A Literary Series

 
The End of March 2019

I saw my friend Nano. That doesn’t happen often. He lives way down in Cedar City, and I’m Salt Lake. I saw him up in Portland, Oregon, at the mega writer’s conference. Nano said, “I’ve been reading some more about your dad online. He sounds like a really good dude.” Which was unexpected, nice to hear, and yes he was.

Making Lists

My dad had a list of things (so Capricorn) that he’d been working on, and it was done: the house was packed, the house was on the market, and the new Methodist retirement community that he and my mom were moving to was ready. After years of hassles over permits and inertia, it was built. And he’d found the right car to buy, the right one for getting in and out. His breathing had been an issue for years—low oxygen, and no fixing it—so he had to think carefully about stepping and exertion, every action and distance like a new kind of necessary math. And now it was done. My mom’s new phone was set up. The car was out there parked in the garage. And a dozen other details were finished, and then to bed, where these were his next-to-last words: “Well, that’s the whole list.”

Then he asked my mom to hold him. Then he breathed a while more. And then he stopped.
 

Rob Carney's dad

April 3, 2019

So that was a year ago. It’s been a year’s worth of news since then, a whole pile-up of idiot cruelty out of D.C., or New York, or Mar-a-Lago, or somewhere, wherever the self-pleased Biped-in-Chief goes next.

My dad wouldn’t like it. Nobody should.

Trump’s backtrack to shovel more hate at Puerto Rico. . . his hate for the immigrants stuck in El Paso. . . his insults to Congressman Elijah Cummings: he’s the worst. And oh yeah, the environment. Always the environment. The environment and Russia are the two things he lies about most. They’re like the latitude and longitude of his ocean-sized lying, and the rest is just a leaky faucet that never stops. LIE/drip. LIE/drip. LIE/drip. LIE/drip. LIE. And yet he’s got an audience. . .

. . . Poets Don’t,

at least not usually. Still, we never stop trying. It would be helpful to know that someone’s noticing, that poems don’t drop like pebbles down a well and disappear. Maybe they ripple a bit, maybe echo and change the taste of the water, make the moss on the nearby stones a little greener; that would be nice. I’d like to add that to my resume: Greener-Up of Living Things, Echo Riding on the Water.

It depends, I know, on what I write about and how well I do it. But anything, even this fable I’m folding like an origami pretzel, is better than a tweet:

The Three Little Pigs

I’ve never liked this story.
It says two out of three pigs are lazy.
It says wolves don’t hunt,
they huff and puff—Come on,
that’s concocted by some brick-house people
safe at home,
tucked snugly in the afterglow,
in their choice of news that tells them
bricks are bricks,
and sticks reflect a lack of effort,
and straw
is the fault of Puerto Rico; they forget why.
Just don’t be the Brick Pig’s problem.
If you’d rather have landscapes with caribou herds
instead of pit mines,
try to want less; what’re you,
a wolf or something? You think clean air
grows on trees?
Don’t come asking for asylum
or they’ll huff and puff.

April 3—Thinking About Making a List

Things, of course, need doing. Even today. Like getting some groceries. Jen and I and Jameson were up in Portland, as I said, and now we’re back, and we haven’t felt like shopping. Who wants to shift gears? Who wants to get off the plane and swing by Smith’s, or Whole Foods, or whatever other grocery store? Not us.

Anyway, I was walking back from the mailbox when this thought popped into my head: Take them out to the Old Spaghetti Factory. Problem solved.

That was where my dad used to take us, over to the one in Tacoma, somewhere up the hill, around a corner, then down a diagonal (all of the streets in Tacoma are like that; the city’s old, a port city, its pavement laid down over cobblestones that were set down on top of the donkey tracks), and we were there. And I always loved going.

You can think I’m wrong if you want to, but that thought popping into my head was from my dad. He’s still here helping me. Like an echo. Like a ripple.

My dad’s still here with an answer so much greener and living than the news.

  

 

Rob CarneyRob Carney’s new book The Book of Sharks is available now from Black Lawrence Press. Previous books include 88 Maps, Story Problems, and Weather Report.
 
Read poetry by Rob Carney appearing in Terrain.org: 6th Annual Contest Finalist, 4th Annual Contest Winner, and Issue 30. And listen to a new radio interview with Rob Carney, and here’s an older radio interview.
 

Header photo by Ian Muttoo, courtesy Flickr.

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