He Was A Mess October 8, 2014Posted by The Typist in cryptical envelopment, New Orleans, Poetry, The Narrative, Toulouse Street.
Tags: Everette Maddox, The Maple Leaf, Umpteen
Was there a twinkle I missed, drinking too much on the wrong end of town? Some wisdom issuing from your tobacco-scented beard, a joke so blue men were afraid to laugh, busting a gut to hold it in? I like to imagine one of the nights I was working the East Bank and didn’t have to go back to Gretna, and sat at that bar waiting for Marianne to get off from work around the corner, that you were there. I will still reading Stevens and Olson and Berryman, trying to figure out which way was up and you were probably scribbling the very instruction required on a bar napkin.
Yes, I could put my damn pants back on and join what’s left of your old gang at the East Jefferson Parish Regional Library, in some room the carpet runs up the wall like nylon mold and sit in an fluted plastic stackable chair (Panhandle aquamarine? burnt sunset orange?) but what’s the point in that? Did you even know there was a West Esplanade? It’s neither lake nor river but another direction you probably wouldn’t want to go in. And if I don’t write this belated birthday elegy who the hell else is going to do it?
I would recognize you now if you appeared for a moment at the Maple Leaf, the vision I saw one Saturday morning at Jazz Fest: a man of the right height and build, in a tweed jacket in baking May for chrissakes, pipe issuing from his beard like the fasces of poetry. But the time I realized what I saw and turned around again you were gone. I don’t want to know about no doppelganger. Nobody is going to rob me of my ghost.
I hope some folks show up tonight, learn what I’ve learned over the years, hunt down your books like possums and pause, too amazed to shoot.
Rutledge in the Rain
The first poem I ever spoke
into a microphone (not my own,
but well said or so I heard)
in Everette Maddox’s patio
at the umpteenth reading
celebrating the late poet’s
Selected Sad Whimsies,
the moment saved on a page
dimpled by the afternoon’s drizzle.
I owe you one for that, a whole run of ones one after another until it takes both of us arm-in-arm, leaning in to steer the other down the middle of the sidewalks of heaven. I don’t really believe in heaven but a man has to believe in something and I believe I’d like to buy you drink: somewhere, someday. The best I can manage for now is to make it to the Maple Leaf tomorrow after class and beat the cover at the door and buy two glasses of bar scotch, one to pour for you and the other to prove I love the man we’ll call The Speaker in workshop before, because I hate scotch and I’ll toss it back every drop. You were The Speaker, and the singer, and the instigator of the chorus, there’s no doubt about that.
He was a mess, was Everette Maddox, and those of us who tend to the messy side need our own patron saints and your poems are a novena for the messy and the lost. I think instead of tepid coffee in a library I’ll mix another drink and take down the Songbook that found me and read a bit instead, before I prepare for class tomorrow. I don’t have a poem for workshop and if one’s going to come to me before tomorrow night it’s going to come in your voice, with the faint tinkle of ice cubes like a chime in the wind: not a muse or an angel but the deep, deep song of the your blues.