Saturday, March 14, 2015

My Life in Brown Boxes--poem

Advancing Hammer
by Liza Béar

In a Highbridge fortress one July
The guillotine door clangs shut
Gary, warehouse manager,  pulls the cord
The freight elevator, humming, leaves its dock

Disembarking alone on the seventh floor
A brash red arrow points me to the right
Past black barricaded metal doors
padlocked repositories immured in concrete

Only my space is open
Walls lined with cardboard to keep out the damp
Basking in the glare of a giant flood
Swivelling from the extended arm
Of a yellow-painted dolly

Stacks of boxes in tight neat rows 
numbered left and right, 1 to 6, A to G
Manila folders galore, project by project,
Betray the will to get work financed, made or shown

By hand on the grey narrow-ruled legal pad
I make an inventory, box by box, file by file
Sifting through faded carbons on 
corn-colored yellow paper, 

In one box, a letter from England, 1986, 
fountain pen inked, perhaps with a Parker 51
my father writes, he awoke
one morning without his voice

In another,  same vintage,
an unopened envelope of test results, 
a hand examination of left breast 
specifies a cyst, 1 x 2 x 0.5 cm.  
Ignored that one

Shiny waxy computer paper in 79 
before the swamp of email
handwritten torn scraps,
Every type and form of communication,
notes to self and others
letters from friends, colleagues, 
strangers, venues, agencies and agents;
replies, rejections and awards,

R One 3 A, folder 23, Miscellaneous
Colored postcards a vegetable market in Seattle 
A camel market in Morocco 
From Keith in Rome Gayle in Paris
Brief formal notes on official stationery
Willoughby’s back-of-envelope sketch 
for an Avalanche lay-out

On the short stack nearest me,
A square alarm clock, 
A tiny portable radio
A camera. It's a long day.
Push pins, magic markers black and red
Between two stacks the water bottle
A glossy b&w print of Jackie making a sculpture  
The advancing hammer about to drive a nail home
Discoveries, reminders or forgotten moments

Here’s Dee Dee with a thick dark mop of hair,
baby Molly in one hand, microphone in another
Michael's large pastel world map behind her
Interviewing Parry Teasdale about low power TV 
For this week’s episode,  going out
on public access Channel D at 7:30

Sequestered on a chair in the narrow space
I am under siege
The past is not the past, it's some intrepid
archeologue's future: is it still mine?

© copyright Liza Béar July 26 2009

Friday, March 13, 2015

Boot Black


My leather boots, made in Tunis,
Ankle high, gleam
like raven plumage

Byron, sixty-five,
on the corner of
Mulberry and Houston,
Shines shoes for a dollar

He pours his magic potions
Onto the boots from tall bottles,
One after the other,
Buffing from side to side
with a soft worn cloth
between each application

Byron is an old boot black, he says,
from the age of nine
living on 127th Street
plying his trade through Harlem
Taking home his earnings
to his mother
Where d’you get those bills, she’d ask,
Selling drugs?
No, shining shoes at the barber’s shop
I give him five

© Liza Béar March 2015