Earl

This is a poem by Louis Jenkins, an overlooked prose-poet from Minnesota. I really enjoy his deceptively light style. It’s like biting into a marshmallow only to discover there’s a peanut inside, and then after trying a few more discovering that you really REALLY like marshmallow covered peanuts.

Anyway, this is one of my favorites of his. It’s from the collection North of the Cities and is exactly the kind of poem I wish I had received from the Muse.

Earl

In Sitka, because they are fond of them,
People have named the seals. Every seal
is named Earl because they are killed one
after another by the orca, the killer
whale; seal bodies tossed left and right
into the air. “At least he didn’t get
Earl,” someone says. And sure enough,
after a time, that same friendly,
bewhiskered face bobs to the surface.
It’s Earl again. Well, how else are you
to live except by denial, by some
palatable fiction, some little song to
sing while the inevitable, the black and
white blindsiding fact, comes hurtling
toward you out of the deep?

I’m a Loner, Dottie. A Rebel.

A lone beach chair looks odd.
Maybe not to the real ones,
The Philosophers,
Homer and Hemingway and Arnold
Who gaze across the sea
(Never at, or into, or over)
Always skimming across the surface like
The perfectly smooth, triangle shaped rock
My grandfather could always find.

The Philosopher-King gazes across this sea
In his lone beach chair
Sipping bourbon or sweet tobacco
Or tobacco soaked in bourbon
Or bourbon with sweet tobacco notes.
But for most of us,
The mortal men,
It must always be two
Lonely for a lazy matinee.

What Hallmark calls true love
Therapists call co-dependency
St. Paul the Snide reserves it
Only for those so inebriated by
Their own loins that no other solution
Can be morally justifiable,
The cartoon wolf whose eyes
Ratchet out of socket
Heart lunging towards the nurse.

A kayak is for the true loner, the 21st century man
Who must arrive at his own invented adventures
But certainly he has to know of
Roads, Bridges and Rental Cars
Or Faster, Easier Means of
Stillwater transportation
Or, at the very least,
That a canoe gives you someone else to talk to
And an extra set of arms to be conned in to rowing.