I retired from the SUNY Buffalo English Department in 2004. Have published a dozen or so collections of poems. Such my addiction to the sport of squash racquets my headstone is to read: "ONE MORE GAME?" See more of my poems HERE.
Thirty years ago the young Corso in his cups
--my cups, in fact, my booze, too, on which, a gulp
away from getting smashed, he was loading up.
First, tagging along, he'd crashed the party,
then was everywhere making his presence felt,
depositing impartially--on rug, on couch,
on the proffered hand and the affable lap--
steaming little signatures of self.
Introduced to me, his next-to-unknown
and near-anonymous host, Gregory exclaimed,
"'Irving Feldman?' 'Irving Feldman?' 'Oiving Feldman?'
--what kind of name is that for a poet?"
He probably intended well: you know
--Touring Star Instructs Benighted Yokel In
the finer perks of fame, its droit du seigneur:
since one never knows who'll get the last laugh,
Maestro will make sure he grabs the first sneer.
Caught redhanded being myself, naked in quotes,
I contemplated the awfulness of my name
--undistinguished, uneuphonious, a joke.
What vocal apparatus would not collapse in
a fatal fibrillation of runaway yuks,
intoning those syllables with suitable awe?
Well, then, spare the world apocalypse by laughter
--just shut up, Irving, shut down, back off!
Oh, but now "'Gregorio Nunzio Corso!'"
he tarantara-ed, nose loftily rising to
this high occasion, as if summoned upward by
the fanfaronade of its fantastic fanfare,
"now that, Oiving, is a name for a poet!"
Second paeon, dactyl, dactyl catalectic
--his name itself, alone, had heft and breath
enough to launch and swell a mighty fine line.
No way to know this poet from his poem!
--who, an hour later, crossed one line too many.
Ralph (redfaced, Anglophile), taking his measure,
tapped out deeDUM, the old iambic one-TWO,
and did a number on Gregory's nose.
It took a day or so, but finally,
gestating the guy's manners, mien, mug
while licking at my wounds, my "staircase wit,"
laggard though it was and lost in transit usually,
gagged up a fur ball part blood, mostly spit:
"As the poet said, Gregory, What is in
a name? By any other you'd be as Coarso."
The party, fortunately, had long been over,
and, bolstered by two tender-hearted ladies
covering his flanks as he retreated, while
his nose autographed in red a borrowed hanky,
the poet, faring forward, had stumbled downstairs
--to pipe his old tune in pastures not greener,
perhaps, but, for sure, far far grassier.
Skip thirty years. An eye's blink. The interim?
Some books. Some other books. Fade swiftly to:
Another party now (my son's). Another coast.
Same hubbub. Each newcomer turns the volume up.
Whom the gods would mock they first make famous.
Enter Thad. Young actor here in Hollywood,
dying for parts, money, acclaim, the glamor and
groveling and intoxication due to fame,
to be something more, but not necessarily
much more, than "just another pretty face."
He spots me there, singled out from the crowd
by the sudden celebrity that follows me
around, or maybe is leading me on:
this year's MacLaurels penciled in on my brow.
"Hey, Irving Feldman," he shouts across the tumult
of everyone madly talking all at once,
"you are a goddamn star of poetry!"
Has he ever read a word I wrote?
Still, I glow for a moment in his glee.
But somewhere behind my back I sort of hear
how Gregory, our Chatterton, our wingèd boy,
sloshed out of his cups now and into his saucer,
stubblebearded, his underwear stained with pee,
his nose no straighter for being out of joints
though longer perhaps by a thousand lines,
half toothless, and slowed to a sub-pubcrawl
--just the type, immortality's mortal bouncer,
to i.d. the gaggle at Parnassus Gate--
I seem to hear how, guarding the lowest stair,
he mutters in his despondency (his, truly,
having kept his lost promise all these years),
"'Irving Feldman,' huh? Just another pretty name."
© 2018 Irving Feldman
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