wintry cold sets in and freezes the ground solid like ice,
sometimes with a cover of snow until the city streets are
salted and turned gray to rivulets of slush, then frozen again,
slippery and treacherous like
presidential currents of power,
which since winter in america, january 2009,
are negotiated by a new winter swimmer
who suits up not to
swim the english channel
nor to circle around manhattan or out to alcatraz prison,
but, yes, to swim presidential waters where the barracuda are plenty
and beautiful jellies float with tentacles long and tenacious
in any and all kind of weather.
what manner of stroke will obama be able to bring to the tide
of frozen floes
what manner of flesh eater will find him spicy,
a special delight for dining
slow roasted or fried
bones to crush
a brain to poach
send in a better beggar
one less versed, less thinking
better trained in diplomacy,
more easily trumped.
these winters in america,
these seas so cold.
I’m walking around the streets at 5 a.m. all by my
like a damn dodo bird.
I woke up in the middle of the night just a few minutes
it’s hotter than hell and no breeze, dead quiet and dark too;
I heard it was a hundred degrees the other day.
had a fool’s letter on my desk;
the fool is me.
wrote the damn letter to some damn one who’s giving me
one damn problem.
you say you love me
but you act like
you don’t even kiss right.
at my forward tilt towards lips—
you swivel quick and
front a cheek.
can’t talk to you, no I can’t.
you’re always asking crazy questions
about what I like and what I feel.
be damned if I know (not on the spot).
I’m reflective by nature, a writer by trade.
so I wrote it all down—some of it—
and put it in this letter I’m writing about.
I told you I can’t always be poetic and have something
ready to say,
verbal repartee packaged and sharp
and all set to go whenever you start posing
that’s something I truly believe and I read it too
in a magazine
as coming from the mouth of charles bukowski,
poet: (the days run away like wild horses of the hills; and you do too).
bukowski put it in the way of a quote in an interview.
I plucked it first for my letter and now
for my poem.
if I ever meet the old boozer
I’ll thank him for it.
so just about 5 a.m. when it was hotter than hell
and there wasn’t no breeze,
I woke up
and I took that letter and put a stamp on it and
marched myself to the post-office before I had time
enough to do something sensible like open it up and get
embarrassed and throw it away.
damn. it’s so early that even
the 24-hour marketplace around the corner is empty.
a friend of mine, she told me that the real city starts
at 5 o’clock.
what happened today?
but my letter’s in the mail-box.
you’ll get it maybe today, maybe tomorrow.
I passed by 5 guys, they were walking along, jocose.
I said hello, good morning-good night, and cracked a joke.
they started laughing and we started to chat.
I wonder if you had been with me would I have found the joke?
would you have laughed?
be damned if I don’t feel silly having sent a love letter
to some one who lives only two blocks away.
you’re old enough to ought to understand
wonder what you think I am?
I hope my poem’s a best seller.
then I can talk about it on a talk show and
pass myself off as the star my kids think I am.
you may not love me,
but it’s literary.
— © charles martin