Sunday, February 12, 2006

Herb Scott

Herb Scott dei led, 2/12/06

Thank you Herb Scott for your love of, "la" of, law of awe all and call of poetry. Poet, teacher, editor, your otherlambent legacy includes my unbroken life as a poet, and I will afire wakes breathe grateful. I hope you anew what you gave to sow many. You will be missed.

Sleeping Woman
by Herb Scott

after the painting by Richard Diebenkorn

I’m walking east down Lovell in Kalamazoo
in the middle of the afternoon, and it’s hot, July
something, and there’s a man sleeping on the sidewalk —
the way you would in your bed — his body a kind of Z
in a fancy serif font, the curlicue of hands
beneath his head at the top, and the toes of each foot
curved to comfort the other, at the bottom. At first
I don’t know if he’s alive or dead, his skin
the color of burnt iron, a darkness alcohol finally brings.
I remember him from months before, a couple of blocks
west of here. He leaned against my car and wanted
to borrow money, a loan. He wanted a ride to South Haven
where he could get the money to pay me back.
His voice had that desperate familiarity that says:
You know me. You must want to care for me.
I think I gave him something, not much, and drove away.
I couldn’t forget his face, murky with solitude,
like the hard red clay in Oklahoma where I grew up
that won’t grow anything — everything lost to erosion
that brings such desolation you can’t survive.
I thought he wouldn’t survive more than a week or so,
but here he is, and when the cops arrive they know him,
call him Billy, and he’s still alive, maybe
for the last time, and they pick him up.
I head east again, turn left into the cool museum
where I lose myself, sometimes, where I find you
sleeping where I’ve seen you before, paint streaming
around you like water, gathering in the shallows
of your dress. I am always surprised to see you.
I don’t know. Are you flesh, or water? If I move
you will disappear in a startle of color.
The gallery is almost dark — those new-fangled spots
that keep the viewer anonymous — but your face turns
toward me from the crook of your doubled arms,
all about you an unencumbered sway, an intelligence
of light explicit as a summer evening. Deer quietly chewing.
I balance, in the shadows, between.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, Herb will be missed. I have always called him "my poetry teacher." Perhaps it's because I took courses with him more than other instructors. Perhaps it's because he was my first real poetry instructor, and he led me to decide that taking a degree in English and creative writing could be a worthwhile pursuit. I like to think that he's the one who taught me to write the poetry that I have written - that he taught me "my poetry." Thanks, Herb.

4:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just such a man
as you smugly
in this your poem
still lurks,
and now always will
"Slobs and snobs
hobnob in the library lobby"
(in your Poetry class,
circa 1974, you said
you liked that line,
but I still wonder if you
Rock on,
Your erstwhile student,

12:53 AM  

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