Thursday, November 15, 2012

The Last Wordbender

image borrowed from Bing

The Last Wordbender

“God changes his appearance every second.
Blessed be the man who can recognize him
in all his disguises.”  --Alexis Zorba

It was 1952.
I was in third grade, living in a Navy project
deep in the cut between Magnolia and Queen Anne,
saddled with a reoccurring nightmare about
two black leopards stalking me in the schoolyard,
alone, at night, on a swing.

Elizabeth II was proclaimed Queen.
Love that Terrence Davies quote,
“It now was the Betty Windsor Show, 
Betty & Phil and their gilded carriage of flunkies.”
--glad to still be here for the old gal’s 
Golden Jubilee, where she had a stand in
leap from a helicopter with Daniel Craig,
paragliding into the jammed stadium.

Nikos Kazantzakis released ZORBA the GREEK,
but I did not read it then, too busy reading
Howard Fast, Jack London, & John Steinbeck
to notice:

“On a deaf man’s door, you can knock forever.”

Thousands in Washington, D.C. witnessed a buzzing
from several UFO’s as I sat watching 
THE ATOMIC CITY with Gene Barry, being prepared
for the onslaught of nuclear Fear in the 50’s,
and for the communist witch hunts
as Charlie Chaplin took an ocean liner to London
for his world premiere of LIMELIGHT,
and while in transit, J. Edgar Hoover
revoked his reentry permit to America.

“All right, we will go outside where God
can see us better.”

Flashing forward past pimples, wet dreams, loss
of my virginity, drag races, my discovery
of Walt Whitman and free verse
to 1964, when I was 20, starting
college after trying to make my way without
an education, having my mind altered daily
after rejoicing that THE WIZARD OF OZ
had resumed its annual telecast, having
missed 1963 post-JFK assassination,
as LBJ signed into law the
“Civil Rights Act of 1964”,
Sidney Poitier became the first black man
to receive an Oscar just as Nelson Mandela
was sentenced to life imprisonment in South Africa,
and doing my part I began to date black girls
in college while really grooving on a new 
British rock group called The Beatles 
and Beatlemania burst into our lives.

“How can I not love them? Poor weak creatures,
taking so little, a man’s hand on their breast--
and they give you all they got.”

Taking a college cheerleader to see the opening
of ZORBA THE GREEK at a U District art house
and she thought it was stupid and hedonistic:

“God has a big heart, but there is one sin he will not
forgive. If a woman calls a man to her bed and he will
not go.”

The cheerleader never did call, but others did,
many others, as I interrupted my schooling
for service to my country, returning with 
an artist’s fire in my loins, with dreams
of a career in theater, in films, possibly
becoming a playwright, a novelist, and always
remaining the poet,

“Life is trouble. Only death is not. To be alive
is to undo your belt and look for trouble.”

For in ’64, the Year of Zorba,
we heard that our military advisors
in South Viet Nam were running into heavy resistance
as I graduated “first in my class” from community college
and beat to the Big Town to see
both the Elephant and FROM RUSSIA,
WITH LOVE, #2 in what would become
a 50 year film series; most of us have seen
them all and could name all six actors who played Bond;

Connery, Lazenby, Dalton, Moore, Brosnan,
and today’s 007, that chiseled rock, Daniel Craig,
but how many remember Barry Nelson,
David Niven, Peter Sellers, & Woody Allen?

“You think too much, that is your trouble.
Clever people and grocers, they weigh everything.”

During the last decade, after suffering through
The Bush Dynasty, the New Crusades,
and White House mini-rodeos in the Rose Garden,
when despair slept with me incessantly
like a dark vindictive slut, I would hear--

“When everything goes wrong, what a joy it is
to test your soul, and see if it has endurance & courage.”

In my life, Alexis Zorba has forever been pathfinder,
muse, teacher, drinking companion, fellow carouser,
compadre, surrogate father, day-warrior & jester--
always at the ready to appear, or reappear
when I needed him as I enjoy my own journey
through the maze of this incarnation;

working for more than 50 years, half a damned 
century, I finally was allowed to fold up the dress slacks,
hang up the garish neckties and button-down shirts,
to now live in Levis, to luxuriate in four-day beard growths,
and let my vehicle often sit idle several days a week.

“When seeing that my body is merely sickness and crime,
age and death, shall I--free, fearless, and blissful--shall I
retire to the forest in solitude, without companions or joy?”

(Smile) Hell, no;
my bucket list is way too lengthy,
my interests are infinite,
my networking is global,
my writing is developing muscles
I could never even have dreamed of
while still in harness.

Glenn Buttkus

November 2012

Posted over on dVerse Poets MTB

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


Brian Miller said...

nice...this is like your biography in verse....pretty cool how you brought so much int eh way of references...many music, movies or one of the arts....side note: seen all the bonds...daniel craig is growing on me, but connery is the best...but really cool man...feel like i know you a bit more now as well...i hope you keep adding to that bucket list as well man...smiles.

Laurie Kolp said...

Wow, Glenn... there's so much to like in this. What a journey!

Nico said...

Amazing piece, I felt some of the adventure of your life here!

Victoria said...

Love this, Glen...we share the same chronology, if not the same experiences. Your use of refrains as a summation/introduction is outstanding. It would be fun to write a parallel poem/autobiography to this.

Anna Montgomery said...

You handle the narrative and passage of time very well here. A personal tour of the times, fictional guide at the wheel, taking side trips into fascinating backroads. The Last Temptation of Christ was my road to Kazantzakis.

ninot said...

You must have enjoyed this journey. I loved the summaries - excellently put together to give us a glimpse into your life.

manicddaily said...

I've lived through some of the same events. So interesting to see them through this lens! Your colloquial style works very well for the story telling here. k.

Dave King said...

Your landmarks and signposts all resonate with me. A fantastic four de force that had me biting at the bit to get on.

hedgewitch said...

Longing and intense, full of loving detail, making me want to reread Zorba--the quotes you chose are outstanding, and perfectly illustrative of your points.

Claudia said...

nice!!! my phantasy swayed away a bit upon that james bond part..ya know..i think daniel craig is awesome and i surely would be up any time for a leap from a helicopter with him..ha...smiles... cool piece glenn and i echo laurie...what a journey..

David Gilmour said...

What do we write poetry for? We hope for a change in God every second--or minute. The Indian Hindus are winning on that one--36 million gods and more added daily. The religions of One are idolatrous and narcissicistic. --David