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.
The tropical, vast, velvet, star-struck dark.
The surf, black to white, against the sea wall.
San Juan. Between Christmas and Epiphany.
The Casino's creamy, moonlit premises
--Spanish tile, marble, marquetry, high wooden beams.
And here the august Academy has convened.
On the swept parquet (where last night's happy hundred
debutantes salsa'd the sun up from the sea)
are forty folding chairs (metal, gray) on which
are old friends, the old wife, old lovers of
the old poet, the lone inductee, standing on
a little, low stage--Don Ernesto Pla, once
now abstracted by age to a shrunken gesture:
this last of the octogenarian magi
blinking, smiling in perplexity
at all the kingdoms lost along the way.
Easier to bring a dead man back to life
than make an old one young? But if he's not
rejuvenated, he seems juvenile, at least,
with that tremulous certificate he clutches,
a large, important, parchment report card,
its message from muses to mamas
saying, "Your little boy's doing just fine!"
--whose text, in full, is being cabled to
the Times of Jupiter and Saturn's Evening Post
and other shining capitals of heaven,
because, as everyone knows, knows too well,
the ceremony is pre-posthumous,
garnishing the florid necrology
with one sweet ultimate puff, one bloom, one blurb
to bear in hand up to Helicon's gate.
Her smooth brown hand poised above the ivories,
MarRa Vargas at the upright is ready.
Refugee three months from Castro's Cuba,
she's ardent, patriotic, eager
to pulverize the keys to divine confetti
in honor of her newfound home, her country.
Now from the sack of Uncle Santa's heart
she hurls down avalanches of Recessional,
pseudo snows of yesteryears that never were.
Thunderous tinkling riots there: it's "Jingle Bells"
rollicking so fast it's running out of sound
--as if ghostly herds of Bobtail rose from nightmares
of knackers, and ran ran ran in the traces!
Now here's a pretty kettle of kitsches
--all bubbling along with evident good humor,
while inducing moral motion sickness.
Everyone's getting a little queasy
from all this heartfelt inauthenticity.
It's so provincial, really--so colonial!
It's embarrassing, it's disheartening
to see the here-and-now is, here and now, nowhere,
not for real, doesn't count, unless, until
the Eagle's lime comes down and whites it out
in whirling blizzards of his being there and then.
Oh, but at this killing tempo, even
the piano's begging to have a heart attack.
Stop her, stop her! everyone wishes.
Maria's indefatigable, oblivious.
But look at Don Ernesto now--he's dancing!
Oh, it's not the tedious Eternity Mambo.
And it's not the sad Mortality Tango.
It's something else, something else entirely!
--something grotesque, perhaps, no, uncanny,
a halting hop, sort of, a hopping shrug,
or lurching shuffle, a kind of stumble upward,
as if, thigh-deep, sinking, he fought huge billows
of this jolly white plague of musical sewage
--up there, in New York, treated as "camp," surely,
and yet on him descending here in all
the fury of its raw banality!
No. Don Ernesto Pla does not break down.
Not in helpless weeping, or hopeless laughter.
He goes on being faithful to the farce,
in courtesy to Maria, to everyone,
granting as a grace what his moral weight
--his mortal history, his life lived out to be
this decay, this dying--rebels against.
Yes, he goes along with the music, he does more,
inventing the dodder-dance-and-stumble-walk
that keeps overcoming its own refusals
down the little staircase's six enormous steps
one by one by one by one, not swept away
but giving chase very slowly--until
then and there on the snowy parquet before
his white-haired cohort Don Ernesto catches up.
He reins in Maria's runaway piano.
He silences the tumultuous black box,
the hissing runners and muffled hooves
right at the black and crumbling brink
--silence the audience crushes between its palms,
then lets fly up toward the rafters, and up
and up to the heavens significant with stars.
© 2019 Irving Feldman
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