Gary Walton

 

 

 

(USA)

 

 

 

 

Wasting my time

 

I’m not sure if I’ve been wasting my time

But time has sure laid waste to me;

I suspect that my home has poor feng shui

By the way I feel absurd most of the day,

 

Yet the living room is not full of stop signs

Or tiger pits, nor is the foyer festooned with

Dear John letters or suicide notes;

Perhaps I feel dismayed by the frequency

 

I see my father’s face in the bathroom mirror

While shaving—how his moustache has turned white

While his hair has thinned to that of a dandelion

Just before an evening’s breath makes it

 

Disappear altogether—then again, I think

I am grumpy because the mosquitoes don’t care

If I am lonely or fear oblivion like all the billions

Who have come before me and were forced to

 

Leave like so many uninvited guests at a wedding—

The bugs bite anyway, with abandon, and I wonder

Are their hypodermic proboscises infected? Bird flu?

Swine flu? Donkey flu? Will I swoon with West Nile

 

Fever? Is that rash on my shoulder something worse

Or nothing at all? Will I succumb to acid reflux?

But nothing is what this moment is not—and that is

Something—like the pleasure of a plum at perfect

 

Ripeness or a lover under the covers when the room is black

And both of you have to see with only lips and fingers—

That too is not nothing and worth a moment to mull

Over in the mind—before slipping backward toward

 

Worry, or worse, ennui….

 

 

The Filthy Snow

 

Today, the snow is falling

               Heavily, like asbestos from

                              A demolition site—think of the ones

 

In Detroit whose bones are picked

               Apart and shipped over seas

                              While the workers stand idly by,

 

Weeping; huge piles smother the

               Brown winter grass, hide the red

                              Rust on the used Japanese cars

 

Abandoned along the city street.

               School has been cancelled; the

                              Roads impassable; our town is stuck

 

In sudden climactic dysfunction.

               Thus, I am home stymied in my

                              Own forward movement, observing

 

The world from behind my blinds,

               Remembering a similar storm

                              Long ago when I was away from

 

Home, on the road, a musician,

               Traveling with a famous doo-wop band

                              Whose legacy of hit recordings and film

 

Kept them working long after their

               Moment had passed—still, show

                              Business, like each newly falling

 

Flake, held a certain delight in its

               Sheer novelty, bright and slick and

                              Cool, each footfall making an imprint

 

And progress could be measured

               Through the receding tumbled drifts

                              And sudden ruffling gusts of fortune—

 

In Montreal during a blizzard,

               My French was as bad as the weather;

                              Mon Dieu! Quel imbécile j’étais ignorate;

 

In that very European, North American city

               Men and Women wore matching full-length

                              Furs and hats of mink, drank Cognac in snifters;

 

Some bathed in a heated pool, uncovered,

               Observing the stars on the hotel roof,

                              Steam rising like pure souls to heaven

 

But their bodies luxuriated in the soft

               Intoxication of the mist—what was weather

                              To a people so full of joie de vivre?

 

Life was grand and unsullied

               Like la nouvelle neige that

                              Now engulfs my garden Hotei Buddah;

 

But I cannot keep that pristine vision—

               Soon, I find my mind slipping like a

                              Foolish pedestrian on an icy sidewalk

 

Into an imprecise allusion to Jimmy

               Joyce’s “Dead” and I too feel the clutch

                              Of vague dread as the flakes fall through

 

The universe covering every leaf and

               Branch and blade and grain of asphalt

                              As they descend like the last end of us all;

 

And even now, as I watch, the virgin

               Ice is already collecting bits of black

                              Ash and motes of other dark confetti

 

Confirming that, without warning, like

               A sudden Nor’easter, we too will be

                              Quieted under the weight of the

 

Filthy, filthy, snow.

 

 

 

 

Doing the chores: Sex and Laundry

 

It is Tuesday, a week day, a

               Weak day, cloudy and not the

 

Sabbath, a work day and alas

               Laundry day and she feels as if

 

She has just washed the clothes,

               Yesterday,

 

But that bit of impedimenta was

               Last Monday already and the days

 

Whiz by like amusement park diverssement,

               Blurring images and faces as in a

 

House of mirrors made of foil or

               Like the skyline from atop a tilt-

 

o-whirl and she wonders what the

               World will be like at the end of

 

The ride when the gears grind

               To a full stop—and she imagines

 

An old hag on a gurney covered

               In a dull green cotton gown, a

 

Pale preview of her own final cerements

               And she thinks “I will be that she,

 

Looking over the edge at what there

               Is to see and wondering if Freud

 

Was right, if it all, all of ‘it,’ was about

               sex—though sometimes

 

It was hidden in brute disguises,

               Sometimes in subtle sentimental

 

Costumes to veil the true pedestrian

               Character of the ultimate affair—.”

 

How daunting to realize all of the

               Music, dancing, high-minded rhetoric

 

Much less the dinners, the intrigues,

               The subterfuges were merely to get the

 

Next generation born—are we, then, just so many

               Rutting fools, clowns to nature, harlequins

 

Stumbling along a prescribed quotidian sojourn?

               Such paltry musing is scant comfort

 

When she must dip her hands in

               The frothy water, to once again squeeze

 

Out the dirt, to refresh the act for

               One more performance. Then, for an

 

Instant, she wishes she could dive in the tub

               And drown her past, wash her worries

 

Like the Kajol from her eyes, wipe her mind

               Clean like lipstick from his shirt collar

 

And rise again as if baptized into a world

               Made anew: bleached white and wrinkle free.

 

 

 

 

Cut to: Slow Dissolve

 

My house is filthy;

The furniture covered

In a fine gray mist of….

 

I read once

That house dust is

Largely flakes of human

Skin sloughed off like

Tiny bits of snake hide;

 

If so, my yesterdays are

Piling around me in a

Disturbingly thick detritus—

 

Perhaps, that is why I

Am reluctant to clean;

I can’t bear to give up my past

Which has of late become so much

Greater than any possible mortal future;

 

My rooms wear me like a memory

And it’s humbling to think that all

My fuss and pain, in the end, will

Be disposed of as efficiently as

A good suck from a long handled

Hoover.

 

 

 

 

Complaining to Death

 

“By the way—you look fantastic in your boots of Chinese plastic.”

—    Chrissy Hynde

 

Melissa Moon sat down for the interview

               In a small café located in an indifferent

                              Part of town—already Christmas displays

 

Had invaded the shelves of stores though

               It was still late October—“Should one say

                              Merry Christmas…”Ms. Moon opined while

 

Lighting up a black and brown twisted cheroot

               To the frowns of slack-faced on-lookers, “when

                              One hasn’t even begun to Trick-or-treat? My

 

God, Thanksgiving! Think of that!” she said,

               As she forced blue-gray smoke through her

                              Pursed lips making an ephemeral filigree in

 

The still air—then after ordering a soup and

               Campari with ice, the author looked around

                              At the tables and then the street with dismay.

 

“I think complaining has become

               My métier,” she said, without blinking, “a

                              Way of being in the world—not much we can

 

Do to change anything, though—and even if

               We could change the government or even

                              People’s minds there is still death to contend

 

With—and…” she said sighing, “worse

               Decrepitude—that slow painful waiting and

                              Wasting away into superfluity and oblivion….”

 

Here she stopped and strummed her fingers

               On the Formica table top as if pausing for

                              A distant tune to return to her memory—

 

“…and now look,” she said, pointing with

               The burning tip of her tiny cigar, “my soup

                              Is cold and my ice has melted—it’s maddening

 

 

To be constantly victimized by this incessant

               Entropy—when, Mon Cher, is enough, finally, Enough!”

                              “Merry Christmas,” she said to one

 

Of the carved pumpkins sitting in the window,

               As she stood up and walked briskly to the

                              Sidewalk, leaving her companion completely

 

Nonplussed watching the heels of her boots strike

               The concrete with a delicate feminine defiance

                              That sent tiny sparks into the growing dusk,

 

Barely illuminating that delicate moment

               Before the streetlights blink on and

                              The city’s mood shifts from taupe to mauve.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

____________________________________________

 

Gary Walton was born in Covington, Kentucky and grew up in Fort Thomas, Kentucky. He received his B.A. from Northern Kentucky University in 1981. He studied writing and publishing at the University of South Dakota then moved to Washington D.C. receiving a Master of Philosophy degree in American Literature in 1985 from the George Washington University and a Ph.D. in International Modernism in 1991. His areas of special interest are Twentieth-Century American Literature, the Irish Literary Renaissance and International Modernism. His dissertation was a poststructuralist comparative study of James Joyce’s Ulysses and the fiction of Donald Barthelme.

 

He has published stories, poems, non-fiction and letters widely, including in such diverse publications as The Washington Post, The Baltimore Sun, Black Mountain II Review, The Wooster Review, Black Buzzard Review, Slipstream, Pacific Coast Journal, Paper Bag, The Kentucky Philological Review, Journal of Kentucky Studies, California State Poetry Quarterly, The Cincinnati Poetry Review, The GW Review, Flights Magazine, Incliner, Dream Weaver, Chaffin Review, Inscape, et. al. His work has been reviewed in The Cincinnati Post, The Kentucky Post, The Small Press Review, The Kentucky Philological Review, Everybody’s News, Pacific Coast Journal, et. al.

 

His first chapbook of poetry is called The Sweetest Song (Peapod Press, 1988). His second, called Cobwebs and Chimeras was published by Red Dancefloor Press in the spring of 1995. It was chosen as a “March Pick” by The Small Press Review in 1997. The Newk Phillips Papers, his first book of collected short fiction, was published in the winter of 1995. In 1994 and 1995, Walton was nominated for the Pushcart prize. Effervescent Softsell his third book of poetry was published by Red Dancefloor Press in 1997. The Millennium Reel, his fourth book of poetry was published by Finishing Line Press in 2003. In 2008, Full Moon: The Melissa Moon Poems (Finishing Line Press, 2007) was nominated for a Kentucky Literary Award. His novel about Newport, Kentucky in its heyday as a gambling Mecca: Prince of Sin City was published by Finishing Line Press in 2009. His new book of poetry Eschatology Escadrille: Elegies and Other Memorabilia was published by Finishing Line Press in 2013. In 2010, he was voted Third Place: “Best Local Author” Best of Cincinnati 2010 issue in City Beat magazine.

 

Walton has taught writing and literature at The George Washington University, The University of South Dakota, The University of Cincinnati, and Northern Kentucky University. He has also worked as an editor for the United States Coast Guard and several literary journals including Clifton Magazine, The Vermillion Literary Project and The Kentucky Philological Review. He is Editor of The Journal of Kentucky Studies.

 

He has written and produced radio plays for the Radio Repertory Company of Cincinnati. Currently, he is an assistant professor at NKU where he continues to write poetry, fiction, plays, and essays as well as teach writing and literature.

 

For more information and a representative sample of reviews visit Dr. Walton’s website at

www.nku.edu/~waltong

 

or e-mail him at

waltong@nku.edu.

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