Three Poems by Randall Watson

Issue 91

Found in Willow Springs 91

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The Future of Nostalgia



Not your town but a town
by the sea, a little village, maybe, named
Clean or Bay Shore or

No Famine.

You’re a stranger there.

It’s raining it’s snowing it’s very hot.

You find it intolerable
though the people seem friendly.

A couple of clammers drink beer
in a flat-bottomed Sharpie.

The lineman for Suffolk Lighting
checks his tool box.

You’re eating a Happy Meal and yes, you’re happy,
that’s the point, isn’t it,

you’re a child,

a rank but comforting breeze
eases in off the bay,

the white belly of a dead blowfish bobs
sunward in the shallow end
where the short canal stops at the highway.

Morning, of course, is beautifully inhabited,
which is how it should be

3 kids in their mid-teens
race on stolen bicycles across the bridge,
a red tick settling into the groin or armpit or clutching
the hair of an eyebrow.

A street sign says: Stop.

A t-shirt says: Cui Bono.

And night—
like a big indigo berry
that began as an umbrel of poisonous white flowers—
is predictably dark.

It’s scary.

The unemployed hunch over their shot-glasses and darts
cursing the rich while wanting to be them.

The shuffleboard’s long narrow planks
fleck with sawdust.

A painted umbrella waits
to open.

It’s like a gift card with sound.

The ping-ping-ping of the wind chimes
from the restaurant next door
bubble over

each note as small and green and sour
as a strawberry that will swell and ripen
when spring ends
and the summer says ha.

And you’ve never liked that music before.


Little League



When I was ten, playing baseball for one of those leagues where the teams are

sponsored by banks and beer distributors

and the colors seem, repetitively, Celtic green, though not, I think, some sly,

symbolic invocation of ancestral pride

but simply a bright and pretty color—


our pitcher, Bobby, I will call him, southpaw, black, his fastball tailing away

from so much righthandedness, was good,

and we were in first place, at that time, ‘66, all that mattered,

pitcher and catcher bound, not just by effort or desire,

but linked in an orbit of speed and motion, a joy that moved, untroubled by

the world, naïve, immediate—


and one night I invited Bobby over to my house, my neat little segregated

neighborhood, with Jews and Catholics and depressed atheists you could identify

by the hazard of their uncut lawns, as though the landscape

were a kind of metaphysic—


and I recall the blend of excitement and unease I felt, a tension that went

almost unnoted, when he and his mother, who was somewhat large and old

and nearly gray,

pulled up in what must have been a car from the 40's, the lines of its hood

and fenders and roof all beautifully rounded—


and though I can't imagine now what it must have been like for him, just eleven

and black,

with all those white people standing at the door and smiling, my mother, my sister,

me, one thread-worn azalea on each side of the stoop, the front grass deep

in oak-tuft and maple, still bright from recent falling--


I think we were happy, glad to be there, shy, open, as boys are, or can be,

uncluttered, and we spent the night flipping baseball cards, matching

and mismatching sides, as called, the faces poised at the edge of action,

pitchers in mid-windup, batters peering out at us as though we hurried,

dangerously, spinning toward them,

the next day passing unmindful and content and curious, the world united

in its flush and blossom—


until a few weeks later someone complained to the league office, that Bobby,

it seemed, was born three days too late or early, and according to their


red Mars casting its martial shadow across the path of Venus, he was too old

to play in the minors,


so they moved him, forcibly, mid-season, by rule and fiat, to another team,

which is when I learned what laws were made to do to those who hadn’t made them,

and the world became, in a day, more dense and weighted, as though summer

had thickened into a shadow

no one could pass through.


After that, after the tears and objections, the vague tribunal of league officials,

we would go, almost the whole team at first, the Sadowskis and Kramers and

Engelhardts and Jones,

to watch Bobby play, first baseman now, as the coach's son was a pitcher,


but eventually everything just went away,

disappeared, it seemed, into the oncoming heat of summer, the season’s end,

the way things can, and do, sometimes for good,

though who can hardly tell for sure,

and for me it all became a kind of vague regret and choler in the climax

of August,

a scar on a part of the body you cannot see

unless you try to,


until years later, in High School, when we met again—

blacks, whites, Bobby, me, recognizable, glad,

parked in our cars by the Great South Bay,

playing Clapton and Hendrix and Herbie Hancock on our eight-tracks,

smoking dope and drinking, and listening to Ralph Rivera tell us all

about this book by a guy named Castaneda,

who we had not read,

and how he'd learned the arts, Ralph said, passing the joint to the person

beside him, of another world,

where a man might forget his body and rise, unfettered, into freedom and power,

accompanied, depending

on the character of his soul, the depth of his wisdom,

by the dark, shimmering, light-filled, knowing

body of the crow.


Losing the Self


It happens. Is happening. All the time.


Ask the young couple who’ve just returned from their honeymoon in


shaking their suitcases out above the white sheet they’ve spread

on the hardwood floor of their new townhome.




Or the widow, just after Church, Easter, 2004, who’s convinced it’s somewhere,

the place that only exists if you never find it,


her truck just sitting there, week after week, grazing the driveway, adjusting

its shadow.


One day you wake up, your bowl filled with Kashi or cranberries, wrinkled

as wet walnuts,


and sense it, roaming the maze of the body, seeking an outlet,

rushing to your feet when you stand up, to your head


when you bend down to handsweep

a broken decanter.


Suddenly you’re anyone.


One minute it’s that boy trapped in a perpetual loop reciting the poems of

extinct insects,

another it’s the golden-haired botanist growing orchids in a swamp,


and yesterday you were that girl no one taught about measure.

It was sunny.


Just this morning, for instance, for about 3 hours, you were your neighbor,

20 lbs. overweight and balding, recently divorced,


dancing slowly, happily upon his porch, embracing the emptiness,

gazing coyly into her sunglasses,

whispering to God.


You recall it quite clearly.


Or someone does.


A small iridescent butterfly

clinging to the vine of the climbing jasmine,

which freshens the air,


a male grackle perched on an old antenna,

planted, like a winterized maple,

in the lawn.

3 thoughts on “Three Poems by Randall Watson”

  1. Enjoyed these poems as they seem to capture the essence of everyday life.
    But mostly I enjoyed the voice of my friend reciting them.
    Bravo friend!!


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