William Corbett

Trust a Poet

Harry Diakov, clear as the light
this frigid January 31, describes
his father's Russian village
surrounded by hemp fields
the villagers harvest on hot
fall days. They wear leather
aprons to protect themselves
from razory stalks as they cut,
gather, and bundle hemp
in clouds of greasy dust that sticks
to their aprons thickening
through the long day into
gritty hemp paste. At night,
weary, they scrape tar-like hemp
from their aprons, fill pipes
with it, smoke themselves silly,
gorge like lords and ladies
and fuck themselves to sleep
waking at first light with another
field to harvest. Harry's father
lived Upstate, a cripple, loved
by Harry, lean wolfish Basil
Rathbone, Nottingham's Sheriff
not Sherlock, of book
thieves, quick, funny, sardonic
lover of Annette, leader of us all,
friend of Ted Berrigan's, himself
a scourge of Brentano's, of the dealer
Eddie Came, of Aussie and Sylvia,
of Bernie the philosopher who
worked a Coney Island stand
"Bust'em Up Baby!" before leaving
to study in Edinburgh and me.
The dope we rolled we smoked
our days and nights wasted
in play before we scattered lucky
to know one another only long
enough for a few bright memories
like these Harry to append
from your name, a decoration,
on the printed page of Ted's journal.
Trust the poet to keep record.

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