The Resurrection of Bert Ringold

In the fall Cinco Puntos Press will publish a book of poems by Harvey Goldner. This is not a smart capitalistic move. Like Sandy Taylor, a long time publishing mentor of Lee’s and mine and a co-publisher at the Curbstone Press says, “Publishing poetry is suicidal.” Still we do it because I am a poet and from time to time we feel the urge. It’s almost a biological and emotional necessity, like making love. Sandy would totally agree. It just feels good.

The book of poems is Harvey’s The Resurrection of Bert Ringold. I grew up alongside Harvey Goldner in Memphis. He’s probably the one guy most responsible for me becoming a poet. Once during the craziness of our adolescence Harvey took me down to the public library. Forgive me if I have my dates wrong but I think we were 15 or 16. If we were 15, then we rode the bus, the front of the bus. We were white boys and this was 1958-down-South-post-Boss-Crump Memphis 10 long years before James Earle Ray unsheathed his rifle and shot Martin Luther King on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel. Harvey checked out two 78rpm vinyl records—one was called The San Francisco Renaissance and the other was Lawrence Ferlinghetti reading Coney Island of the Mind. My gosh, my idea about poetry changed immediately and forever. I remember Allen Ginsberg reading Howl like it was a Declaration of our Independence, wise drunken gay Jack Spicer murmuring into the microphone and of course Ferlinghetti’s hypnotic sing-song voice telling us that “the dog walks freely in the street and the things he sees are bigger than himself.”

Before I paste in a Harvey Goldner poem, I want to give praise and thanks to that long-ago librarian who purchased those records. Also, I worry if I have my dates correct on when we listened to those records. I googled but couldn’t find the exact record or a date, Harvey remembers listening to something but he is clueless about further details, so Harvey and I could have made our magical journey to The New American Poetry sometime before I left Memphis in late 1962. I don’t think so (I like the way I tell my story), but maybe.

So here’s the first poem of The Resurrection of Bert Ringold.

Apocalypse September 1994

Mid-September, late afternoon, the world
came to an end, just like Harold
Camping had been predicting it would

on Bible Radio. Who’d have believed
that loony grouch? But there was no Hollywood
Armageddon: blond Madonna thrashing in mud,

cities on fire, armies clashing, rivers of blood,
ground quaking and cracking up, booming rap
music—none of that loud and dramatic crap:

God simply and quietly turned off, or turned
way down, Earth’s gravity. My old dad
and I were in the park, walking Manfred,

Dad’s dog, a German shepherd, when Dad
tossed a red rubber ball for Manfred
to catch. Manfred jumped and missed the red

ball, as usual (the dog was old and half-blind),
but—lo and behold—both the ball and Manfred
kept on going up and up, with Manfred

barking after the ball like a mad
cracker preacher after a sexy sinner. I rubbed
my eyes, thinking I might be having an acid

flashback, but when I turned to face Dad,
his shoes were up where his face had
been, and he hovered above me. I grabbed

his ankles to tug him down, but I too left the ground.
Luckily we were under a tree, and we wedged
ourselves between branches. We watched Manfred

rise through the sky toward a big red cloud.
Park debris ascended, as well as a crowd which included
cats and dogs, mothers with babies in strollers, and

two softball teams with their gear. Then Dad
smiled at me and said, “Fuck it, son,” and we scrambled
out of the tree. I held Dad’s hand as we rose toward

the cloud. Dad soon died. I cried. Blood trickled
out of Dad’s nose. I’m still slowly rising. It’s cold
and dark now, the air is terribly thin, a dead

horse just floated past. Using Dad’s back
as a sort of a desk, I’m writing this poem
by the light of the half-moon, with a pencil,

on my current bank statement. For once I’m not
depressed that my balance is under a dollar.
And I’ll soon be dead, so there just isn’t time

to fuss too much anymore with meter and rhyme.
I’m going to put this poem in the half-pint
bourbon bottle (empty now) that I filched

from Dad’s hip pocket. I’ll fling it toward the
stars, which, thank God, are still in their places.
Hopefully, some weird being from a distant galaxy

will find it, and hopefully he, she or it
will like 20th century American poetry.

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