Poetry Friday - The Collected Works of Susan Ramsey
I think you know the drill by now. The following was in Poetry Northwest, Volume XLI Number 2, Summer 2000.
Bartricks of the Overeducated
These guys get nasty. Some nights it's like watching
Hemingway bend a fork in his flexed arm,
throwing it on the table, challenging Hammett.
I've learned the warning signs: postmodernists
bear watching, Sartre signals trouble. Kierkegaard
means grab the cash and dive behind the bar;
you'll be combing slivers of contempt
out of your hair for days.
Once or twice in your life you'll see it swing
the other way. At two beers James agrees
to give 'em either "The Shooting of Dan Magrew"
or Auden's "Limestone." With three he'll alternate stanzas.
Paul's singing "Rise Up O Frisian Blood and Boil"
in Frisian, with his feet turned nearly backwards.
As the applause dies down Kim takes the floor,
demands silence, announces he'll recite
pi to thirty decimal places. They start
pounding the tables when he passes twenty.
Backthumps and beer as Dave's friends goad him up,
drunk enough to do his Dylan Thomas,
sober enough to succeed. Di's bellydancing
for a table singing "Stopping by Snowy Woods"
to the tune of "Hernando's Hideaway."
A smell of scorching means Rybicki's turned
himself into a sheet of flame again.
These guys are the Wallendas of tone. They know
it all depends on upping one another
without falling into ridicule
or dignity, piling delight on unsteady delight.
It's a nine-man tightrope pyramid
paced over broken glass and rattlesnakes,
blindfolded, backwards. A sneer could bring it down.
On the other hand, hearing gasps, look up,
watch one lose his footing, lift his arms
and glide the last few yards onto the platform.