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Tell Her That I Fell -- Leo Connellan

Guest poem sent in by Terry Smith
(Poem #435) Tell Her That I Fell
  Woke me retching and alone.
  Within doom booze
  her arms around me again
  in wished-for honeymoon time
  that never happened.

  Wait now to become ashes
  and am so sorry.

  Stagger now, shaking for what I'm running on.
  But it takes a few to get started these days,
  face gouged by razor unable fingers hold
  and each step away from where a bar is near
  makes me feel certain I'm going to drop dead.

  Each morning now is terror.
  The bathroom mirror reflects
  earthworms have not a long wait
  to pick me clean.
  My toothpaste mouthwash
  is a breakfast of liquor,
  so is all day and every complete night.

  Took her once in the snow
  the seacoast near, vivid
  like if bright red blood was blue.

  Afterward when she stood up
  the bare spot we melted
  was like two halves of a pear.
  I know she is in a Fishing Village now
  with many babies.
  The boats go out each morning before sunup
  breaks through salt fog and come in long after dark,
  just to make ends meet.

  Maybe he is good to her
  in his clumsy understanding
  I hope so, but never sure in his mind.
  Furiously suspicious at any man's glance at her
  eternally looking for whoever I am
  directly into the face of each tourist who comes
  into town.

  How it frustrates him, unable
  to find and strangle me
  who is always the wedge between his best effort,
  and he is so strong, sea life hardened.

  Wake me these days retching then, all right
  just tell her that I fell.
  My happiness time was with her,
  been any kind of a man
  I would have carried her like
  a knapsack away and felt
  her feet slapping my thighs.

  Come on, death, I fear
  to wobble the few steps to you.
-- Leo Connellan
Alcoholism, the hardness of sea coast men, the difficulty of making ends
meet fishing and lobstering, the haunting of ancient memories and regret
for inaction are common themes in Leo Connellan's "Maine Poems", which he
told me at a University of Maryland reception he was glad to see published
here at the end of his life.  He read this and several other poems in an
harsh, aged voice at a poetry conference last April. He seemed to accept
applause as a sort of burden, some cruel necessity of the situation.
Afterwards he talked wistfully with me about his hobo days.

This poem struck me as a portrait of the poet, or an amalgamation of men
very close to him, written in a drink-addled voice that moves from memory
to memory in a stream of broken consciousness.  It's a good poem to read
aloud, but my voice always breaks on the last two lines.

Leo Connellan has been the poet laureate of Connecticut since 1996.

"Once the idea is clear, get rid of excess words... The poem will be done
when it is. But the minute you have to explain it you're writing prose."
  -L.C. from the introduction to "Maine Poems", Blackberry Books, Maine

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