Poems for the Living

My friend, punk rock poet laureate Blaine Martin, opens Reading is Fundamental Week, with his Poems for the Living.

Forgetting Philadelphia

Dad worked demolition for forty-eight
years and his brain never quit, it took
Philadelphia apart brick by brick, first
the buildings—City Hall, Veterans’ Field,
with its blue and red seats: green Astroturf.
Then it moved on to bridges—the Ben
Franklin, Walt Whitman, lastly Commodore
Barry, which he only ever drove over
once, when the Ben Franklin was closed.
Finally it stripped the streets from the nooks
of his brain, Walnut and Market were gone
forever. One time, we found him pacing
out front of the house and he could not
remember our faces.

In January, I Take the Train into Chinatown for Curried Chicken

Tags are tattooed
across the skeletons
of train cars
that whir past
my window.

I swear I see
the living dead
huddled by fires
built in the ribs
of rowhomes.

When I leave
the train, I hear
the low moan
of the dying blow
into the cold.

In the Fall, I Taught Myself to Die with Grace and Poise

The funeral procession moves
slowly from the house
with me in the lead, dressed against

the cold, followed by the bereaved:
three small orange cats.
We proceed to sacred ground:

out by the pool: a cleared
patch of grass next to
a mound of leaves. I lie down, letting

the dew cling to me as I cover
myself in brittle leaves and pray
silently as

the cats mew my eulogy
in scratchy song.

This city playground grew from nothing and

Serge saw himself as a child again,
living two houses south
of the apple tree, running on hot
nights when brandy ran down his father’s
chin, staining his yellowed work shirt,
Sinatra singing it was a very good year,
but Serge knew better, so did his father,
furious at the closed factories—he
would swing hammer-word fists, striking
Serge in the arm, the chest, then the jaw,
fighting the futility—
age and failing good looks—
watching his son spill
over the carpet and stain it red, spitting blood
and teeth. That was the year the apple tree cracked
the coarse stone stairs. Serge stood, burst out
the door, ran. The tree pushed up,
reached towards the city skyline. Serge climbed,
took an apple from the top branch, bit down.


~ by thepaintedman on February 1, 2011.

5 Responses to “Poems for the Living”

  1. Props for featuring Blaine Martin here – he’s a great poet!

  2. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Justin Harlan, Justin Harlan. Justin Harlan said: Some free poetry to kick off Reading is Fundamental Week: http://bit.ly/dNcwuk […]

  3. It’s always a treat to read Blaine’s poetry. :)

  4. fucking cool!

  5. […] This is a 1.0 ReTread. Read the original TPM 1.0 post here. […]

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