Vox Populi: A Public Sphere for Politics and Poetry
The postcards catch my attention
amid the strips of tape that secure prices
to books: paperbacks fifty cents, hardbacks $2,
linen chest $175, ten disk cd changer $40,
and cassette player that I buy for $3,
along with a 4 drawer filing cabinet,
but it’s the stampless, addressless,
unwritten postcards that I return to,
their seventy-year-old panoramic vistas pristine,
photographs painted for color: Puget Sound a blue
that it’s never known, a Seattle waterfront
of ten story buildings, never so clear and clean again,
the shot taken from over the harbor in an aeroplane,
and headed out of the picture the black-ball, art-deco,
slick-lined Kalakala ferry, leaving the white
scar of its wake cutting for Bremerton before it sailed
to Alaska, up the Yukon River to haul mining equipment
to get-rich-quick claims that played out too quickly,
the ferry scuttled on a sandbar scoured by sandpipers,
decades later towed back to Seattle,
brought through Government Locks,
to be reclaimed, refurbished, renovated,
but left a bankrupt rusting hulk
in the shadows of the Aurora Bridge,
how often do we get dragged back
only to find out what was unfinished,
unfixable, unwanted is still so.
The locks on Government Canal another postcard,
claiming to be second only to the Panama Canal
in ship-size served, lifting hulls from Puget Sound
to Lake Union, and no matter what we claim
about the rising and falling in our own lives,
what’s locked and unlocked is only glimpsed.
When I ask about the price for the postcards,
the dead man’s sister turns to me and says
that I look familiar, did I know her brother,
he sold siding, the garage and shed
filled with samples, all for sale.
He was a bachelor: it’s hidden in the boxes of books
between Timothy Leary and Storming Heaven,
there’s a sexual bliss manual
and how to meet the perfect woman,
and later at home, after I watch one of the videos,
Edward Scissor Hands, that he downloaded
from satellite, there’s half a minute
of fellatio between a hard-working woman
and a laid-back well-endowed man.
Divorced once, she says, and that perhaps
gave him hours to learn bank shots
on the pool table downstairs, but it’s already
sold. There’s A Hundred Years of Solitude,
on my list of ten best books of the twentieth century.
There’s Lars Gustafeson’s Death of a Beekeeper,
another author in my pantheon. Yes, I think I knew him.
His sister looks more familiar each time
I ask her a question. Yes, I worked
construction decades ago. Maybe, maybe, but
I can’t get beyond the edge of recognition.
I’m afraid to ask to see a picture.
I don’t want to know another person
that I almost knew. There are already haunted
multitudes in my life. In the basement, I find
a parson’s table and buy it. His nephew helps me
carry it to the car through a cold April rain.
How did his uncle die? He died
of depression─of almost being known.
Copyright 2016 Walter Bargen.