The Lost Poet

I don’t remember the last time I saw this guy, but he says it was at the SE 30th and Belmont house in Portland, OR.  I guess I sort of remember that, a conversation about moving onto San Francisco, Marin County anyway, and getting on with life.  I was young and did not give one eff you see kay about getting on with life.  I just wanted to get down with it.  This dude, Bill, was a good bit older and therefore locked out of my perspective by an invisible decade or so that stood between us.  The Great Magnet itself could only tell you what compelled him to spend that winter in that little mountain town.  Broken-hearted, or maybe just so, so pissed off about his busted  Florida marriage that a tiny redoubt of an apartment with a Meerschaum pipe and a wool army blanket above a snow-covered Main Street seemed like a good place to sort things out.

He was not the only one hunkered down in  a month-to-month spot in buildings called The Fairfield, or The Lovelace.  There was a retired Special Forces dude with an escape rope anchored to the radiator below his 4th floor window, and a few mountaineer hovels so piled with mouldering sweaty polypropylene that it made your eyes burn when you opened the doors.  These places had cheap red wine and smokes on top of mini-refrigerators, next to wrinkled copies of Freedom of the Hills Volume IV .  Next door to that might be the muffled sounds of flanger pedals rocking against a towel beneath a brass-knobbed door.

So Bill the poet, he got a dish-washing job and he just hung out.

We would sit up in his room and swap stuff we were writing, spinning out big ideas and listening to Neil Young and Dinosaur Jr records.  I was 25 and did not know shit from shinola if you plopped them in my hands so my writing was all bluster and plagiarized style.  Bill would write Free Verse poetry and I thought he was the next great undiscovered Delmore Schwartz.

So that was it man, no social media, and barely an internet to speak of, so by the time I left the West Coast, the country, and returned a few years later there was nothing to be found of old Bill but the blue essay comp books full of poems I managed to stash away in my hopeless chest.

And now he turns up, making keys at a hardware store in Central Florida, and talking like the writing never mattered, a childish thing to put aside while “making a living of making a living”  he says.   Well I say, what the eff ewe si que Delmore?




7 Responses to The Lost Poet

  1. I second that comment. I’ve put away my poetry full of angst, knowing it would never be quite good enough, and it’s a hard thing to do. Another dream to let fly away like a helium balloon you just let go of to watch how high it will go before it disappears. Make keys, not poetry sounds like a perversion of my generation’s mantra: make love, not war. Sometimes life is just that hard to live, especially if you’re a poet.

    • Don’t cry for me, Argentina. There are plenty of lost poets in the world today, I’m sure. To be one of them isn’t the kiss of death; it might actually be the Rule of Life. How many of us can say we’ve done all that we were put on Earth to do and that we were inherently capable of? Damn few, would be my answer. Here’s life, as I at age 62 see it: You go through shit, much of which is of your own making, and you accept that fact and deal with it. You do not fuck with people, no matter how much you think they might be responsible for your situation because mostly they aren’t. Simple. Do I have regrets? You’re fucking right I have regrets, which always makes me think of John Fogerty singing, “And I never lost one minute of sleepin’, worryin’ ’bout the way things might have been.” I used to think Fogerty was being smug: My life is perfect and I have nothing to regret. Now I think he was saying, No matter how much shit you’ve had to endure, you’ve got to get on with your life and not live in the past.

  2. Hey, didn’t that guy have a nickname back in the Bozeman days? I seem to remember meeting someone like that with you up in one of those downtown apartments. I want to say that is had something to do with where he was from. Great post, by the way. Polly says that its her favorite of yours.

    • If I had a nickname, nobody told me. I was only there for four months, hardly long enough to achieve nickname status.