FALL 2009

Marvin Bell


I am a geezer. I was, and am, a geezer.
I was born a geezer. I have the metabolism
of a young geezer. I have the oxymoronic
carriage of an eager fatigue, the visage
of blanket approval, the simplicity caused
by having shed skin after skin. I am happy
in a geezerhood way. I am heartbreak-happy.
In geezerhood, the human losses coalesce
in a protective balm, like an extra blanket.
I wear a sweater and make things last.
For example, the geezer poems. The baggy
workpants hanging on men who limp
in the street past the chemical tanks,
lugging plastic bags of bread and beer,
are not the prison garb of the young.
I have earned my geezer gait. I have paid
for my smile and my squint. I have spilled
my secrets into the past, which goes way back.


A chain of rowboat weekenders
rolls in the whitecaps
as the last casts and droplines go in
to lure the big-mouthed flounder
who couldn’t wait for supper. If now I forget
why I walked from one room to another,
I do not lose sight of the horizon
as I hold on a little
in the brine that has topped the pail
where the haul is, each catch serpentine,
swishing side to side to reach
the open sea. We have not gone out
as far as the ocean. We anchor
where disaster is a wink and a nod
in the back of our minds. There is one
a month, sometimes one a week.
One steps into the loop of a rope or chain,
to haul up from deck’s edge. Something
in the water yanks the noose tight
and draws the body down. That is all.
I can hear the fisherman shouting
about going in. If you can hear
what the water whispers beneath tide
and turmoil, if you can tell
others, if you can make out the alarm
inside the soothing swell,
if you can stand under a collapsing wave
and be its target,
you have my ear.


Marvin Bell's latest book is a collaboration titled, 7 Poets, 4 Days, 1 Book, co-authored with poets from Hungary, Russia, Malta and Slovenia, as well as the U.S., published by Trinity University Press in 2009. He teaches for the brief-residency MFA program based in Oregon at Pacific University.



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