Monthly Archives: September 2012

Ode to Bob Dylan

Corrugated like words
in the strangely mounded night,
catching us in your rough headlights,
your scorn like lead bullets,
you bought us all time.

Maybe if I had dengue fever
or was a hardshell unbeliever
I wouldn’t have given you a second thought–
with your hungry gypsy women
and your pointed shoes and your bells,
never pointing where true north is,
I would have let you pass by.

But out here in the desert
where the land is softly folded
your words from your new album suddenly cover the hills
like the illuminated manuscript of some mad saint
giving it a patina more refined
than the afternoon could manage on it’s own.

The Hills of Home

Dog Walk

Corgi dogs walk
the same way I think most days,
all jerky and wiggly
with only an approximate direction,
waggling from one distraction
to the next–
a person,
a car with a person in it,
a person with another person,
a person with a dog,
a dog with a person,
a squirrel with a death wish,
a house with a person in front of it,
–like dropped bread crumbs,
really anything will serve
to lead a Corgi dog,
or a man,
around the ragged block
back to where he started.

–Burl Whitman

Getting Hucked

I worked all summer in Idaho
up around Cour d’Alene–
restaurant work,
feeding farmhands
and truckers, mostly.

Everybody was talking about,
crazy about huckleberries.
Huckleberry this, huckleberry that,
huckleberries in everything,
jam, pancakes, syrup, pies,
everything.

We had this joke–
walk into work in the morning,
you didn’t have to touch a counter or anything,
and there would be a big
huckleberry streak on your arm.
We called it getting hucked.

The hours were crazy,
seems like all I did was work
and watch the heat lightening
reflecting off the river at night.

I miss it somehow
in this Portland town.

–Burl Whitman

Bowling with Nixon

I always thought it would be fun
to bowl with President Nixon
in the basement of the White House.

You know, spot the old boy
a few frames,
watch that goofy grin
slide sideways
as I hook one into the pocket
on the last frame,
beat him by seven,
or even let him win
if I was feeling generous that day.

Maybe Pat would watch us,
clap, bring us a cold one,
laugh at his jokes.

Me and Tricky Dick–
basement bowling buddies.

I miss Mr. High Waisted Pants
with the pancake TV makeup
that could never cover
his sweaty upper lip,
telling us he wasn’t a crook.

Cheap thug, hack,
back stabbing, race baiting,
Jew hating,
whining narcissist politician,
sure.

But ol’ Dicky boy, my friend,
you were a fucking liberal choir boy
compared to the venal mafia dons
who run your party now.

Rest easy, Quaker Dick.
You were the last US President
who spent more on social programs
than on defense.

The “Abraham Lincoln of the American Indian,”
father of the EPA,
the Clean Air Act and Earth Day.

Lower your backswing
and keep your hand and wrist
at nine o’clock, old timer.
The Dude would be proud.

–Burl Whitman

Hometown

I can’t believe I’m still here
in this town where I grew up.
There is the ghost of the old high school
torn down and brooding
beneath a Starbucks and a vitamin store.

The trees I staked
in the park by the lake
have grown huge.
The light is somehow
different now–
maybe happier to shine on newer things,
than to help me illuminate
the gauzy white room of memory.

The cannery where I seamed
a briney river of green beans
into gleaming metal hides,
and the railroad tracks we marooned a jeep on.
The lake we skinny dipped in at night
under the uncurious stars.

They are all here
and they are not here.
And the same is true for you.
And the same is true for me.

–Burl Whitman

Jesus Had a Wife–No Duh

In the New York Times today — somebody found a 4th century papyrus fragment that says Jesus had a wife.

Well, no shit.

Who did he kiss repeatedly in front of the others?

Who was the only one who had the stones to stick by him all the way to the cross, to his burial and beyond?

Who saw him first as risen and was given instructions to tell the others?

Who pissed off the other apostles so much they eventually whined to Jesus about loving her more than them?

And his typically acerbic response:
“why do I not love you like her?”

Who so irritated and threatened Rome with her prominence that the 6th century pope Gregory declared her a prostitute?

Like they say, true love endures all things.

And if anybody knew true love when he saw it–and was a man in full–it was Jerusalem Slim.

–Burl Whitman