A friend of mine published a poem recently about his mother intent on Spring cleaning and everyone helping , except Dad , who was at work . I know Dad was at work because mentioned in the poem is the phrase ” Wait until your father gets home “. Most of us from those days know exactly the weight of that warning from Mom .
When that line showed up in the poem I was struck with the realization that we all shared a common experience at least to some extent . We all share , I should say . Or maybe it’s just me and the poet having something of a common experience .
I met his dad a few times , I would like to say . He was a southerner from Kentucky , living then in southern California in a small city near the beach , near LAX , with his wife and his ten kids . He was a very friendly man with a hearing problem . No wonder , I guess , with all those children to hear from . He had a good sense of humor ; was active in his church ; retired at some point after the kids were grown , moved out of town and started a pizza parlor although also continuing the plumbing gig .
Poet is the eldest and , perhaps , no wonder he turned to poetry given the responsibilities of being the eldest brother with so many younger sibling cats to help herd . And he was a surfer , too , living close enough to the waves and maybe feeling a need for a little me time , sitting out on the rolling ocean waiting for something significant to break . Beach Boys music played in our southern California heads at that time in those places , just a little before the Beatles took over . Poet listened to more sophisticated music , I know , as we would expect poets to do , and he played guitar with a couple of his brothers . In more recent years he played sets in a small wine bar in Portland , Oregon.
I think he met Ferlinghetti on a bus , or was it on a surfboard ? They might have discussed long boards vs. short boards as they both bobbed up and down in the surf . Or was it at the North Beach bookstore City Lights as the poet searched for certain publications ; or for meaning ? Maybe it was on one of those bus rides to or from base while serving in the Army , making small talk and smoking .
No , now that I think of it , all of that’s only in my imagination . I do remember perusing the shelves at Powell’s Bookstore with the poet and his wife and Ada , though , almost getting lost in there among the acres of books , with a plan in the back of our heads to find a good spot later for a cold glass of a good local beer , or perhaps teas for the girls , and maybe a pastry , or lunch if we can’t get out of Powell’s for awhile .
I must say I wouldn’t know poetry if it came up behind me and hit me in the head for no reason , or if it walked up to me and suddenly out of the blue wanted to shake my hand , or if it was sitting quietly at the bar on a well-worn barstool and wanted to buy me a beer , or wanted to fight just for the fun of fighting . I wouldn’t know good poetry from bad poetry and therein lies my poetry problem . It’s like the old saying about good art or bad art : I know what I like .
It was that one phrase in this one poem that struck me somehow deeply , strangely enough , wait until your father gets home . That was my mother’s last resort after an afternoon of my horrible behavior and after she’d tried everything else to calm me down and bring me back to my senses . It usually worked .
Oh , don’t get me wrong. I have nothing against poetry . Live and let live , I say . E.E. Cummings said that , or maybe it was W. H. Auden .