2 poems by John Wall Barger
What’re ya reading?
A bio of Samuel Beckett. What’s yer favorite part?
Where he gets knifed by a pimp. What
is going on with yar nose there? It’s bleeding.
I stand, wobbly, rummage in my luggage
for vestiges of rum.
I wake in the small hours
inside a bus adrift across Ontario,
my cheek flat upon the broad shoal
of a neck, Hilda’s, a nurse with Confucian eyes
who journeys to Thunder Bay
to lay her murdered daughter underground.
A crow spotlit in dusty headlights
arches its wings,
dies. Mr Beckett didn’t die,
but he did die.
Sings the bus, Trochee, trochee . . .
Satellite dishes query
the dawn. Children wave,
hurl rocks. A mother on a trailer porch
cradles her newborn,
her head cocked as if the baby
whispered a fable about
the dark lake across the road,
as if she herself
were being held.
Beckett, stilt straight, visited
the gaoled Pandarus
to ask why. Iron bars between them
moist as hardwood trunks.
I ask Hilda, Why?
Monsieur, said the pimp, je n’ai aucune idée.
Waste the morning. Squander money
on tickets going nowhere. Curse the internet.
Swallow the bile. Down a fourth
mug of coffee. Sit thunderbolt upright.
There. A new personal record. Two hours awake
to hit bottom.
Now, light a cigar.
Climb on the scooter. Gun it uphill
the unknown way, up the winding mountain path
away from the city. Say
nothing. Do not even scream. At each fork,
take the strange road through palm trees & orange groves
till you’re off the map. Then go further
uphill, past the big black dog wailing for blood,
till the pass is impassable,
till the past is beneath you,
a green ravine slashed by the nails of the world.