Letters to Live Poets (XII) by Bruce Beaver

Three anti-depressants and one diuretic a day
seven and five times a week respectively
save me from the pit.
I pray while I’m taking them and in between doses
because, as Dylan Thomas says, I have seen the gates of hell.

Once I drew back in distaste from the metho drinker
and his bleary lady friend — you’ve seen them
weaving a way through non-existent traffic.
He, swollen faced, with a backside kicked in
by what the tougher call life. She,
the terrible veteran doll of Pantagruel’s nursery.
Let them pass into the peaceful holocaust.

In Rushcutter’s park they congregated over bottles.
Walking, we avoided them as mined ground,
fearful of their implosions bloodying the day.
Later I fell so far into self-sickness
I envied them. My thoughts
haunted their submerged wreckage like a squid.
At their groaning subsidence I retreated
into a pall of ink.
Whatever I tell you,
you have heard before.
I remember Swift’s
fascination with the insane. I whistled
Childe Roland to the Dark Tower Came
outside the grimy walls of Callan Park.
Inside — il miglior fabbro — the best of us all
chewing bloody knuckles, wept dry,
daft as a headless chicken circling dust.
Where are prayers said for him and the parkside horrors?
Some prayed for us, I know. I’m still here
partially, trying to live detachedly.
Is it only the exceptional ones, the broken battlers,
shred me into uselessness? Does it mean
I’d pick and choose in hell? Discriminative?
Like a dog in rut — no,
self-abasement’s out. So is complacency.
I’m never likely to forget
the day I walked on hands and knees
like Blake’s Nebuchadnezzar, scenting the pit.
So it’s one day at a time spent checking
the menagerie of self; seeing
the two-headed man has half as much
of twice of everything; curbing the tiger;
sunning the snake; taking stock of
Monkey, Piggsy, Sandy’s belt of skulls.

From: https://www.poetryinternational.org/pi/poem/9869/auto/0/0/Bruce-Beaver/LETTERS-TO-LIVE-POETS-XII/en/tile

Date: 1969

By: Bruce Beaver (1928-2004)

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