Sunday, October 16, 2011

Early intimations, again

Dear self-termed Mr.Hobo,
Imagine my surprise, or lack of same, to arise this sabbath morn early as temporarily usual and find the below poem waiting for me on this venerable and continually amazing computing machine.

When the Vacation is Over for Good

by Mark Strand

It will be strange
Knowing at last it couldn't go on forever,
The certain voice telling us over and over
That nothing would change,

And remembering too,
Because by then it will all be done with, the way
Things were, and how we had wasted time as though
There was nothing to do,

When, in a flash
The weather turned, and the lofty air became
Unbearably heavy, the wind strikingly dumb
And our cities like ash,

And knowing also,
What we never suspected, that it was something like summer
At its most august except that the nights were warmer
And the clouds seemed to glow,

And even then,
Because we will not have changed much, wondering what
Will become of things, and who will be left to do it
All over again,

And somehow trying,
But still unable, to know just what it was
That went so completely wrong, or why it is
We are dying.

"When the Vacation is Over for Good" by Mark Strand, from New and Selected Poems. © Alfred A. Knopf, 2009

This is why and how I know, these pieces of bulls-eye-ism, that my often clouded and insufficient thoughts are indeed validated by an outside world, admitted daily - via Garrison Keillor's The Writers Almanac & etc - wherever I am, surely nearing the end of my span,that other and better plugged in people such as this poet Mark Strand are thinking the same thoughts as I, but put together better.

"What do I care?" I used to joke. "I'm going to be dead soon." It reminds me of a well known comedian whose name escapes me. Could be Woody Allen, a contemporary. He told of a blind date he agreed to, and when he got to the door he found that the girl was blind. "I know this was supposed to be a blind date----but----but, I didn't know you were really blind!"

These sluffings-off can only go on so long. Real is happening, and it's all around.

. . . .

You read in the SRN about our running into Sylvia Beringer yesterday at the Steaming Cup. Just before she and Chuck, her husband, walked in, the operator-owner of the renowned Cup came over to the table Joe and I shared and comported himself, leaning over the table which we should have invited him to sit down at, as though he was in the company of maybe town curiosities. He was obviously glad to number us among the teeming customers, the likeable folks that we indeed are.

Well, at least JOE is. The owner said with a smile, "Are you Dix? I've read the stuff you've sent me, it's good....complimentary."

Joe hadn't met him yet, so after the owner said "Are You Dix?" I said "Yes, and you must be Mr. Cup, Steaming, 1 ea.?" I should have written his name down. This morning, in my geriatricity, he is coming back to me only as Mr. Cup.

Mr. Cup mentioned that we might have seen the Halloween zombies around and outside of the actual Cup. If we noticed the especially gruesome young man with the bloody open-gash on his head and the eye dangling from a vacant and blackened socket, "That's my son."

Mr. Cup said it proudly.

Later, the made-up mutilated son answered to my beckoning and came over. A nice and gentle chap really, he'd been mingling in the crowded place, and occasionally kissing a particular un-zombied woman. He sat down without our invitation.

I asked him if he would mind kissing my recently-appeared surprising friend, Sylvia. He paused and gently studied her. Sylvia rapidly demurred, but not with obvious revulsion, kind woman that she is, too. But after all, she was in the company of her husband who, likeable as he seemed to be, might not have cottoned to that unfolding.

Once again I cursed myself for not always carrying my LVD memorial camera. But I am hoping that Mr. Cup will send me perhaps a photo attachment to an E so that I can run a later picture of his son. Preferably before actual Halloween day.

Seeing this guy was my Halloween for me, this year. Nothing else could top him.

. . . .

Hobo, you could search in the upper left window of the raccoon publication the words BERINGER; STELLA; THE CHALK DANCER; NAZI DOG; and probably other things pertaining to this treasured family of brush works historical fame located at the RR tracks on Arcadian. The sign above the window said Beringer Brush Works.

Now it is the home of La Casa de Esperanza. But it once was the place where the Beringers danced on table-tops with their muted tambourines and castanets, danced in bare feet in Stella's early years, not to awaken the sleeping child.

Stella the Chalk Dancer

A little girl

was a champion hop-scotch player

She lived a block from the train station

next to the railroad tracks

Her parents warned her

not to play near the train tracks because

the tramps would tumble off the rods

and out of open boxcars


as the train slowed

and the bulls walked down the line

looking to bust some heads

for the railroad company

But this girl, Stella

she wasn't afraid of tramps

and she knew some of them

used to give them cold water

to drink from a bucket and dipper

Sometimes she snuck biscuits

out of the kitchen for them

She liked living by the tracks

and looking for passing adventure

Her town was so quiet

Stella as a five year old

listened for the steam engines

nearing her yard by the tracks

They would come with a



The back pressure hissing

off to the sides of the slowing

iron horses in great clouds of hot steam

kept Stella at a safe distance

until the engine passed

But then she moved in closer

and stood on her tip-toes

waving her hankie

as the red caboose approached

and the trainmen watched

for their regular customer

Stella was the darling

of these sooty men

She loved their chalk

it was the best chalk in the world

for drawing hopscotch squares

Her feverish waving

was something they looked forward to

in this one town an amusement

a special feature on their route

of hundreds of towns like it

There was only one little Stella

Stella would call out

Chalk! Chalk!

Do you have any chalk?

Could I have some, please?

Could I, huh, could I?

It's me, Stella

The men dropped chalk

at her feet as they passed by

leaning out from the back rail

a nice piece of thick

boxcar-marking chalk

for Stella they would toss

As Stella grew older and was

filling out she learned

that the trainmen threw more

chalk to her if she danced

and by then she had begun to hop

around like the peasant women

she saw in the movie house films

Plus Stella's family was Hungarian

and from gypsy stock

Her father played flamenco guitar

and her mother castanets

The tambourine was not unknown

in their home either

Each of the five children had their own

They made brushes by day

in their family business

but by night it was roundelay

after the good radio programs

and the dishes were done

As Stella passed from her babyhood

as the youngest child

her family seemed to loosen up

and the truer forms of hot-blooded

Gypsy music and dance obtained

before her widening eyes

Encouragement was shouted

instead of whispered as she'd

heard from her bed sometimes

and her mother danced on the tabletop

in boots, not barefoot anymore

She adopted some of the moves

in her routine at trackside

At eighteen her black hair had grown long

and it spiraled around her lithe form

as she pirouetted and held aloft

her be-ribboned tambourine

The trainmen vied for the route

through her town

even taking extra duty

just for the chance to see

Stella the chalk-dancing gypsy girl

Chalk fell like rain

upon Stella

and the trainmen leaned

way way out to realize their dream

To have their fingertips brush Stella

in passing

By now Stella realized she was playing

these men like a musical instrument

She had them completely in her

mesmerizing power

and her burgeoning chalk supply

which she now sold on the school yards

seemed endless

She took the proceeds

from her chalk sales

and bought bindles of canned soups and crackers

for the scrambling tramps

who thanked her before

vanishing quickly

into the wings of town and into the countryside


theirs was not to be an audience

for Stella

but she wished they could be

With the poor people of the world

Stella wanted to share her fate

Her gift of dancing

and love of nurture

Stella's family grew accustomed

to her performances of gypsy skill

and humanitarianism

and over time grew proud

of the local niche she had carved

for herself

as The Chalk Dancer

One evening when a non-stop

locomotive swept through town

Stella danced particularly close to the tracks

and her favorite cabooseman Roy

a single and kind Hungarian with rhythm

counted the beats

And at the precise moment

swooped low and out from the gangway

clasped Stella by the waist

up and unto himself

for evermore

A greater brass ring than Stella

there never was

Scattering tramps had seen Roy's win

and they cheered

Roy, too, had watered and fed them

They knew these two belonged together


Such things happened

In the age of steam locomotives

they happened

and much more

oh yes

[ãDavid Zep Dix 7-2-98]


. . . .

Thanks to historian John Schoenknecht for first printing that ode in the quarterly LANDMARK MAGAZINE, the itself historic publication of the Waukesha County Historical Society. John, a good friend, took other chances with poetry we tried:

All for now, Mr. Hobo