Monday, August 25, 2014

We Interrupt this Memoir With a Damn Poem

Because I worked over night shifts Saturday and Sunday and yesterday I also had church in the morning and a visit to my youngest daughter Maureen’s new digs across McHenry County in Richmond in the evening, I was unable to complete the tenth and final post in my memoir series about my experiences with the Draft and Justice systems during the Vietnam War era.  A guy has got to grab some Zees sometime.
If you have been waiting with bated breath for to see how that saga played, tune in again tomorrow same time, same place.

In lieu of Rain Delay Theater,  I’ll give you a preview in the form a poem I wrote several years—decades actually—later.  It got included in my 2004 Skinner House Books collection We Build Temples in the Heart by the skin of its teeth.  My esteemed editor reminded me that the book was being issued as part of the venerable Meditation Manual series.  She didn’t feel that this little slice of autobiographical verse, was in anyway enlightening or inspiring to readers.  In the end, I won the argument about this one because we had run-out of alternatives from my limited production and it was needed to fill a page or two.  Now that’s a ringing endorsement. 
Here it is with some editing from the published version.
Leaving Sandstone—1973
Oh, how I yearned for
            Tom Joad’s bright orange boots
            that clear yellow morning
            when they opened the door
            and I walked across the clipped lawn
            to await the bus to town.

They gave me plastic pimp shoes,
            stacked heels, two toned brown and black,
            and light green polyester slacks,
            a clinging rayon shirt,
            and the cast off jacket half
            of a sky blue leisure suit
            stitched white with pendulous collar
            and buttons the size of half dollars.

I had begged them for my work boots,
            sturdy black, laced tight to the shin,
            surplus GI hand-me-downs for cons.

Look, I said, I’m a factory hand,
            I’ll need these as a former felon
            to become a useful citizen again,
            but they shook their heads
            and handed me those
            dime store disco booties.

Through two airports I hobbled
            on blistered, bleeding feet
            until at the far end of a sizzling
            stretch of O’Hare black to,
            safe at last in Cecilia’s Bug,
            I chucked those damn shoes,
            as useless and painful as
            half stricken fetters,
            into the first wire basket we found.

--Patrick Murfin

Next—Coming Home and After.

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