Interviewsand Articles

 

Three from Ron Hobbs

by Ron Hobbs, Aug 29, 2018


 

 

Dawn of a Question
Fresh white chert had just been spread over the parking lot at Meadow Woods Country Club when my stepfather was parking his brand-new 1958 white Plymouth Belvedere. He extinguished his Salem cigarette into the ashtray. (Chrysler cars had “ash receivers” according to their brochure, but Plymouths had merely “ashtrays.”)
     He was as Middle America as America got—and “By God” (he used to say), “I’m proud of it!” Of course he was as white as the new-spread gravel and a cousin to a president of the United States, Herbert Hoover, whose name he bore with the same sort of stuffy pride.
     Before him, my mother had had a lover, also a boring man, named Wilson. But Wilson had some exciting activities going involving high drama that took us to Havana and smoke-filled rooms, and all sorts of intrigue. He was a lawyer in a very specific sense and had dealings with “certain interests” out of Chicago. But back to the parking lot…
     HP, as my stepfather was known, took a table and ordered a martini. It was un-Methodist behavior, but it was also after 2 pm. He lighted another Salem and watched the smoke rise up. In spite of his “Aw Shucks” persona he could be a bastard, and I think he was getting prepared for that—looking forward to it perhaps.
     What happened that afternoon I’ll never know, but that evening we had dinner together at the Elks Club, which was all the glamour you could get in small-town, down-state Illinois. We had rib-eye steaks and garden salads, and HP went through several more martinis and Salems. He gave me some money, so I went into an off-shoulder alcove and hit the slot machines.
     When I returned to the table, a straggle of men were congratulating him for God knows what, and he glowed rosily like the pimentos in his gin.
     “Ronald” he said wagging his index finger, “America is the greatest country in the world!”
     He went on and on until his eyes misted up and I started to cringe. He was gone to someplace, a place called Drunk.
     I went over to the bar and asked the bartender if I needed to sign for anything. “No,” he said, “it’s all taken care of.”
     I picked up his car keys off the table, talked him out the door, drove him to the house and let him find his own way in. I drove his new white Belvedere out to Jolliff Bridge and sat there in the darkness. There were butts of cigarettes in the ashtray. I picked one out and lit it, smoked it to the nub and then I lit another one and did the same. I wondered, “What’s a human life for?” ∆
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The Poem That Lovers Seek
When I first got to New York (August 1965) with my pica-typed, stapled-sheaf manuscript of fourteen great poems, I went to a meeting of the Academy of American Poets.
     Certainly this was where I belonged.
     It was a decent-sized theatre room filling up with the sage and the wise of the day. A particular man in a tweed jacket with suede-patch elbows in the sleeves, stood importantly in the aisle. With his right hand he patted a white handkerchief at his nose.
     As the evening proceeded I could fit some names to some faces. Some minor businesses were conducted; a few people were introduced and read their poems. It was a back-scratching bunch. I got disgusted and left.
     A couple of weeks later I attended an open reading at St. Marks Church in the Bowery. St. Mark’s was the pinnacle of the novel and avant-garde. Maybe this was where I belonged.
     I signed up to read and when my name was called I shot them both barrels of my genius best. When I put my papers down, nobody leapt to their feet. The moderator simply said, “and our next reader is…”
     I had to re-think.
     I went to the Chelsea Hotel and sat in the lobby and tried to conjure Oscar Wilde.
     I went to one of the dives on Fifty-Second Street and pondered with Hugh Auden.
     I went to the Whitehorse Tavern and imitated Dylan Thomas, drank shot after shot, but all I got was a hangover.
     It is too easy to say, “Just be yourself.” People who play that rusty old saw are just the organ-grinder’s monkeys. Sixty years isn’t spit when it comes to being one’s self.
     But there are other people who invoke that dictum with deep sense and genuine feeling.
     Sometimes a question has to be held forever and loved and feared, like a guitar. The poem that lovers seek runs like a trout on a line. And once landed and measured, it’s set free—like a song. ∆
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Joe Sun Hawk
A large tipi had been erected on Rick’s land, which was practically smack dab center in the middle of Carson National forest. There was going to be a prayer meeting; the sacrament was a small bitter cactus. Usually the meetings in Taos revolved around Little Joe Gomez, but this night an Apache friend of his, Joe Sun Hawk, would be taking the meeting. We gathered at sundown.
     He said, “Friends, when you pray, do it this way.” And then he began to pray out loud. It wasn’t a formulaic prayer like the Our Father and it wasn’t something neatly printed out by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. By those criteria his prayer was but a ramble. But I understood, and most of the other’s did also.
     Throughout the night we prayed and sang; the prayers went every which way, but they did not deviate from his example. I puked. A man came and shoveled dirt over it. One of the things, the mainest thing, was that I wanted to pray out loud like the others. But I couldn’t. I could not find my voice and felt a deep shame. I never uttered a word.
     When the sun came up we left the tipi and the women started fixing breakfast. It was a morning beautiful, the sun as I’d never seen it before. The Road Man came over to me after awhile and said, “Hello! I’m Joe Sun Hawk. I just wanted to thank you for your prayers.” ∆ 
 

About the Author

Several of poet/writer Ron Hobbs pieces have appeared in works & conversations over the years.

 

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