Thursday, July 5, 2018

The Cutoff Point


My old pal, Jim Jensen, recently told me that for a while
the receptionist at the beauty parlor his wife went to was
... Lorena Bobbit.

Yeah, that Lorena Bobbit.

I promised Jim I'd find the poem I wrote about her and
post it.


*

The Cutoff Point

While he was asleep, Lorena Bobbitt
Sliced off her husband’s penis, went
For a drive and then tossed it out the

Window like it was a flyer that she’d
Found under her windshield wiper
For teeth whitening or rug cleaning.

In court, Lorena claimed John Wayne
Bobbitt persistently denied her any
Orgasms. I’d hoped the fallout would

Be husbands with unsatisfied wives
Would overnight all become the most
Attentive lovers. No such luck.

*

“The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” was on
Then. I sensed that Robert MacNeil hated
This story & desperately wanted no part

Of it. But the following year, 1993, when
The verdict in this case was finally going
To be announced, MacNeil had to mention

This because the Bobbits had found a way
To become legitimately newsworthy. He
Did the wrap-up on world events and then

Brought up the end of this controversial
Trial. I wondered exactly how he would
Convey all of the sordid details. The wall

Behind MacNeil now was suddenly like this
Enormous dam with multiple visible cracks
And water beginning to leak out. Still, he

Single-handedly attempted to keep it in
Place and prevent the coarsening of the
Culture and harm to all things decent and

Proper. “Lorena Bobbitt was found not
Guilty of ‘malicious wounding’ against
Her husband for severing his … payniss.”

MacNeil elected to mispronounce the
Offending word to make it seem genteel.
But the dam broke anyway as cable TV

And talk radio and O.J and Fox News and
The internet would soon wash away all of
The decorum that PBS and their flagship

News show had fondly cherished. Looking
Back, it was inevitable but I now can see
MacNeil bravely trying to stop the tide like

Some Canuck King Canute and despite my
Mockery back then, I now salute MacNeil
For giving it the old college try.
 

Saturday, June 9, 2018

Downward Spiral

             
In my teens,
I met Mary twice.
A friend of a friend.
Pretty. Nice.


A few years later
At twenty-one
Mary’s short life
Came undone.

Atop an office building,
Unanswered prayers.
Descended to street level:
No elevator, no stairs.

*

Mary was the first
Person I’d
Met who committed
Suicide.

In the heyday of shame
Such events
Created a silence that
Was immense.

Her death was hushed up
Efficiently banished
Like mishaps where nuclear
Missiles vanished.

It took many
Many years
For whispers about Mary
To reach my ears.

*

A Golden Gate Bridge
Documentary provided
Glimpses of people
Who had all decided

They’d had it with the world
They were living in
And took leaps without faith
Into oblivion.

These images helped me visualize
Mary’s fate ---
Battling gravity means punching
Above your weight.

*

Over 200 feet in the air
Should be a corrective
To supply any missing
Life perspective.

But speeds approaching
75 miles an hour
Will deprive anyone from
Having the power

To think very clearly when
What beckons
Is a death wish whoosh of
Four seconds.

*

If you swallow pills, there’s
Always the chance
To invite salvation by calling
An ambulance.

But jump off a building & things
Are as bad as they can be.
No cavalry left to summon ---
No Hail Mary, no Plan B.

 

Thursday, June 7, 2018

Sirhan Sirhan

                                               
I actually have not one but two connections
To Sirhan Sirhan.
Right from the outset, I would really like to
Be very clear on

All of the basic facts --- the first one is that
I do remain somewhat beguiled
Because I now live in Altadena near where
He attended classes as a child.

He went to an Altadena school but Pasadena
Is where he lived back in the day:
Seventeen miles from the Ambassador Hotel
Where he shot and killed RFK.

My proximity to history brings it alive and it
Reminds me how Fate can be cruel:
I ponder Sirhan and Robert F. Kennedy when
I’m driving by Eliot Middle School.

*

The second connection’s also school-related:
This happened way back when I
Was fifteen, living at home with my parents
And going to Pacific Palisades High.

I missed a whole day of school --- an event
Which alone was worthwhile:
A family friend in local news had offered to
Take me to this historic trial.

The defendant that day was quite silent, very
Much the introvert
Unassuming and tiny in his way too big, loose-
Fitting white shirt.

 
At times he seemed distinctly lost in all of
The legal proceedings
Often sitting without moving at all during
His lawyers’ pleadings.
 

A courtroom artist slowly nodded off
As I watched his techniques:
I later met the defendant’s mother &
She pinched both my cheeks.

The morning session broke for lunch and
I felt like I was in a classroom
As class just ended. I went on a mad dash
To try and find a bathroom.

I looked without success and hadn’t figured
That one would be so hard to find ---
I approached newsmen with microphones
Who wondered what was on my mind.

I didn’t think that The Fourth Estate were
Folks I should be shunning.
I stopped, blurted out, “No comment” and
Then resumed my running.

Thursday, May 24, 2018

Market Going


I was minding my own business driving to a
Southern California store for groceries while
listening to Philip Larkin on a CD reading

“Church Going.” He suddenly stops, coughs
(coughs?) and, incredibly, improvises this
entirely new stanza that I instantly know no

one’s ever heard before. Was I hallucinating?
Probably. Nonetheless, I abruptly pull over,
park & play track fourteen thirteen times but

what I thought I heard has gone missing, like
Larkin himself did back in 1985.

*

Phil, are you taking the piss out of me from the top
floor apartment you now occupy in the next life with
a most commanding view of the cosmos? Did the

telescope I assume you brought with you find me
here on Earth and prompt you to prank me just like
Conquest famously did with you? (These days, you

would no longer have to ask Robert to pick up girlie
mags for you in Soho porn shops --- computers now
have access to smut 24-7.) In related news, 1,000

Girl Guides have still yet to assemble to recite “This
Be The Verse” but give it time. I agree with you it’s
bound to happen. Your old pal Kingsley became the

famous novelist you never did. But there aren’t any
statues of him. However, there is one of you in Hull
which also has popular Larkin festivals where large,

colorfully painted toads that you'd gleefully loathe
dot the landscape. After Motion’s biography, some
felt you were racist, sexist and didn’t deserve your

reputation. But, like Martian Poetry, that didn’t last.
You’re still beloved around the world but especially
in England where (as you predicted) there was room

for you in Westminster Abbey: you wound up in the
hallowed Poet’s Corner in 2016. Anyway, feel free
to spy on me whenever you’re inclined. I’ll leave my

computer on. Right now, it’s playing one of your
favorite songs --- Sidney Bechet’s “Blue Horizon.”
Like his playing, your poetic voice falls upon all

of us as they say love should, like an enormous …
something or other.

 

Friday, April 13, 2018

My Poem In The Journal Of Modern Poetry's 2018 Anthology, Dear Mr. President


Subterranean Homesick Blues (Rerouted & Updated)

by Tony Peyser

Donny's into debasement
Messing with your medicine
We’re on the pavement
Protesting the government
In a romp, drain the swamp
“The middle class’ll get paid off!”
Don’t buy that or deny that
He’s another Bernie Madoff.

Watch out, kid
For any takeover bid
Wall Street’s cheat sheet
Puts Main Street in the backseat
Ignore friendly Putin spies
In every DC alleyway
If you see Mike Pence,
Jump a fence & run the other way.

MAGA comes fleet foot
Free elections now kaput
The social media cheat put
More lies than his tweets could
The phone's tapped anyway
Trump’s a chump the Russkies pay
They must bust any day
Orders from Robert Mueller say.

Look out boy
For any Wikileaks ploy
Be careful how your ship goes
Don’t back down to those
Neo-Nazi tiki torch cryptos
Kick these lackeys in the khakis
You don't need the Weather Channel
To know which way the wind blows.

Monday, April 9, 2018

A Poem For Poetry & Autism Awareness Month


The Kindness Of A Stranger   

Our son (four years old, autistic) often
Yelled loud and then even louder:
After his diagnosis, pretty much every
Shred of normalcy took a powder.

Life with Jeremy was a buffet of panic
Wreaking havoc every day
And caused most people who we knew
To all silently drift away.

We desperately tried to hold onto what
Was left, yet while
We did just this, we still found ourselves
In unwanted exile

Which as the years passed by we did
Eventually learn
That this was a place from which you
Never fully return.

Many familiar ties were cut --- a loneliness
Hard to forget.
My wife & I then reached out to someone
We’d never met.

*

The man who got our letter knew we were
At the end of our rope.
He said talk to professionals and be sure to
Never give up hope.

He actually wrote us two letters: an amazing
Thing to have done.
The first one was meant for us but the second
One was to our son.

We didn’t realize right away that this man
Thought we would need
To imagine that our autistic son someday
Would actually read.

From such kindness can come strength
To banish fears,
Its repercussions felt and remembered
For years & years.

*

Hold on --- my bad --- I buried the lead.
I should’ve already said
This stranger’s last name was Rogers &
His first name was Fred.

(He might dispute the term “stranger” and it
Would take some getting used to:
Let’s say we were people in his neighborhood
He hadn’t yet been introduced to.)

It’s worth noting something now and
Not in any way that’s cursory.
2018’s a big landmark for his TV show:
It’s the fiftieth anniversary.

My 31 year-old son has a talking computer:
Jeremy’s good at multi-tasking.
Can he read? Oh, yeah. Of course. You bet.
(By the way, thanks for asking.)

Mr. Rogers died in 2003 but doesn’t seem gone.
For me, what he achieved in
Those two letters was passing along hope that
We hadn’t dared to believe in.

His spirit now lives in all those who recall him.
If you’re wondering could this
Great man could be summed up briefly? Sure:
The embodiment of goodness.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Halloween In The Early 1980s Just South Of Melrose Avenue


Two drunk men in their fifties
Unsteady on their feet
With liquor on their breath
Are here to trick or treat.


It was rapidly established
They were on the skids.
I calmly said, “C’mon guys:
This holiday’s for kids.”

“I got a costume! I’m John
Ireland in 'Red River'
Said the man with a clock
Ticking on his liver.

(This fellow had no costume and lying
Would be an essential factor
If I were to say he even slightly looked
Like that aforementioned actor.)

I politely nodded. “Ireland was
Also terrific when
He portrayed that reporter in
'All The King’s Men.'”

“To hell with that,” he said
With a grin obscene.
“John nailed Tuesday Weld
When she was 16!”

I’d had enough by now and
Said, “Don’t get sore:
I have no candy --- however,
They do next door.”

I sent them off in that direction
Knowing they’d soon quiver:
The dog there was meaner than
Ireland was in "Red River."

All they got out was “Trick or --- ”
Ballistic went the mastiff.
They took off down the street
So incredibly fast if

Anyone saw them fleeing, they all would
In a sudden flash have sensed
That Los Angeles’ first evening marathon
Had improbably commenced.

I bet they ran for blocks, as outdated as
Archy and Mehitabel
Looking for a bar or another world that
Was more hospitable.