I’ve a friend by the name of Seth Haines. He’s a good man, and an equally good poet. He recently submitted this poem to Ruminate Magazine’s poetry contest. It wasn’t selected, which is the risk we poets take when we enter such contests, we’re aware of that, and we keep on entering anyway. But it ticked me off that this poem didn’t make the cut, because I believe its a fine poem. Had I been the judge for that contest, I would have chosen it. And so you know, I am posting this of my own free will, nobody’s twisting my arm, I’m not sure they could if they wanted to. No, I’ve no desire to be some sour graper, but rather a sweet reminder-er to us all that some of the best poetry being written these days is not winning contests or going viral schmiral all over creation. Keep at it, Seth. Ruminate missed a winner with this one.
He asked for the third time who organized this dinner,
who scheduled its courses of salad, the pizza
with whole basil leaves; who’d ever seen pizza
with whole leaves of basil? This He asked
for the third time.
His thumb and forefinger held a tremoring fork;
the back of his hand shivered, even in the blanket
of April’s warm humidity. Skin thin as purple onion peel
stretched over bird bones, everything forgetful of youth—
this is the way all men grow into dust.
It was his son we were celebrating, I said.
He’s a good boy, he said, then asked again
who it was that organized this pizza with
the whole leaves of basil, the courses.
The man with the long hair, I said into his ear;
he smiled, said the man must be a good man.
He was a fisherman in his younger days,
he said this automatically, as if reading
the pages of his autobiography, or a stop sign.
There were redfish, snapper, flounder.
There were cabins and bars, big times
with small women from town smelling of slime.
There was his son, on occasion. A good boy,
this John. He was proud this good boy,
now a man who’d organized this dinner.
The waiter brought a third course—
ice cream, vanilla laced with lavender.
Spoon to mouth, he closed his eyes
and drifted past Matamoros and into the Gulf.
Smiling, he leaned over and said in my ear,
this is the stuff. His hand to my knee,
he thanked me, called me son,
then with the eyes of a cooing baby,
Who organized this dinner,
he asked again. Your son, I said,
and he nodded, knowing, or unknowing,
but proud again, five times over.