JUST SO YOU KNOW
It is annoying to read Pindar
and learn nothing about his couch
or coffee pot or what kind of bathroom
furnishings he had back then or
what color his walls were. If
he had a horse.
The best writing now takes
on the language you’d use
asking the tall pimply store clerk
to hand you down a can of tomatoes from the top shelf.
If you ran into someone on the sidewalk,
it’s the details you’d like to drop
about kids, cars, work; speech
free of most pretension, aside that of
being in common use.
Take Dante, he pioneered vernacular
Italian, but it’s all a tangled
otherwhereness. Nothing real, no traffic flow
during the medieval Florence rush hour,
how their fish markets smelled in summer,
who made his robes, their color,
what he did for money, whom he
hung out with, what filled their nights,
the sidewalks they walked on
or what they really talked about.
Don’t feed me star athletes and priests
practicing their favorite chokeholds
on cloud angels playing wispy harps,
an eternity spent looking out over
level monotonies of perfection.
Or perdition. Not while I’m stuck here, real
as a thumb screw, where it’s the wicked
that makes the good stand out.
Short, bald, old, tired as this off-white drywall,
empty as this black plastic ashtray,
in chronic pain from a botched surgery
on my neck, sitting on this wobbly bar stool,
midafternoons in dirty blue jeans and a ratty t-shirt
I’m an unlikely candidate for salvation
or an ode. But just so you know.
Speaking plainly to me might help.
—from Rattle #42, Winter 2013
Tim Laffey: “After many years in Texas, in the computer services industry designing mainframe systems and tuning their performance, I am now retired and back on a portion of the old family farm in west central Illinois. Early on I wrote poetry; all that formal richness waiting to be broken was just so enticing. As it will though, life veered in another direction and while following my profession, I took up painting and sculpture. I will continue to pursue them. But recently the urge to write has re-emerged.”