June 10, 2021

Robert Funge

WHY

You could call me obsessed
or a fool. There’s no future
turning your insides out
arranging words until they’re
comfortable with each other.
And the pay! Just this morning
a check arrived in the mail
for fifteen dollars, for a poem
it took forty years to write.
Standing on the corner
looking hungry and tired, the
Veteran of a Thousand Wars
does better on a bad day.
I show you
how I feel inside, how my daughter
whores for drug money, and my son
ransoms his future for a soul.
I tell you how my father
forgot my name, and my mother
went to the electric table
to have her mind rearranged.
I tell you how I prayed for grace
and was given pain, to show
that all prayers are answered.
I’ve shown you how I died
three times, yet here I am,
Lazarus and Buddha, my
victim and savior. All this
for fifteen dollars and a year’s
subscription. If I didn’t have a job
at the factory, sweeping floors
on the graveyard shift …
And I’ve shown
where I buried myself, covered
my walls with books and paintings,
how I talk to them and they say
This is what you’ve always wanted.
I am my prisoner and my warden.
I tell you how a passing image
makes me rise, and how love
leaves me cold. I sleep alone
in a king-size bed
and spill myself. I confess
in public. I publish my shame.
I don’t judge anymore.
I’ve forgotten how to pray, unless
this is a prayer.
And now I arrange my life
in code, knowing you decipher
more than I show.
They can keep
their fifteen dollars. They insult me!
All I want from life
is sainthood and some poems
that will last. I lied early:
the future is all there is. My gift
is my present to myself, this day’s
condensation of memory.
It saves my life.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001

__________

Robert Funge: “I live alone in a library. I’m retired and busier than ever. I write poems to make sense of the past, and because it’s fun. Always both. These poems reflect his life, his imagination and his idiocrasy.”

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