You know what happiness is? he said.
Contentment? I suggested.
Not even close, he said through the burnished orange of this late autumn afternoon.
Come on, he said. You know better that that.
Then what? I asked.
It’s not true what they say about cats, you know. That old proverb about curiosity killed the cat. It’s to stop you changing lanes.
You’re beginning to sound like a zen poet, I said. Like Li Po.
Become like a cat, he said. Go out into the world, cat-curious. You can never NOT be happy if you’re finding out things.
do you agree?
where is happiness found for you?
what is the chief impediment for happiness, do you think?
Would you bring my boxer shorts, mate?
You mean the ones with ‘The Most Perfect Man in the World’ emblazoned on the butt?
Yes, those, he chuckles.
I go into his room.
A half eaten meal, a stubbie with some beer in it, the radio still on.
A damp towel on the bed.
Signs of a quick exit.
A bit like the Marie Celeste.
Ahhh, I say as I fumble through his drawers.
A few minutes later I head off to The Remand Centre
Where TMPM has just been charged
For a cold case murder
18 years ago.
Beside me are the boxer shorts, neatly folded,
Irony side up.
Who would do that?
Put a dead pigeon in yr rubbish bin?
If it was good enough
To put in my bin
Why wasn’t it good enough
To put in theirs?
O the stink,
The weight of it!
I shovelled it out of the bin
And tossed it,
Neck all crumpled,
Into the far right hand corner of the garden
Where it could decay
Among the cluster of leaves.
The only good thing is
It’s given me something rancorous
To write about.
have you had any incidents with neighbors or strangers re your rubbish bins?
Not a flock of seagulls
Nor a murder of crows
But a petulance of poets
Gathered in the conference room
Of the public library
Each champing at the bit
For their turn to read
Not really listening
But when their turn comes,
Oh the words, the words,
Such melody, such sweetness, such wit.
Was ever anything ….
Barely noticing that many who had already read
Had gone home or hit the bar
down the street.
They rattle on regardless.
Where’s the stage manager when you need him?
* ‘They never listened to one another; they were preoccupied with waiting for their turn’ [Jean Stafford: ‘An Influx of Poets’]
I’ve got a poem for you, a very short one, he promised with a garrulous grin, and then, in a long-winded introduction in which all the masters of brevity were cited, he proceeded to demolish the very notion of shortness. The poem took ten seconds, the intro five minutes.
I met him on a winding path beneath the bridge
leading to the zoo. I had lost my girl. He had lost
the plot though I did not know it then.
We talked briefly beside the banisters as a blue
Kayak passed us by. Before his accomplishments —
his CV baggy with published poems — I
was lost for words. I blubbered something
about his latest book. “Take care,” I remember him
saying. “He’s always had his head in the clouds”,
a fellow poet once said of him. Perhaps that’s why
a week later he climbed to the roof of a big city hotel
and stepped off.