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Robbie, Paul & I met Carlin at the Hamburger Hamlet
in Westwood in 1970. Carlin had a big laugh & shiny hair,
but behind the jokes, a serious guy. He promised to go
on the Tonight Show & talk about the Vietnam War. Every time
Carson would cut him off. Carson had radar.
That year we spoke in churches, temples, high schools, the Rotary.
I remember this dwerby guy at a Kiwanis breakfast
who shouted: We’re doing a helluva job in Vietnam!
A helluva job! None of this was supposed to be funny,
but sometimes, it was. Robbie was like a Jewish Red Skelton
& Paul was so Phil Silvers from ‘Bilko’ that some days
I felt like Imogene Coca in bell bottoms, long hair to my waist.
But Paul is dead twenty years. Robbie’s wife has cancer.
We’re having lunch at Jerry’s Deli. Robbie reminds me
of the laughs they had ‘timing me’ doing my klutzy moves
setting up that flimsy card table on Bruin Walk.
(Why’d I let them do that?) I was the one who collected
$100 each month (for the phone) from Mr. W., an old leftie
who made B movies & had an office near Hollywood & Vine.
When the daughter of his old friend, Art Linkletter,
took acid & jumped out a window, Mr. W wanted us to stop
yakking about the war & talk about the danger of drugs
instead. Maybe we should have. Robbie says:
You know you really screwed up & reminds me:
I didn’t even call him that year Paul died.
Then he shrugs, half-laughing, A thousand pigeons
should shit on your head for what you’ve done!
Copyright 2018 Joan E. Bauer
Previously published in Voices from the Attic(Carlow University Press). Included in Vox Populi by permission of the author.
Terrific poem. Hit me in the gut.
LikeLiked by 1 person
I agree. me too.
Th writer is dead serious even as she shows much humor in the poem. She reminds us also how tough it is to know what need of society to act on first. the future is not as certain as we would like. The characters are clearly presented. Great ending.
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