Monday, October 8, 2012

The Moveable Beast



image borrowed from bing


The Moveable Beast

Writing at its best, is a lonely life, where
the writer, if he is any good, must face eternity,
or the lack of it, each day.”
--Ernest Hemingway

Sure, he had seen the splendor of the Mediterranean
many times when he was a big shouldered kid in his 20’s,
after haunting Parisian cafes, 
smoking fat pungent cigars under red awnings,
traveling with Ezra Pound, or drinking brandy
with James Joyce, draining whole casks during
their “alcoholic sprees”, remembering
Gertrude Stein wearing water wings
in the pool at Monte Carlo in 1925, 
but hell,

he had learned to love the Caribbean best, 
barefoot from the puncheon deck of the Pilar 
as it drafted the fishing coasts 
along the islands in the stream,
first applauding Castro’s victory over Batista,
then cursing it when he got wind 
that the new government was going to seize 
all the homes of the wealthy;

consistently surfing the maelstrom of personal calamity,
dancing with death countless times, courting it but never
consummating the affairs, laughing at it each time it was
jilted, especially in 1954 when he survived two plane
crashes on the plateaus of Africa, reading aloud
his own obituary in several newspapers.

Jesus, it seemed that he had never lived alone,
had been married continuously, first
to Elizabeth Hadley Richards (1921-1927),
to Pauline Pffeiffer (1927-1940),
to Martha Gellhorn (1940-1945),
and to his darling Mary since 1946,
yet here he was, just a solitary figure
wandering in pain within the landscape
of his life--wondering if there would be room
for all their names as sculptured script
below his own on his tombstone.

Sunday morning, July 2, 1961, he awoke
at 5 a.m. to watch the Idaho sunrise
over his Ketchum shamba, its intensity
helping him to sidestep his near blindness.

Saturday’s paper was open on the coffee table,
turned to the society page where certain items
were circled in red ink, two real pearls:

“Martha Helen Kostyra, 19, married Andrew Stewart in New York City” 
“Ana Vegas was just crowned as Miss Venezuela.”

He took out a large yellow legal pad and wrote
in longhand his final cahier:
miserable IRS tax issues,
FBI surveillance fears,
a never-ending plague of health issues, 
real sadness regarding his inability to retrieve
his old manuscripts and notes still locked up
in a dusty Havana safe,
the dangerous stranger in his morning mirror,
his disdain for his own critical success, especially
the Pulitzer Prize for Literature in 1953
and the Nobel Peace Prize in 1954,
all those narrow-lipped asshole editors
at LIFE magazine who kept slashing
his latest article, informing Mary
that he had become “hesitant, disorganized,
confused, and was going blind”,
and all those goddamned forced visits
he had endured at the Mayo clinic, resulting
in twenty “electroconvulsive therapy” treatments,
followed by their diagnosis of him being
“released in ruins”. 

Shivering from empty prayers
and shattered dreams, he hoped
those bastards would not mention
that his father had committed suicide as well,
but pretty sure there would be no media
politeness mantling their reporting of this day,
no syphon of solicitous sympathy.

At 7:10 a.m., moving around like a wounded lion
in his basement, he removed two 12-gauge shotgun shells 
from his tattered hunting raincoat, 
opened his polished oaken gun case 
and removed his favorite Boss double-barreled shotgun,
struggling upstairs with it cradled in his arms,
pushing his black leather easy chair in front
of the large picture window in his foyer,
pulling back the blood red velvet curtains,
then twisting the chair around to face the front door
before sitting down in it, hearing 
the leather creak under him,
placed his trusty Boss butt-first 
on the white rug between his legs, 
pulled back the beautiful twin hammers
click-click, placed the double barrels gently
into his smiling mouth, and closed his eyes
in order to properly greet the great bull of Paloma
that was rushing huge down upon him,
and just before the goring he heard
the roar of the crowd rise up
like a cannon shot,
and then it was over.


Glenn Buttkus

October 2012

Posted over on Shawna's Flipside Records
Posted over on dVerse Poets OLN

Would you like to hear the author read this poem to you?

10 comments:

flipside records said...

Oh Glenn, thank you so much for writing this. I love it.

These are my favorite sections:

"dancing with death countless times, courting it but never
consummating the affairs, laughing at it each time it was
jilted"

"the dangerous stranger in his morning mirror"

"he had endured at the Mayo clinic, resulting
in twenty “electroconvulsive therapy” treatments,
followed by their diagnosis of him being 'released in ruins'"

"no syphon of solicitous sympathy"

And the ending is so powerful:
"pulled back the beautiful twin hammers
click-click, placed the double barrels gently
into his smiling mouth, and closed his eyes
in order to properly greet the great bull of Paloma
that was rushing huge down upon him,
and just before the goring he heard
the roar of the crowd rise up
like a canon shot,
and then it was over."

The last three lines made me cry.

Adrian Sparks said...

Wonderful, Slash --- terrific.

flipside records said...

I came back to read it again and cried AGAIN in exactly the same spot! I must find his life and death exceedingly touching.

Brian Miller said...

fug man....whew...intense...the told taken as well...the crowdd rising there in the end on the shot was wicked good...and painful as well...writing is not always a fun write you know...we feel like sandpaper wounds at times and keep scratching...vicious piece...great piece sir

Beachanny said...

A dark prose poem of tremendous power expositing one of the great novelists of all time, consumed with a madness that posed as sanity or sanity that posed as madness..balancing both until time and illness through him out of kilter, broke the festivals, dulled the excitement, and threatened to leave him old, dull and senseless. A truthful and honest write!

mrs mediocrity said...

Hemingway is my favorite writer. I spent last winter re-reading his entire body of work from start to finish, plus as many biographies as I could find. Such a sad ending to his life, but still, a life-well lived. I like to think he had no regrets, although I suppose we all have a few when it comes right down to it.

This was beautifully written, and made me sad for him all over again.

manicddaily said...

Yes, agree with Mrs. Mediocrity - this made me so sad for Hemingway - and much I didn't know - I didn't really about the electro shock or near blindness. He is a wonderful writer - this is a terrific tribute.

Thanks much. k.

Claudia said...

oh dang...i wasn't familiar with his story glenn...excellently told...moving and gripping

Joseph Hesch said...

As I said over on Twitter, Glenn, you've skillfully combined two of my passions here: story poems and Hemingway.

I knew the story, but you've framed it so intimately and artfully, it was like seeing with a new pair of eyes.

Top notch, my friend!

Anonymous said...

Wow excellent story/poem. Well told...as I of course know of the suicide n Idaho place n demons but not of all his glory n wives, but also of the Key West homestead w/ the cats n fishing. Glad I read. Gardenlile.com