An Ode of Sorts

{Another “late find”. Just when we thought we had all existing pages of poetry under control, we found additional pages in Phil’s Fairhaven attic. As with most other items we have no idea about what point in his life this was written, but similar to his poem “Pails”,[https://rharding0728.wordpress.com/pails/] he recounts a number of life-phases that he remembers with rather mixed emotions and a sense of fatalism that made good ground for reflective metaphor. Hope you find it enjoyable.}

Raymond J. Harding

Pepperell, MA 01463

An Ode of Sorts

Somewhere between puberty and senility,

Something came unglued.

It seems there were a lot of things that happened.

Some of them, like breathing, eating, and making love,

Were nice.

Someone once told me that in the great card game of life,

God holds all the cards.

I looked around once and found

That He

Wasn’t

Even

In

The

Game

Down

At

the

Junkyard where they keep the chrome-plated

Symbols

Of yesterday’s dream-status,

Old Willie, the one-legged Ahab of the Detroit wailing fleet

Plies his long-shafted ratchet in search of the perfect part,

Submerged deep in a red, rust sea,

Long waiting for its resurrection.

Good Man, Willie!  Harpoon me a carburetor for a 1928

Worn out, worn down, screwed-up and degenerated

Humanoid-six.

That’s me, Willie; they don’t make ‘em like they used to,

In fact, they never did.

So, I put too much of my life looking at things

As if they were real.

Fame and fortune hung out on gossamer threads for me,

And I watched them sparkle with dew in an early morning sun

That was never really there.

Those thin threads were woven by spiders whose venom is in

The touch.

Be a poet, my father said.

Look at life through eyes that see

The beauty beyond the garbage.

He forgot to tell me how thick the garbage was.

Mother was more practical

Down-to-earth they used to call it.

Be a plumber, she said.

So I read Lanier

And he un-hinged my mind a little further

With his music and his visions

Fluting his way to immortality,

But then he was what lurked beneath the surface. . .

Boy, did I find things beneath the surface!

Better look there first

And maybe keep your sanity.

I remember Mary Ann Glynn

It was either a long time ago

Or very late last night

And I had taken Mary Ann Glynn to the senior prom,

A one-night bride on a lilac-choked evening.

We wander off into the sea-stars

And away from the music, playing—(any old song

That you can think of that will jog memories out of the

Dusty corners and fire off the neurons that bring back

Full moons, perfumed hair, warm, summer night air

And the salt smell of the sea.)

Somehow, we had wandered off to the edge of the world,

Hand in hot hand

Down to the edge of Sid’s Marsh

Where the great flood tide was filling the channels

In symbolic sex,

And we were somewhere near the spot

Where Jim Dickey wrestled his hammerhead to a draw,

And it was dark,

And when I tried to kiss Mary Ann Glynn,

All that I could see of her, and all I remember of her

Is the soft curve under her hair

Where the smooth, white skin of her neck

Blended into her shoulder

Because I was watching beyond her

At the strange lines traced on the surface of the water,

And the flash and the silver glimmer of something deeper,

Beyond the reach of the music,

Beyond scent,

Beyond memory,

Beyond anything that Mary Ann Glynn could do

For me,

Or to me,

Or with me,

And it frightened me.

So, I never looked very closely at Mary Ann Glynn,

Or perhaps I looked too closely,

But I never looked close enough at life, or love. . .

There is something deeper there,

And it frightens me.

An interruption now for exerpts from an address

To the 53rd graduating Class

Of the Berkshire Seminary for Young Men.

(BS for Young Men couldn’t afford a Kennedy, or a Nixon,

Or a Ford,

Or a Kissinger.

So they settled for the world’s greatest unpublished poet,

Elbert W.  who went to school with me and was the class wimp.

Elbert gave me permission to use this only because

I threatened to break his nose if he didn’t.)

“Do not read Poe!

Find yourself a good bottle of bourbon,

Stay up late at night fighting sleep,

Never play with talking crows,

Don’t bury your sister—don’t bury anybody,

In fact, until they’re dead.

(Don’t laugh, we do it all the time,

and no one seems to notice.)

Don’t date girls named Lenore,

And don’t visit old friends who live in cracked

houses.

Other than that, love well,

Do what you will,

And the world will be your oyster.”

(For what oysters are worth on today’s market!)

Now, as for me, I would like to have met

Old Edgar Allen Poet.

What should I have called you?

Would I have called you Ed?

Maybe Al?

I would have liked to call you friend.

We could have split the cost of a stand-up

Bourbon buffet,

Talked of dark-eyed houses whose windows reflect

Dark lakes,

And we could have swapped stories

Far into the night,

Of lost loves

And girls whose names were Lenore.

And keep in mind the old “Deliverance” Man

Delivered me right out of the 19th Century,

And helped ruin my senior prom.

Somewhere between “Shark’s Parlor” and Vinnie Lombardo

He left me wondering if he knew the answers.

All I ever had were the questions.

And somewhere between WW.II (The Big One!)

And all the small-scale shit that blossomed from it,

Like strange, sharp-smelling fungi,

That old devil, Walt Whitman took what was left of my soul,

Cataloged it, shoved it right in my face, and showed me my self.

Walter, Walter, where did we go wrong?

Well, me anyhow.

All you got was a little recognition

Measured against a lot of grief.

War, whores, and homosexuals,

They all hammered out a man

Too big for life,

And now I can’t shake you,

Or Sandburg, Or Frost,

Or. . .

You are the monkey on my back.

Heroin would be easier to shake!

I thought of you when I took that dead—end job.

I found a job

And a red Indian motorcycle

In a Detroit warehouse.

I tinkered the Indian together with a solar screwdriver,

And a rusty pair of pliers,

Headed east, picking up speed

All the way.

I blew by a pack of chopped Angels, west bound on I-80,

Wearing red bandanas under German helmets, and leather jackets

Emblazoned:

“If it ain’t a Harley, it ain’t shit!”  heading west,

Into the sunset.

Not me, mon ami, I’m east-bound all the way.

Gonna get up momentum for the leap of the century.

Needed more weight on the back of the saddle,

And I should have swung by Chicago to pick up the Swede,

But there was no way I was going to lose all that velocity now.

Going to be the great Lindburg leap!

Somewhere between Altoona and Philly, I got all the weight

I needed when I felt old Walt clawing into my leathers,

Yelling into my right ear:

“Screw Manhattan; go for Montauk!”

And while he chanted a litany of all the things

That had happened to Adam’s sons and daughter

Since the Fall,

We hit that ramp just right

For the big, quantum leap into obscurity,

Into that great, wide sea of things that used-to-be,

Me, Walt, and that old, red Indian.

I suppose, now, you think I’m bitter?

Hell, no!

Old Willie in that junkyard might still come up

With the parts I need,

Or God might just decide to sit in on one more game,

And deal up a decent hand

For a change.

If not,

Well, I’ll just pull my old, leaky sailboat

Out from under the wharf

Where it got jammed in the ’55 hurricane,

Set the worn, patched mainsail,

Run up the brand-new, American-made Genoa,

And sloop on out of Cape Cod Bay,

Slipping out past the in-coming draggers,

Counting their catch, counting their money,

Buying thin dreams with cold, hard cash.

Mine are more expensive,

And I don’t know the way to Bora  Bora,

But if the wind is right,

And the dreams keep faith with the memories,

It doesn’t matter. . .

Does it.

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A Prize Winning Poem…

My older daughter, Laura, won a Poetry prize last year and because of contest rules was not able to release it publicly until this year. It was released this year in the publication:  2014 Encore;  2014 Prize Poems of the National Federation of State Poetry Societies, Inc. She was awarded Second Place in Contest 17, the Indiana State Federation of Poetry Clubs Award.

It is proudly presented below.

 La Bonne Vie

The upstairs neighbors are bowling again

in their living room;

shaking up my ceiling lights

on Sunday afternoon.

They pole vault in the bedroom,

play polo in the bath,

and sometimes in the kitchen – run

a hundred yard dash.

Next door is karaoke, at a quarter after nine,

it echos in the air vent of the bedroom next to mine.

And down the hall a two-year-old

with big mischievous eyes

knocks on my door and tries to hide

from mother’s scolding cries.

Laura Tallen

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Congratulations, Laura. Hope you can send more writings to Off the Beaten Path.

Raymond C. Harding, Poetry From the 1960’s – 1963

We present here the first of three collection of poems by Ray C. Harding, containing 103 poems from 1963. They speak of a different time, when nature was still threatened by significant, if not fully understood, attempts of humans, to make nature serve the needs of mankind’s desires for a better way of life than what evolutionary change, left to its own devices, was presenting to their contemporary awareness. Fifty-two years have passed and still we deny the effects of human involvement in the crisis of environmental change. The simple poetry of his time continues to stir our uneasiness.

His poems portray a life-long love of things natural, especially of birds, Cape Cod, Massachusetts, and a first generation pride in his Irish heritage, although he deferred making that a prominent display in his social activities. We, his children, however, (speaking only for myself) have absorbed, if unwittingly, a quiet and respectful, love of things Irish and a certain curiosity regarding the comings and goings of the Hardings of County Cork, Ireland in the 18th and 19th century.

We have two more collections of Ray ‘s poems to offer in the near future. We sincerely hope that you find these offerings both pleasant and inspiring, as that is what poetry, and Ray’s efforts, are all about .

An Excerpt from Raymond C. Harding, Poetry from the 1960’s

[With apologies for any Gaelic misspellings – neither Ray C (my faher), nor I would be likely to discover an error – although, thanks to several Irish friends, I was familiar with Tir na nOg and was able to correct it. rdh.]

See more at today’s blog entry: Off the Beaten Path: go to Menu, Home Family Literary Corner Ray C. Harding Poetry from the 1960’s

LAMENT FOR ANCIENTS

If I should go to Innisfail

Where now would I find them,

The Ancient Ones of Clan no Gael,

The names they left behind them.

Who would point to Connor’s cairn

Or Dermid’s resting place,

Cuchulain’s bed, the mighty Braun –

Where Fergus fell from grace?

Niall, Conn, The cisian band

And the paths they used to tred.

The Ancient Groves of old Eraun,

The fierce old Irish dead.*

Donald, Neesa, Con Mac Ort,

Ferdiad, the Red Branch Knights

Who from Uladh did depart

To Tir na nOg land of delights.

Is There never more a trace?

Where do their cromlechs stand

To mark the places of this race,

The warrior kings of Eire’s land.

  • Line from “The Call”, Daniel Corkery, Prof. Cork Univ. 1878
    Lament for Ancients P2.

Lives there a ghost of Feis Temair,

Mocha, and the old plains of Down?

The races are run at Taillte Fair?

Athletes of renown.

Who sings of Cairbre, Osear now

Oisin’s lament recaled to toll

Who speaks the fierce old Finian vow

That no son of Fien should suffer in hell.

I’ll never get to Innisfail

To tread the olden sod

I’ll leave the land of Tir Cormail

To Maunan Tir and God.

2/3/1963