Poem: To Michael Perkins | Poetry | Hudson Valley | Hudson Valley; Chronogram
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Poem: To Michael Perkins 

Walker, wanderer, libertine,
you volunteered your youth
to Plato's Retreat & wrote
the history of poets earning
their keep writing erotica;
shy, defiant, eager for argument
you picked the automobile
as your enemy & walked four miles
daily over the mountain to work
at the library, befriending dogs
who followed you down in
those hippie years when
everyone lived unleashed.
Your walking sticks matched
your moods: lacquered black
as a dandy, hickory hewn for
those early summer mornings
as a son of Kentucky, a twisted
staff from a thorn tree even though
you never accepted Christ as more
than a good story. To celebrate
our town's two hundredth birthday
you walked to Woodstock, Connecticut
in four days, collecting souvenirs
from the roadside trash & searching out
the Hawk's Nest Pub for lunch

But Parkinson's refuses to play
your games, walker, libertine,
confined to your kitchen, your cane
hooked on the nearest counter top.
You take respites from your trials
in your pillow-backed chair & feed
yourself pills from your silver snap box
as elegant as another man's pocket watch.
But Parkinson's doesn't care. You shake
as wildly as a monkey trying to throw himself
out of a tree or you freeze up in a full body cramp.
We talk about poetry, instead, the boisterous
Hart Crane who spent a Thanksgiving here
& dreamed, at least for the length of a letter,
of staying the winter as caretaker for hotel ruins,
still standing on the mountain to this day;
his only responsibility: two horses & chickens.

Oh, Michael, I give you my blessings.
You walk the netherworld every day
inside your body—your valley of flames,
your forest of bones—while I, so healthy &
lucky, waste so much motion, driving down
to Starbucks for a latte or to the library
to return an unread overdue Hemingway.
I'm of an age when I trot up & down
my cottage stairs ten times a day &
forget what I came for, my mind lost to
insurance bills or the web's latest insanity.
What was my little chore? Where did
my life go? Now in the kitchen
you have something to show me;
you reach for your cane, you stand
on your feet balancing on an unruly ship
& tipsy your way forward. Moments later
I hear banging & thumping from the stairwell.
I know you'll return with the poem you wanted.

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