I Haven’t Forgotten, prose poem by @evrymanJac

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright 2017 by Jack A. Urquhart

In case you’re wondering,
I haven’t forgotten,
Dear departed son.
‘Though it is many years,
I haven’t forgotten
the way you came howling
into the world,
red faced and wrinkled,
your tiny hands
already curled into fists. Continue reading

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Penitence, a prose poem by @EvryManJac

©2017 by Jack A. Urquhart

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just so you know:
I have my regrets.
Doesn’t everybody?
And yes, I am sorry—
sorry for the grief I’ve caused.

That, in a nutshell,
is the story of my life. Continue reading

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Breach of Trust, prose poem by Jack A. Urquhart @EvryManJac


 

 

 

 

 

© 2017 by Jack A. Urquhart

It seemed like nothing at the time
all those many years ago,
no more than an instant’s frustration
when I stooped to let you go—
just the fruit of a sleepless night,
the strain of overwrought paternity set loose.

It seemed all your fault back then,
the toddling source of cacophonous discord,
and that you deserved to take that spill.
No big deal to fall from knee-height,
and surely no harm done, I thought;
nary a bruise on your fat little bum.

Yet the moment you keened,
I knew it to be something more,
and that I’d failed again, again
the limitless tests of love,
and that the damage was done:
a first fracture in the bones of trust.

 

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Poem for a lost child @EvryManJac

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An American’s Parisian Dream @EvryManJac

Les Jardin du Luxembourg

Les Jardins du Luxembourg

Copyright 2016 by Jack A. Urquhart

Paris, winter, 2016. We are here in the French capital again, my spouse Raymond and I, visiting dear friends for most of the month. Ray, who has an extensive history of European travel to his credit, has made this journey many times; I, however, have been in Paris on only four occasions. That said, if imagination counts for anything, then I have been to the storied City of Light innumerable times. For just as the Danish author Isak Dinesen purportedly claimed, I (too) have been a mental traveler. Just so, I have visited this city more times than I can recall. That is because Paris has captured my fancy for as long as I can remember.

As much as I hate to admit the cliché, I attribute my insatiable appetite for Paris to the Hollywood musicals of the 1950s: “An American in Paris” (1951, Gene Kelly, Leslie Caron), “Lili” (1953, Leslie Caron), “Daddy Longlegs” (1955, Fred Astaire, Ms. Caron) and, of course, “Gigi” (1958, again with Caron). Those movies–set before a hungry kid living in the boondocks of pre-Disney central Florida–presented a full menu for this American’s Parisian dream; that would be Paris as the ultimate expression of everything graceful, romantic, cultured, nuanced and brimming with the understated permission to just be. The kind of place, in fact, where an oddball like me might not seem so out of place at the table.

Later in adolescence a particularly charming high school French Teacher, Mme D, encouraged that notion by regaling us, her students, with tales of her previous life in the French capital, and by recounting the tragedies and triumphs of her favorite contemporary French cultural icons: French General and statesman, Charles de Gaulle; African-American expatriate singer and entertainer, Josephine Baker; and most especially, the legendary Edith Piaf, regarded at the time as France’s national chanteuse. How delicious it was, following Mme D’s animated direction as we sang along with the recordings of France’s “Little Sparrow,” warbling in lousy French the lyrics of “La vie en rose,” “Non, je ne regrette rien,” and “Milord.” Only by attending to Piaf, Mme D maintained, could we (yokels all) hope to remedy our atrocious twangy accents, not to mention our choppy, elision-less phrasing.

Several years later, another artist’s work served to further whet my appetite for all things Parisian. I was a junior at the University of Florida in 1969 when Judy Collins released her wonderful album, “Who Knows Where the Time Goes,” a collection so mesmerizing–truly, every song is a gem–that I must’ve played it a thousand times that year. But in truth, there was one track that moved me more than the others. Collins’s “My Father,” a haunting homage to her coal miner patriarch’s poignant dream of escaping to a romantic life in Paris, carries me away to this day:

My father always promised us / That we would live in France / We’d go boating on the Seine / And I would learn to dance

It should go without saying, I expect, that such romantic notions as these rarely find a place at the table in real life. That is because day-to-day living serves up an endless banquet of distractions and competing priorities–enough of them sometimes to make us fat and lazy, or to see us waste away. And yet somehow the persistent fantasy of a different life in Paris–one where even a skinny southern misfit like myself might achieve selfhood–has simmered in the back kitchens of my consciousness all these years. Over time, it has become something of a favorite dish, one whose flavor I summon in imagination whenever real life offers only fast food.

Granted, there is a good case to be made that a recurring diet of make believe is nothing more than high calorie self-indulgence, and that to invest energy in imagining a life in Paris, or London, or New York, or, for that matter, in envisioning how we’d dispense our Power Ball lottery millions, is simply a waste of time. But to those arguments I would counter that my Parisian dream has kept me from starving to death countless times, has nurtured me through many a famine–through losses of employment and property, friends and lovers. Through losses of life.

Which brings me back to this current stay in the City of Light, coming as it does after a year of personal upheaval that culminated in a cross-country move, as well as the deeply troubling outcome of a nasty and soulless U.S. Presidential contest. How satisfying it has been in these times of uncertainty and seeming global scarcity to rediscover that my Parisian dream has some basis in reality. Which is to say that the city has lost none of its power to sustain me.

As when in my morning jogs up Avenue du Général-Leclerc, I experience real satisfaction and a sense of belonging, however temporary, in successfully dodging native pedestrians and piles of doggie poo (Merde happens. Even in Paris!) on my way to les Jardins du Luxembourg. Likewise, there is the pride and sense of personal investment I take in the majestic mansard-roofed apartment buildings (palaces in which I’m unlikely ever to reside) that line Avenue de l’Observatoire, and the terraces, balustrades, parterres, and tree-lined promenades of les Jardins.

Granted, there is nothing in my pedestrian reveries of Paris that comes close to the Hollywood magic that first inspired my yearnings for the city those many years ago, not even a soupçon of the grace of the Gene Kelly choreographed ballet set to the iconic symphonic poetry of George Gershwin’s “An American in Paris”. But I’m not sure that it matters if the most grandiose iterations of our fantasies ever find expression in real time, for surely there is room for economies of scale even in make believe.

Which is all by way of suggesting that perhaps the real measure, the real value of our most cherished imaginings, is their ability to feed our souls when the larders of life seem to hold nothing more than a few stale croutons.

Which is surely no small thing. Vraiment, pas du tout.

 

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Residue: a prose poem, @EvryManJac


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©2016 by Jack A. Urquhart

(for D.T.U.)

He wears loss ‘round his neck—
scintilla of ashes, bone, dust—
a steely, encapsulating talisman,
storied against his heart.
His fingers oil the patina
to a shade of smoky-gray.
This grief is a work in progress,
homage to procreative pomposity
and best paternal intentions,
a last-ditch mnemonic
to rhinestone-sparkling vanity
and false hope springs eternal.
All such tinder’d fables
must flare and burn away.
Yet, in the sooted residue,
the smallest spark may show—
to make of loss an artless art
(or so this story goes?)

 

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Mixed Metaphors (prose poem)

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©2016 by Jack A. Urquhart

For Dillon
03.08.1979—08.02.2013

They say being alive is a concatenation of scenes,
the sum of which equals a singular human performance.
So it is no surprise that since yours was cut short,
I find imperfect metaphors on every stage of life.
For your absence has defined me, has bequeathed
the part of a lifetime: I am the man who loses his son
and spends the rest of his life finding him.
Perfect casting, some might say, condign punishment
for lackluster paternal performance. And yet,
it is no easy sentence, no painless penance
chancing upon your likeness. For in a heart-throbbing instant,
you can suddenly reappear: your semblance in a child,
the living, breathing incarnation of perpetual motion
squirming delightedly in another man’s obliging arms;
something of your essence in every awkward juvenile
who trods the boards, thunderbolted youths yet out of sync
with the words and music of adolescent flesh.
Fitting I should glimpse you in the harried barista
whose bean-browned fingers do me service;
in the oleaginous youth sweltering fast-food heat on my behalf.
Rightful that the wearied waitperson standing witness to another’s appetite
should mime your resign-ed face. For you are serviceable
across every oeuvre, come comedy or high drama,
like a shooting star doomed by careless management
to overwork and early burnout, your billboarded similes are ubiquitous.
And yet, no comparison can do you justice. Even so, I find them out—
the mixed metaphors of your abbreviated life.
For such is the role of paternal grief—the daily re-discovery
that no likeness can enliven enduring loss.

 

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