www.livebard.com

 

Bard n Friends in Oshkosh

the Live Bard with fans, Oshkosh, WI, 2008
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New Poems & Other Tales
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NOTE:

On this page, the visitor to this site will find something a little different.  For the most part, the incentive behind the wanderings of the Live Bard is to acquaint those unfamiliar with narrative verse, with works from the acknowledged English speaking luminaries of this style of poetry.

 

But beyond reading or listening to poetry, I have found that to really understand it, one must actually try to write it.  Unless you endeavor to wrestle with words on a page, the true nature of the beast will remain something of an abstraction.


Below I have included some of my own scribblings.  Some of these may make the cut for the next book, while others may only be “work in process.”  As I take this calling (or curse) seriously, I always love feedback.  If you’re inclined, please click on the contact page and zing off an email to me.  Best wishes and, “thanks.”

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Diminished Expectations

 

So very little depends upon

the grimy carpet

and the grainy TV

in that fleabag hotel room

where gold Cheeto crumbs

cover my finger tips

which reach

for the sweaty blue oil can

of Foster’s lager.

 

Copyright © 2013 by: Peter J. Thomas, a.k.a. the Live Bard


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      Labor Day Distortion

 

I like pathos,
at least in poetry.

Evocative plots.

Crescendos of drama.

I’ll tell an audience,

“I’m not a ‘dew on the daffodils’ kind a' guy.”

No! Tales of blood and tears
hold the fluids that suckle me.
And so, I seek to stir people's passions.

I desire to extract us all from the mundane.

 

But you know,

I also love tranquility.
Solitude and the chance to go slow.

Time to listen to the disparate voices within.


And I have known such peace in many places:

The intimidating grandeur of the mountains,

the unforgiving solemnity of the desert,

but especially, in my patch of woods by the river.

 

There, sensing the breeze on my sunburned face,

hearing the rhythmic chant of the rapids,

and watching the dance of the iridescent demons

who spit and sizzle in the camp fire

until late in the night,

I am reminded that I am a creature of flesh.

 

And therefore,

because life is so preciously short,

this holiday has got nothing to do

with fighting for a parking space

at a shopping mall.

 

Copyright © 2013 by: Peter J. Thomas, a.k.a. the Live Bard


   

________Debased Ball________

 

Baseball.

The all-American game.

The national pastime since 1865.

The origin of quaint rituals,

most notably, spitting.

 

Baseball.

A byzantine regimen

engendering tribal identification;

a stylized liturgy, embraced

by generations of zealous acolytes,

distilled from the hallowed lives of

venerated sacerdotalists like

Cobb, Ruth, Gehrig and Robinson;

and which, in my youth, was further

refined by the likes of Mantle, Maris and Mays.

Thus had emerged a compelling orthodoxy,

devoutly professed by myself and my peers

each time we picked up a glove

and intoned the hallowed cry,

“Play ball!”

 

Baseball.

A way of life.

Something we did.

Something we dreamed.

Something we talked about.

Something we heard on the radio.

Something, “Triple A,” Dad took me to.

Something in summer that was everything.

 

Baseball.

A masculine right-of-passage,

imbued with aggressive subtleties.

A sport in which girls wanted to partake,

yet which, for boys, was not just a game

but an initiation to manhood,

thus one to which we submitted willingly.

And so, when finally it came

to be perceived  as a duty,

God, how I learned to loath it so!

 

Baseball.

The ethos, the hype, the cool.

The camaraderie  of pick-up games:

Those many, long forgotten innings

at the nearby park.

That barren, neglected, place

scratched out of the side of a hill.

The ground, either mucky clay or chalk dry,

punctuated by a few intransigent weeds,

clouded with mosquitoes one minute,

shimmering in the mid-day heat the next.

No water, no toilet, no reason to be there,

but baseball.

 

Baseball.

An addiction.

The drug of choice in my time,

played by boys of diverse creeds and skills,

who, on any given day, would nominate,

from our acephalous ranks,

the two best players as pitchers,

who, in turn, would alternate their picks

until two teams were chosen.

An impromptu player draft,

free of parental oversight.

Our own social contract,

the subordination of each, to the will of all,

implemented with the savvy of Solomon.

An equitable distribution,

both of talent, and its absence.

 

Boys who coalesced into competing teams;

boys who played for hours;

boys who cheered those with prowess,

boys who chided those without,

but playing,

playing our hearts out,

playing simply because we could.

 

And not that we didn’t try to win -

not that we didn’t haggle over a bad pitch

or every ball that hugged the foul line.

Sure we did, playing for all we were worth.

Winning just made it all sweeter.

 

Baseball.

Oh, how we loved it so,

at least until some philanthropist had a vision.

He thought we needed an “organization.”

So he got access to some vacant land

and plotted new fields.

He laid out diamonds with real sod.

We watched in anticipation as, overnight,

he created an entire league.

Suddenly, there were eight or ten new teams.

Suddenly, we were wearing pinstriped uniforms,

knickerbockers, and stirrup socks.

Next we watched as bleachers were built,

then a concession stand  -

amenities that drew an audience.

Now we had meddling spectators,

know-it-all parents,

and worst of all, of giggling girls!

 

Baseball.

Before that time, we played,

each flush to his own ability.

Before that time, we played,

needing only a lousy mitt.

Before that time, we played for fun.

Then men appointed themselves as coaches.

Henceforth, we still played,

but now, for their glory alone.

_________Copyright © 2011 by:  Peter J. Thomas_______

-

......What's My Line.....

 

“Good evening ladies and gentlemen

and welcome to our show tonight.

We call it “What's My Line,”

that psychically destructive quiz game

where you must provide adequate

answers to this evening’s questions

or be disqualified, socially shunned,

and figuratively buried alive.”

 

“The first question is, are you ready?

‘What is your name?’

Now don’t worry too much about your answer

as we really don’t care about you as a person.

We simply need a  label to identify you

from all the other nondescript functionaries.
Of course your name will give us some clue

as to your ethnic or religious background

which can occasionally work to the advantage

(or disadvantage) of your dysfunction index.”

 

“But now, and don’t be nervous,

that all important second question

which is, ‘what do you do for a living?’

Yes, we confess that this inquiry is posed

as though demanding a ticket

for entrance to the human race,

which, considering the materialistic,

“me first,” immediate gratification,

pink bubble gum comics culture we live in,

is exactly what it is.”  §

 

                Copyright © 2009 by: Peter J. Thomas,  a. k. a. the Live Bard

 

 

___________________________________________________________________


.......Why Men Die Younger
.......
 

The other car had cut her off and

she had to hit the brakes pretty hard.

It made me mad and I asked, with muted sarcasm,

“So, how does that make you feel?”

She made a grimace with her mouth

but kept on driving like nothing had happened.

 

Minutes later I asked if she wanted to get even.

“Get even for what?” she said.

“For that guy back there,” I replied.

“Oh that,” she said.  “I forgot about him already.”

 “You wouldn't want to tell him off,” I prodded?

“What good would it do?” she said with a funny look.

 

We drove on and, for a moment, I was seventeen.

I was driving two girls home after school when

some guy cut me off and I started chasing him.

I saw my buddy’s car and waved for him to follow.

My adversary and I were racing towards each other

when the guy stopped and started to get out.

 

I was going to ram his door but drove past instead.

I moved to get out of my car but the girls protested.

My buddy arrived and started to smooth things over.

I’ve always wondered how things would have played out

if I’d rammed the door and crushed the guy’s leg.


And then, let me see, oh yeah, there was the time.... 
§

 

                Copyright © 2009 by: Peter J. Thomas,  a.k.a. the Live Bard

 

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A Story of Christmas

 

Many lives ago, in a city far, far away, I labored diligently as a novice securities broker.  One, otherwise quiet day, I received a phone call from a friend who was also a client.  A local chef, he was excited to tell me about the new restaurant he planned to open.  We spoke for some time.  As the call was ending I said, “Now Jim, if you need any help, just let me know.”

 

Two days later the phone rang and the first words out of the mouth of the person on the other end simply said, “Were you serious?”  I recognized Jim’s voice and felt a sinking sensation because I deduced, correctly as it turned out, that I was then on the hook.  I had experience as a waiter and, sure enough, Jim wanted me to work nights in his new dining room.  I said, rather grudgingly, that I’d be happy to help for “a couple of weeks,” or at least until he got the crew he needed.

 

Some few days hence, we had opening night.  There were only three of us on duty: Jim, another veteran waiter named Clyde, and myself.  As expected, the place prospered, and within a very short time, Jim required a Sous Chef, a hostess, a dishwasher, additional wait staff, plus an entire second crew to cover lunches.

 

I soon came to enjoy my time there because it was different world from my day job and offered its own unique challenges.  It also allowed me to work shoulder-to-shoulder with people of different ages and backgrounds, the most curious of which was Mian.  An immigrant from Bangladesh, he was about thirty years of age.  He worked for multiple employers, often toiling seven days a week.  His earnings helped him support two sisters who had moved to the States with him.

 

I had great respect for the man because of his work ethic.  He would arrive with his prayer mat at five in the evening and proceed directly to the restroom where he would render the daily obligations of his faith.  Upon emerging, he would don an apron and attack the heap of the afternoon’s accumulation of pots and pans.  Though short in stature and slight in build, Mian undertook his duties with the zeal of a two hundred and fifty pound linebacker blitzing a prima donna quarterback.  Evidently, the strength of The Prophet was strong within him.

 

Unlike so many of us today who work in subsistence level jobs, there was no dour display of “attitude,” of being put upon, either because of boring duties, or an oppressive boss.  Mian quickly earned my admiration for, on those all too frequent occasions when the wait staff needed cups or glasses washed, Mian would readily accede to our requests. 

 

Over time, I learned something of his life story.  I confided aspects of myself as well, so it was enjoyable to share a workplace with him.  One of my great amusements was relaying to Mian updates of scores for the Bangladeshi soccer team.  I’d get these from listening to the BBC on Public Radio.  I never told him what my source was, and he was always amazed at how I could possibly know how his team, on the other side of the world, fared against rivals such as India or Pakistan.

 

The weeks advanced and it came to be holiday season.  By then I had winnowed my restaurant schedule down to only a couple of nights per week.  That year, Christmas Eve fell on my day to work.  I really didn’t mind as this shift can be fun in the restaurant business.  On this special night of the year, customers have completed their shopping and are ready to relax and share in conviviality.

 

We had gotten through the evening and our last customers had departed.  After finishing the glamour of our usual “side work,” I told Mian I had something for him. Earlier that day, I had stopped at an electronics store where I had purchased an inexpensive radio.  I wrote a note explaining the settings for the appropriate bandwidth and station in order to obtain the soccer scores, and then placed the box in Christmas wrapping with a bow.  I handed the package to Mian who appeared not to know what to do next.  I told him to go ahead and open it.  He tore open the paper and when he saw the radio, I told him that now he could get his own soccer updates.

 

He stood still, looking at me without speaking.  At that moment, the other two waiters walked up to see what was going on.  I said that I had just given Mian his Christmas present.  With a wink of my eye, I nodded toward Maim.  The first waiter picked up my signal immediately.  He reached into his pocket and pulled out his wad of tip money.  Peeling off a ten-dollar bill, he handed it to Maim and said, “Merry Christmas!”  The second waiter took the hint as well and likewise produced a ten spot which he handed over to our valued dishwasher.

 

Well, there stood Mian, clutching his new radio with one hand and holding the two ten-dollar bills with the other.  Tears then came to his eyes.  In a soft but clear voice Mian said that his father stilled worked as a laborer in Bangladesh where he earned only thirty dollars a month.  Holding up his gifts, he muttered meekly, “This is a fortune.  Why have you done this?”  I looked at him and responded saying, “You don’t have to be a Christian, to appreciate the meaning of Christmas.”  At this point, as though on cue, the Chef walked up and gave Main a bag of food to take home to his sisters.

 

Such were the events making up one small tale of Christmas, many years ago.

 

(UPDATE:  I spoke to my friend Jim during the recent holidays.  His restaurant in Pensacola, Florida still prospers.  It’s known as “O’Brien’s Bistro” and is located on Bayou Boulevard, near 12th Avenue, just a half mile from the entrance to the airport.  Stop by and say “Hello.”

 

Though Maim had left the restaurant, Jim had seen him only recently.  Mian was soon to be finishing a bachelor’s degree.  He then intends to go back to his home country where he plans to open his own restaurant.

 

Oh, and by the way, the “two weeks” I intended to work at the restaurant, somehow turned into five years.)