Thursday, September 23, 2010

RED JACKET: A Poem for my Mother

Kathryn Savides, September 23 1915 - January 26, 2004.
I also posted this poem last year on my mother's birthday. Happy Birthday, dear Mom!

She was borne away by an engine ornate, fiery and black
on a rescue mission: to oversee an uncle's burial.
Uncle Bill had been the ravenous King Kong
in our family fairy tale, bolting rows of sweet corn
and inhaling ingots of butter at Reunions,
beer bubbling out of his ears, plums up his nose,
his roaring beefy tongue popping with hotdogs
and Scottish curses, a new wife
sitting on his hand every few years.
Suddenly he'd exploded, his pigskin heart
split at every seam

and our mother's calmness was frantically summoned
by the hysterical fourth wife.
Mom rode to the rescue on a dragon-black train,
bolt upright and pushing it all the way. Once there
she ordered the special, jumbo casket,
she blessed the giant's exploded corpuscles
with a gentle veil of white flowers,
dignified his furry pagan paunch in a kingly suit of black.
She directed when cables would lower his bulk,
heavy as a crusader in full mail, to the inner earth
where seethed gobs of minerals, and his ancestors' lacy bones.
Old wives' and young wives' cupid's-bow kisses
colored his big ornery face ravishing shades of rose.
At the funeral lunch, the peach-fed oils of Mother's baked ham
soothed mourners' torn nerve endings.
The precise rectangles of her bar cookies
made them feel they could go on.

At home we shivered in coldest eclipse,
for she was the queen of our tribe of dwarves.
At five years old I fought my baby instinct
to stroke her red jacket in the closet where it glowed.
Finally one midnight the dragon brought her back,
and we breathed warm air again.
I'd heard corpses were green, and rotton-bellied with fear
still had to ask.
Yes, she said; Uncle Bill had been a little green,
but was now shining in heaven,
silvery with Grandma and Father Abraham.
She believed it, too.
When she looked up, all of her beloved dead
were sparkling in the constellations.

My hard little coconut head
processed her words. I looked suspiciously
at those stars, privately had my doubts.
But then I looked into her gentle face and decided,
then and lifelong,
never to tell.

Saturday, September 11, 2010


Some readers have told me that I can't really call this a blog, until I cough up at least one post in which I gas on about myself endlessly. So here's my stab at it. The usual format is for a phantom "interviewer" to ask a lot of tasteless questions, to which I respond with oily self-congratulation; but just to keep things stirred up I'll be honest here and there.

Q.: What's your favorite scent in nature?

MB: Black locust blossom.

Q.: Do you talk to yourself?

MB: Yes, lots. Sometimes I crack myself up, or argue myself to a standstill. Why not have a great conversation, just because another person happens not to be there at the moment?!

Q.: What are your feelings about cilantro?

MB: I hate it. It's the loco-weed of our decade.

Q.: Do you sweat a lot?

MB: No. There's a saying: "Horses sweat. Men perspire. Ladies glow."

Q.: What movie scene made you laugh so much you fell off your chair?

MB: Sam Kinison as the psycho history teacher raving away at his terrified students in BACK TO SCHOOL. His eyes pop right out of his head and his spittle flies off the screen and onto the audience! I've heard Kinison was a child evangelist in the old days, mesmerizing whole audiences as he ranted at them about hellfire; so no wonder he's so good at this!

Q.: Most sustained comic performance in a movie?

MB: HAS to be Bill Murray as the creepy groundskeeper Carl Spackler in CADDYSHACK. Every crazy squint, every mutter, even his droopy camouflage pants are just brilliant.

Q.: What do you eat to get your strength back when you're feeling blue?

MB: Hot ham and fried egg, heavily peppered, on a toasted onion bagel. With strong mustard, a slice of red onion. And a big old Cuba Libre goes with this just fine. Dark rum, of course.

Q.: What personality types do you despise the most?

MB: Bullies and liars.

Q.: Who is your favorite spiritual leader? Buddha, Yahweh, Krishna, Jesus, Mohammed? Or lots of different gods like in Wagner operas?

MB: Yahweh is such a huge honking name and presence that I'm almost afraid not to choose him. In my mind's eye, to this day, I see his beard of thunder and his gaze of forked lightning just as I did as a child--and I see them with considerable respect. But for me, Jesus Christ of the Gospels is the most ethically sublime. If he actually said and did even a tenth of the things that were attributed to him, he had the most beautiful mind and heart.

Q.: Do you believe in forgiving...or not?

MB: I'm torn. There's a very moving scene in the Japanese movie BRIGHT FUTURE, where a kid has hurt and insulted someone who's been kind to him, a father figure. The kid realizes his mistake and begs for forgiveness. The man just says to him, very simply, "I forgive you. I forgive you. I forgive everybody everything."
I know that that's the higher course.

But then there's a tiny little devil in people (including me) that just sort of pops up and enjoys the Spanish saying, "Forgiveness is the first sign of senility." As though holding tight to a good grudge is good for your health, adds salt and red pepper to life. So it's a toss-up.

Well, that's enough gassing on for now. Have a wonderful weekend, folks, and I will now sign off from my REAL BLOG!!!