The Morning Guy claims not to listen to NPR, but he does seem to read Garrison Keillor’s website “The Writer’s Almanac” which astounds and confuses me. I do listen to NPR, but built up a sensitivity to Keillor’s voice over the years, until it has become a sound akin to fingernails on a blackboard. But that’s another story.
At any rate, I was surprised to find this poem in my in-box this morning, before I even went in to work. “Everyone must read poetry with their coffee,” he’d written on the attached sea-blue Post-It note. I’m not sure if that is meant to be a new rule — The Morning Guy has many of those — or just an observation.
Sadly for me, like the narrator of the poem, I no longer drink coffee. Or smoke. Or drink. Damn, sometimes life is hard. No wonder I look forward to those stormy days when Hurricane Rules Apply. I used to love a shot of 100-proof Hot Damn followed by a beer chaser. Oddly enough, I just don’t get the same kick from a cinnamon Altoid and an O’Doul’s.
And I do miss drinking coffee with my poetry. At least I’ll always have pie.
Literature in the 21st Century
by Ronald Wallace
Sometimes I wish I drank coffee
or smoked Marlboros, or maybe cigars—
yes, a hand-rolled Havana cigar
in its thick, manly wrapping,
the flash of the match between
worn matchbook and stained forefinger,
the cup of the palm at the tip,
the intake of air, and the slow and
luxuriant, potent and pleasurable
exhale. Shall we say also a glass
of claret? Or some sherry with its
dark star, the smoke blown into the bowl
of the glass, like fog on portentous
morning, the rich man-smell of gabardine
and wool, of money it its gold clip?
Sometimes I wish I had habits
a man wouldn’t kick, faults a good man could
be proud of. I’d be an expatriate from
myself, all ink-pen and paper in a Paris café
where the waiters were elegant and surly,
the women relaxed and extravagant
with their bobbed hair and bonbons, their
perfumed Galoises, their oysters and canapés,
and I’d be writing about war and old losses—
man things-and not where I am, in this
pristine and sensitive vessel, all
fizzy water, reticence, and care, all reduced
fat and purified air, behind my deprived
computer, where I can’t manage even
a decaf cap, a mild Tiparillo, a glass of
great-taste-less-filling light beer.
“Literature in the 21st Century” by Ronald Wallace from Long for This World: New and Selected Poems. © University of Pittsburgh Press, 2003. Reprinted with permission.