Forthcoming books Reflections

Sorting Poems by Candlelight

It feels corny to invest in the analog to this degree, but if I am being honest, it is also a relief…

By Abram Shalom Himelstein, editor-in-chief

With poets, the process is always part of making the book. It’s rare that we get a Word document, and then it moves like the flow chart indicates, smoothly onto the page of a printed book. There are always detours, and usually the book is richer for those turns. 

But with Moose, there is ramble as process. First there is the motorcycle arrival of Moose (Raymond Moose Jackson) carrying an old manila folder of pages that are typed. Followed by dog walks through the Carnival fog, both of us curmudgeonly avoiding an actual foot parade during COVID times. We are oldsters working on books about the joys of Carnival, and so we step onto the grass and glower at the costumed jubilants over our medical masks.  

And, as luck would have it, I have taken to doing my own writing by candlelight after Simone’s bedtime is accomplished. So I slide Moose’s poems onto Simone’s homeschool spot, light the candles, and dive in. It feels corny to invest in the analog to this degree, but if I am being honest, it is also a relief to have something to hold and to sort by candlelight. And just as I start to laugh at myself, of course, a poem will capture me.

In the case of “the knickerbocker,” Moose’s meditation on friendship and aging, the words will grab me and not turn me loose, even all of these months later:

the knickerbocker
for Sascha DuBrul

riding north; the knickerbocker
a rocker on the rails
smooth sailing
out upon the sunny hudson
again enroute to rendezvous with you, old friend
my rootstock, my seed-gatherer; your
crazywise eyes, barrelchested hugs
the shock of your hair
still punk rock after all these years
to see you here in the functioning land
to feel your hand on my shoulder
though we're getting older
we remember the smell of madness
together and apart
to still be alive and still have hearts
which beat fierce
and true to the wild
spirits which drove us out and beyond
in the first place
to have guardians of the memory
of our former faces
this is the treasure which cannot find its measure
in our current currencies

the economies of making a killin' 
might work for them white collar villains
but we came here to make a livin'

so rosin the bow and wash off the hoe
cuz its farmer's night at the pub
and the kids clean up real nice so as 
to rub elbows with the old guys 
while the grub keeps getting better
and we now talk more about the weather
than any semantics of our anarchy

and when i think of all the antics 
we perpetrated on unsuspecting society
i gotta laugh, gotta holler
hooray for the riff-raff
i hope all the new blackcollars learn
to sing along, cuz its a long song
and if you want to stay strong
it takes a sense of humor

i think i can safely say that
we made it to this day because
we were interested in much more than survival

so many of our people never make this arrival
go insane or fall off the train
before it ever pulls into station

we know our destination 
is and will still be
a little further down the road, so
what will we say to these 
greenhaired youngbloods
treadin' in our old tracks, other than
to make them deep and clear enough
that they're intrigued to follow?
even st. ignatius grew sagacious
by the artful mimicry of holy heroes
so do you suppose as this knickerbocker
expresses by steam and whistles that 
it's ready again to be underway 
we can hope for tomorrow's seeds
to sprout 
in these 
our fertile valleys?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s