Sunday, August 1, 2010

Michael Estabrook

Just doing His Job

I used to wonder if Johnny
and Lois would ever get back together
after his second marriage became
all fucked-up.
I wondered if John would want
his girl back again,
the sweet little thing he fell in love with
when he was only 17.

I remember he glued her photo
onto the dash of his shiny, new GTO.
I remember him on her heels
like a guard dog through
the high school halls
ensuring no other guy would touch her
or even look at her.
I remember talking him down
after her inspection at
the gynecologist’s, saying,
“He’s a doctor, John, for Christ’s sake,
a doctor, he’s just doing his job,
what’s all the fuss about?”

I couldn’t understand why
such a thing would bother him.
But now, strangely,
after all these years have passed,
I find myself jealous and possessive
over my wife’s visits to her doctor.
Seems no matter what she goes
to see him for, he needs to be poking her
and feeling her in places
that should be reserved only for me.
I mean, he’s a guy isn't he?
and she’s still a beautiful woman.
The things these doctors get away with!
Funny to hear her say to me,
“He’s a doctor, Mike, for Christ’s sake,
a doctor, he’s just doing his job,
what’s all the fuss about?”

Landscapes, Plumbers, And Electricians

Six years and hundreds of workouts
with my Kung Fu instructor
and his students: tough guys all,
carpenters, roofers, car mechanics,
landscapers, plumbers, and electricians.
Endless kicking, punching, blocking,
speed exercises and precise controlled forms,
push-ups, sit-ups, leg raises,
panther walks and frog hops back and forth,
back and forth, back and forth
across the hard school floor.
All this sweat and strain and pain,
getting wacked in the mouth,
my hands and forearms swollen, black and blue,
my shins throbbing. (“How can you kick that bag
so hard with only your shin?”)
And all this essentially for my wife,
to protect her should the occasion arise.
And I just found out
that she never thought all that much
of my Kung Fu practice,
wasn’t impressed which of course I wanted her to be.
She thought it was low class and beneath me.
But well, in this modern world,
it turned out to be
the only manly thing I got to do.

Philip Larkin

Friday evening resting in the family room,
the television off, quiet in here for a change,
only the rush of cars
speeding along High Street,
heading home for the weekend.
“Boy, do I ever need this weekend,”
I said to Bob over lunch –
turkey and cheese sandwich, a small container
of fresh blueberries. “Me too,” he responded.

Sitting home now my feet up on the coffee table,
book propped on my lapdesk on a pillow on my lap,
reading about Philip Larkin.
I have his “Collected Poems” downstairs
in my library, but am not that familiar
with his work, so I’ll read some soon.
Anyway, at one time he was very popular
in England , but after he died his personality
got in the way: “racism, misogyny,
and quasi-fascist views.” So now he sits
alone and lonely in clouds of dust on the bookshelf.
But I don’t know about all that,
I guess I need to read him to learn more
and make up my own mind because after all,
as Martin Amis reminds us, “only the poem matters.”
Yes, yes indeed, only the poem.

Simply Eating Her Salad

Sometimes I become completely overwhelmed
by merely being in her presence,
my chest tightening, heart racing,
like when I was a teenager and first
fell in love with her, helplessly, hopelessly.

Like this afternoon
at McDonald’s with the grandchildren,
I became suddenly choked with emotion,
barely able to speak,
while simply watching her
sitting there eating her salad, quietly,
unassumingly, absorbed in a world of her own,
the most perfect creature I have ever seen.

I had to work at not crying,
(What a silly spectacle I would have been.)
dabbing at my eyes
with a crumpled McDonald’s napkin.
“Guess my eyes are watering
because it’s so cold outside.”
(Sure, nice try, you silly old man.)

I can understand being so smitten
when you first fall in love – how can you help it!
The beauty, the youth, the vigor and vitality,
the inescapable mystery of it all,
crashing over you like an avalanche in the Alps .
But come on! I’ve been at this now a long time,
with this woman almost half a century!
How could it be possible
that I still get all choked up watching her
sitting there simply eating her salad?

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