW!
some of the lines... really cut deeeeep:


- on feet of dreams down a highway of lies

- but why speak in symbols, why talk in riddles
your hell is real and i'm in the middle

- lit by money's undying light



and the last stanza just killed me (i read it a million times):


at times like that it seemed to me
they were all slaves, and only i was free
the world wasn't old, the world wasn't new
the world wasn't anything, but i had you

horace said...

thanks mr leo,
that covers a lot of territory. you really think it is better than "if" or "the boy on the burning deck" or "the faerie queene" or "howl." or the poetry of basho or william blake or "jerusalem delivered" or - my own favorite - "the highwayman" by alfred noyes?
thanks again!

hb,
you overwhelm me as always. i don't know what else to say. hope you are well. we ( emphasis on we) will stay in touch.

kathleenmaher said...

Full of music; the kind that doesn't fade.