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Transcript of List Poems
How I Knew Harold*
Around 1981 we run into your old girlfriend on an elevator.
She's wearing black leather pants and a tank top. She asks how I like New York. We are all sweating bullets. I want to say it sucks, but the doors open and she is gone. We miss our floor.
Around 1953 Mom tells the family she's pregnant. My brother
bounces around the living room with a pillow on his head wailing "it will change our whole lives!" This story is recounted each year around my birthday.
Around 1978 I leave home to move in with Jack. Dad and I are
standing in the driveway. They don't want me to go. He's Jewish. Mom packs ham sandwhiches and slips me two twenties. I move back in three months.
Around 1979 my friend Sandy plays taps at a funeral gig, so I go
along. I walk up to the casket in my boots and fur jacket. I'm checking out the deceased when a woman grabs my elbow. She wants to know how I knew Harold.
After completing Mrs. Ellis's heuristic, write your own list poem in your writer's notebook.
People Who Died
Pat Dugan...my grandfather...throat cancer...1947.
Ed Berrigan...my dad...1958.
Dickie Budlong...my best friend Brucie's big brother, when
five to eight...killed in Korea, 1953.
Red O'Sullivan...hockey star & cross-country runner
who sat at my lunch table
in High School...car crash...1954.
Jimmy "Wah" Tierman...my friend, in High School,
Football & Hockey All-State...car crash...1954.
Cisco Houston...died of cancer...1961.
Anne Kepler...my girl...killed by smoke-poisoning while
the flute at the Yonker's Children's Hospital
during a fire set by a 16 year old arsonist...1965.
Frank...Frank O'Hara...hit by a car on Fire Island, 1966.
Woody Guthrie...dead of Huntington's Chorea in 1968.
Neal...Neal Cassady...died of exposure, sleeping all night
in the rain by the RR tracks of Mexico...1969.
Franny Winston...just a girl...totalled her car on the
Ann Arbor Freeway, returning
from the dentisst...Sept. 1969.
Jack...Jack Kerourac...died of drink & angry sickness...
My friends whose deaths have slowed my heart stay with me now.
Around 1972 my sister tells me and my parents she's gay. Dad
says it's unnatural and they start arguing. I keep quiet. Mom goes ito the kitchen to make sundaes.
Around 1962 my brother feels like scaring the hell out of me
and chases me around the house with a butcher knife. I hide behind Dad's suits. It smells like Old Spice.
Around 1963 Grandma gives me ten bucks for learing the times
Around 1957 Dad and I sing My Darlin'Clementine every
morning on the way to school.
Around 1968 Patty Bryant and I run out on the check at
Around 1964 Mom colors her hair--starts wearing eye
shadow and mascara. She's standing over a steaming sink in a pale green mohair singing "Edelweiss." She looks absolutely radiant.
(*with thanks to Terence Winch)
My mother, the first kiss, red cheek and rubbery nipple
and breast soft as my own,
And my dad with his tickle-face prickle I'd wait for at dusk
And Timmy Arno, smelling of mushroom and soap who
couldn't find my lips,
and Mark Hampell. At 14, sweet Mark. His lips a bolt
through my belly, a shorted-out wire humming with
sparklers. I kept my eyes closed and cried afterwards--
Then those awful dates with boys whose faces have
vanished. Laughter and sighs in the back seats of souped-up Chevys and Hondas...