Thursday, February 18, 2010

St. John Eating Pancakes at Fog City Diner


Halo hung
on the coatrack
by the glass door,
lost in wide streaks
of mid-morning sunlight.

Faded denim
strains between
broad shoulders,
hunched;
hard, thick hands
dwarf the fork.

Dirt pushed high
under fingernails.

Another bite crosses
a coarse tangle of beard.

Out of work
since eight lanes of asphalt
level the wilderness
and the casinos string
and sparkle
and sing along
the river.

Out the window
the laborers
huddle with their backpacks
under a mission fig,
waiting,
gathering hesitantly around
every shiny truck
that pulls up.

Landscapers, roofers, masons.
Sí, sí puedo.
A few climb in and
are gone.
Painters and tree trimmers.
Carpenters.

Stares at himself
in a still pool of
black coffee,
making brown
runny rings
over snake-oil
want-ads.

Waitress sets the check
in front of him on the counter
without looking down.

A thread of maple syrup
seeps from a pale scar
circling his neck
and he does not bother
to wipe it away.

10 comments:

utopianfragments said...

you are wonderful out of the rhymes too

great work..

Karen said...

Oh my gosh. How powerful is the whole thing, but that last bit nearly floors me. Something is building in this - hopelessness, resignation, maybe. His head on the platter when the wilderness is gone and the river lined with casinos. The halo hung up. Over. Done.

I am drawn to read and think about this one again and again.

Julie said...

Joaquin, every time I think I have figured out which poem of yours is my "favorite," another one comes along. Right now, this is THE ONE. Admittedly, I'm very biased toward the subject of the displaced worker and the loss of wilderness. I'm also a bit emotional, because my state is on the verge of completely obliterating the small, commercial fishermen. Stupidity, politics, and powerful types with money are involved, of course. Thousands more good, decent working people will be displaced.

But those aren't the only reasons I love this poem. It is beautifully written. It is an awesome portrait of a human being (or really, many human beings), as well as the times in which we live.

His hard, thick hands that "dwarf the fork" literally brought tears to my eyes. Then the two stanzas that begin "Out of work" and "Out the window" nearly knocked me off my seat. Excellent phrasing, my friend. And how powerful to have those two stanzas, back to back, in the middle of the poem. It is right on, and everything else in the poem pivots beautifully around those truths.

The runny coffee rings on snake oil want ads is perfect. Then the man's scar "bleeding" maple syrup gave me the final sucker punch in the soul. This is such fine work, Joaquin. I feel honored that you allowed us in here to share it here.

BloggerMouth said...

I love your endings but I don't like the fact that your poem ends there :( You know I really wish the biggies would read this one so they'd know how they rip out happiness out of people's souls. The worst part is that people are desensitized to most of these things. Well thankfully you aren't.

Gerry Boyd said...

The last three stanzas of this are particularly powerful. I do think the poem ends there. At least, I should say, I left satisfied. Bravo!

Sarah Hina said...

You've taken the wait, and hope, for a messiah, and translated it to the everyday. Maybe we can't afford halos now. When even carpenters have to scrape for a living.

I can't think of any better expression of the tenuousness of things than that last stanza. Macabre and poignant and beautiful. The martyr weeping tears of maple syrup from his spackled wound.

In spite of the bleakness, there is such a gentleness here, such strength of compassion, that I find myself comforted, anyway. Maybe because it's a god I can grasp.

Just profoundly good. It brings some tears.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

There you go people - you have just read the work of one of blogville's best poets!

This ranks in the top five for me.
How can I tell you how much I admire this poem? What words do I have? This leaps off the screen with poetic verve! Moving, fearless, affecting, emotive... and the theme - tremendous focus.


Favorite lines:
Stares at himself
in a still pool of
black coffee,
making brown
runny rings
over snake-oil
want-ads

You have a brilliant eye for detail. I feel like I am in a booth, right there, watching the whole scene unfold.

joaquin carvel said...

u-frag - thank you!

karen - that's how i felt - the building - kind of like something that's either going to collapse or explode. thank you.

julie - your enthusiasm and insight are incredible - thank you - - i feel honored to be able to share with people who read with as much passion as they write with.

blo-mo - i think i know what you mean - i don't really either, but i don't like where we are right now in a lot of ways. thank you.

gerry - thank you! i think it ends where it needs to too, just wish it didn't need to there.

sarah - i'm happy you sensed gentleness - that's how i think of him, outwardly big & strong but tender-hearted - troubled more by what he sees than his own suffering. thank you.

k. - it would be rude of me to argue - so thank you! :) seriously though - that is a remarkable comment, and what i said to julie is true. i'm honored & humbled every week by what is said and by who says it.

Jannie Funster said...

This is freaking brilliant on so many levels. One of the best poems ever written, from hung halo to maple syrup Trail.

Stunning, Joaquin. Any big poetry journal would publish this. Go for it!

Aniket said...

Stay as humble as you want. I just know someday just knowing you would make me famous. :)

Maybe your grandkids would be more enthusiastic in publishing your work someday. :P