The Old Poet’s Last Words
“We choose the mess we live in.” the old poet said,
as he waved his hand, cigarette dangling,
the ashes falling on a plate full of antique food.
“We choose it.” he reiterated,
as he cleared a chair of its dirty clothes.
The room smelled of sex and bourbon.
“We can blame whoever we want.
and we probably will, that is what poets and people do.
It is what we have in common.”
He found a glass and poured out whatever was in it.
Poured in the bourbon and raised his hand in a toast.
“It makes good poetry.” he said.
I poured myself a shot in what portended to be a clean glass,
I joined his toast. In the next room I heard the rustle
of his latest coed, waking late.
He smiled that cockeyes smile.
“Don’t kid yourself,” he said. “I am growing old
exactly the way I want to. I will die the way I choose,
leaving nothing but words and a few acolytes
with their own struggles and their own words.
You may not like like it, but it is mine.” He drained the glass
and turned his rheumy eyes on me,
suddenly growing hard. I could see the fire in them,
the fire that fueled four decades of stone cut words.
“None of this matters.
Only the words.
Make sure they are true.”
And that was that. He died a week later,
in a filthy hotel room and no one to mourn him
save perhaps, the unseen coed.
but those words, those eyes,
haunt me still,
a strange kind of resurrection.
About this poem
I write from time to time of my first poetry teacher, Robert Hazel, using the “The Old poet” moniker in each title, Robert was a craftsman, a raconteur, something of a reprobate and while a wonderful poet, not always the best person. The last time I saw him he was living in a hotel room in Blacksburg, Virginia, and to call it a mess is one of the world’s great understatements. He was drunk, happily pontificating and while there was no coed in the room, she had left her clothes among his on the floor.
Still, his words and teaching ring in my ears all the time. Some people have that influence. I miss him sometimes, and the bourbon he kept in his desk drawer. Makers Mark.