Monday, January 9, 2012

Just a coincidence? I. . . DON'T. . . THINK. . .SO!

I was gonna do this a long time ago, really I was, I had the photos all ready, when I chickened out. Chickened out, right around the time I published my post on Matt Paust's book If the Woodsman is Late, in which I think I called him Hemingway in the Henhouse.

But you know, I have to confess I had someone else in mind. I only have a couple photos of Matt that are about the size of postage stamps, but it's clear to me even from this slender body of evidence that he's actually. . .

Can't you see the resemblance? No? Just take a closer look.

Uncanny, isn't it? And how about this one? (Sorry, I've run out of Matt pictures so you'll have to use your imagination.)

Matt in a good mood.

Matt in a bad mood.

        Matt the potentate.

Matt the sea captain aboard his 64-foot ketch, the Leakin' Lena.

(For the non-seaworthy, a ketch is a two-masted sailing vessel with the mizzenmast stepped forward of the rudder head. Averages a backfish of six roosters.)

                                                    Matt in a holly-jolly mood

                                             The animated Matt!

And not only that. . .

Written by the Hemingway of the hen house: Matt Paust's close encounter

I stifled a curse when I heard the beep beep


Another traffic jamming electric cart. 

 I'd soon be upon the damned thing

 in my usual hurry

 to get the shopping done

 and get the hell out.

Someone less able than me,

self-destructive I guessed

in my least charitable way.

Someone stuffing greasy chips

into his or her face,

stuffing his or her beeping conveyance

with ever more bags of cheap deadly calories,

or shooting the shit

with another witless old fart,

both oblivious to me

as they block the aisle


I round the corner and there he is.

Yes, a he,

a gaunt, tall ancient he.

Enormous bearded head,

white hair on top

and under chin,

milky eyes rolled inward,

parchment lips agape.

The head is erect,

but dead.

The old man is dead,

body propped in its cart

like the dead El Cid

strapped on his horse by Jimena

to save Valencia,

and yet...

Somehow the cart moves,

small, herky jerky moves,

forward and back,

and around,

this way and that,

beep beep beep,

as if its dead commander

still tries to drive.

I walk carefully around

this curious grotesque

to find the spices

and then the beans.

A couple more aisles

I must traverse

before I can leave

this crowded, cursed place.

Several more times

I meet the dead shopper.

Is he following me

or what the hell?

Each time we pass

I study him harder,

with quick glances

to catch a vital sign.

I wonder why he's alone.

If he's dead, how are the purchases

filling his cart?

A respect for him sprouts in my head.

There's no fear in his face,

nor defeat in his frame.

He's not dead but he's close

and it frightens him not.

He's an old sea captain I begin to think,

a mariner once,

an adventurous man,

who thrived on the challenge,

the danger of imminent

untimely death.

 eric the red

He's Eric the Red

returned from the dead.

He's Ahab and Blackbeard,

Morgan and Kidd,

the spirits of skippers

who handled the helm,

whose lives became legend

inspiring us still.

And that's when I saw her,

as I pieced it together,

this towering figure

nearing death in his cart,

refusing surrender

despite all the odds

overwhelming his body,

every breath that he took.

She stood there behind him,

far enough back so I couldn't be sure

she was with him at all.

She looked lost,

nearly helpless,
bent and frail thin.                                         

I studied her face,

but like his it was closed

to strangers it seemed.

She was looking at something

only she seemed to see.

I walked on past her,

wondering anew,

and that's when I heard it:

a murmuring sound.

It was her or him or both in tune.

I turned to look and sure enough,

she'd moved closer to him and was leaning in,

and I wondered if I could tell by the voice

or the voices if two,

what clue I could take from the tones I might hear.

Does she know this old warrior,

does he know her, too?

Would I hear impatience or grumble or scorn?

Would they speak at all, would their faces reveal?

I saw the cart move.

It turned toward the woman

and the old captain's spirit

I could see had joined hers.

There was movement, animation

in that bearded large face.

Her body was bobbing a little with life,

and I heard it then, the sound unexpected.

It was thin, it was fragile, but it held its own.

It chased away dread, frustration and worse.

Their doom imminent, the bodies for sure,

but their spirits were stronger than ever, I knew

when I heard it from her,

her giggle.

                                                            Matt Paust