Poem – To an Ironing Board (2005)

To an Ironing Board

                 Nailed to a Bedroom Door

 

There are welts across the arses

Of the British upper classes

Then in France it launched a craze

Benamed “La Maladie Anglaise.”

 

All may crave this painful bliss: though

It helps to be aristo;

“Oh please, Sir Dukie, Duke, please,

Smack me just like the Marquise!”

 

Back and forth across the Channel

Pong and Ping the darling paddle

Raised her red retorts of pleasure

Forth and back in equal measure.

 

The wealthy Duke of Lauderdale

Does enjoy an unforced wail

From aproned maids, with wet red eyes

Who are ladies in disguise.

 

Our sublime poet of rack and wheel

Was clapt into the dread Bastille

Deprived of Light and Day

By a Lettre de Cachet

 

So, well-born and standing tall

Leaves a greater way to fall.

Duke and Marquesses fall down on

Knights, Viscounts, and Baron.

 

This little doggerel of decay, Brings us to the present Day

In this world of Bush the younger………. Hunger

 

 

                                             RR 2005

Story – Bausch and Lomb (10/30/03)

10/30/03 5:12 PM

Bausch and Lomb

When I was seventeen and already living on my own I’d sometimes visit my mother’s house in Acushnet mostly to root around for old clothes: it was my passion. I’d once traded a old ciree leather hunting jacket for a full length double-breasted black leather coat, very storm trooper—she hated it. It was the only time my mother ever hit me. Once I found a little V-necked sweater, khaki, she’d knitted for me when I must’ve been five or six. I don’t recall wearing it to kindergarten but got a lot of wear out of it later—it must’ve been knit from surplus 2nd WW wool—the color, but the fit was sublime, the sleeves three-quarter and so short it didn’t cover my belly button. “Take that off.”

But the best thing I ever found were a pair of sunglasses. I had never seen anything like them, and indeed, at the time nothing like them existed. They had honey color tortoise shell frames and the lenses were cobalt blue. The lenses were tear-shape and the narrow part came to the nose piece. They were a shape that would later be called ‘aviator’ and that famously enhanced the beauty of Robert Redford in the seventies.

I wore them for a couple of years. What happened to them? What happens to anything a teenager prizes; other teenagers steal it.

II.

My mother grew up atop the highest hill in Auburn, Maine. Broad Street was so steep that I still have nightmares about it. The hill was steep and the winters were unbelievably cold. The icicles hang from the third floor to the ground. A boy once got his ears frostbitten walking my mother home from the skating rink down the hill. It was the occasion of an unpleasant nickname for him in later life.

There were three sisters, my mother, Pauline, the eldest a strawberry blond and then Lorraine and Pricilla, the baby, both redheads. The sisters were close in age and all lovely.

They were a close family who loved a joke and were punctilious about proper delivery. As my exact contemporary, Jackie, Lorraine’s daughter, once told me, “Be serious.” In other words don’t telegraph a punch line—be serious.

My sarcastic grandmother was incredibly funny and it ran to my mother—but later; she was a very shy girl. When the grown ups drank they would always, in an old-fashioned way, propose toasts. Here’s one my mother, of course, remembers overhearing.

“Here’s to the girl who lives

On the hill

She won’t do it

But her sister will.

Here’s to her sister.”

III.

The first picture I ever saw of Jimmy Donahugh, he was in a sailor uniform with a buddy in front of a hula girl backdrop in Okinawa. Post card size, it was just another photo in the album. It had written on it “Something, Something, from the Gob who loves you.” I didn’t know what a Gob was, A gob is a sailor, my mother explained.

IV.

Through time and the vicissitudes my mother became the repository of a great many photographs of Jimmy Donahugh. An exceptional accumulation. Just the most beautiful photographs and as Mrs. Gaskell once wrote, would not have been so sad if the times they told of hadn’t been so happy. Her light hair parted on the side in a gentle pageboy. My mother at eighteen with Jimmy at the beach, on sail boats, in bathing suits—my mother’s a yellow two-piece, or shorts and sweaters, out hiking. But mostly they seemed to live on skis, in matching reindeer sweaters and stretch pants, or gabardine jackets cinched at the waist, my mother with a bandeau around her ears—Jimmy hatless with light curly hair and so beautiful the two of them in their sunglasses, holding their poles—or my favorite shot of my mother laughing, on her stomach, fallen in the snow, photographed by Jimmy. As I looked at it I could still hear their distant laughter.

This is not Saint Moritz, for the girl who lived on the hill, skiing was a fact of life and some of the shots are from the back yard, as you can tell by the Androscoggin River frozen solid far behind the endless declines of the Hill, then the field, then the trees, the river then the next hill that begins from its far banks.

 

V.

Once, reading about President Kennedy, I came upon a startling passage, JFK’s sister, nicknamed Kick, had been married to the eldest son of the Duke of Devonshire. Kick Cavendish, I suppose was her new name. She became a young war-widow when the plane he was returning on mysteriously exploded mid-air in an unexplained disaster that “inexplicably bedeviled flights so commonly during the Second World War.”

Mrs. Donahugh and my mother had chosen the date, the church, and the dress, The invitations were sent out. At the last moment plans were altered. Instead of presents the guests sent flowers. Instead of a white muslin dirndl my mother wore a black wool crepe and Jimmy’s funeral was held on the date of the wedding. The honor guard crossed their raised swords over my mother’s head as she left the church, holding the little box covered in a tiny American flag that contained James Michael Donahugh III’s remains, draped in his dog tags.

His plane mysteriously blew up, “as occurred so commonly during the Second World War.” What bits of him that were recovered were scattered somewhere near Worcester, Massachusetts, two days before his wedding day. The honor guard that accompanied his remains crossed their swords over my mother’s young head as she left the funeral mass in a black dress. There is a photograph.

She wore the same dress when she married my father. No photograph.

 

VI.

I was usually the last to hear about family secrets. Conversations would go on and I would become more and more mystified as I, along with everyone else, realized that I was not in possession of an important piece of information that usually served as key to the episode. The entire table would turn to me and gasp “You didn’t know?” Of course not; my mother fought like a demon to keep me ignorant. But she could have prepared me for some of the more amazing history my family delights in creating for itself.

Jimmy, however, she finally regaled me with. The legend of Jimmy was absolute and she wanted me to know it. She wanted me aware of who she’d been, of youth, of promise and of physical beauty that had been his, and possessed by her. The photographs were testimony, their smiles were real. The old stone jug they held to their lips while picturesquely chopping wood held real crystal clear and ice cold Poland water from the pump at the cabin in the chanterelle strewn woods on a pond near Sebago.

I am out of touch with my family for years on end.

At a certain point my mother became the docent of an enormous collection of photos from Maine. Apparently she and Jimmy were everyone’s favorite pin-up couple because there seemed to be an endless amount. No one with such a brief life posed for as many pictures as the sensitive and virile Jimmy. And he was never alone.

Teasing my mother one day about how he obviously had no privacy—she was always on his arm. Laughing through tears is a technique we learned from my mother. Suddenly I was brought, as they say, up short.

The sunglasses she’s wearing with her Lana Turner bandeau and reindeer sweater: They were the ones I’d found so many years before.

“What is it?”

“Ma, those sunglasses! They look just like the ones   you gave me when I was young.”

“Jimmy gave them to me.”

“They’re still the nicest glasses I’ve ever seen.”

“Yes they were. Jimmy paid $85 for them. They’re by         Bausch and Lomb.”

I couldn’t even begin to imagine how much eighty-five dollars in nineteen forties money was worth, My first New York City rent in 1965 was $45 a month.

“They were made for skiing, The lenses were treated            to cut the glare.”

“But how could you ever let me have them?”

Then my mother answered simply; “Because I loved            you.”

Rene Ricard          October 2003

 

 

Poem – Cecil (10/4/2003)

Cecil

 

Just a kid in a disco

With an east-side garçonnière

And a tidy phalanx of body guards

*

It was a fun night and a

great story: a crown-prince

Then on the cover of ‘Time’

“Forty-third reincarnation of the god

Vishnu”

*

The feathers of the years fly from

their pillow.

An occasional mention in the press:

Plays saxophone

Likes to snap shots

 

*

 

But an intriguing wife with

Dynastic designs, a recalcitrant

Son with a personal armory, and

A family dinner with an Elizabethan

dénouement:

*

A Shakespearean meal

Where a king and a prince meet

And every thing ends in mincemeat

*

Some say a good king

Some say not

From reforming youth devolves

A frustrated middle age

*

And Maoist rebels; what

do I know?

He was a kid in the discotheque

‘Ondine’

*

Sometimes the Hero

Becomes the Dragon

And the staff sweeps the bones

from the mouth

of the

Cave

 

Rene Ricard

October 4, 2003

N.Y.C.

Poem – All Day (10/25/78)

All Day

So this is reality too, come in

and now you’re here, all swept

up for you the floor shiny

and our wonderful pal, the

antelope clatters its little hooves

on the floor to eat from your

hand, all the pictures

you love on the walls and

your favorite books read

themselves aloud, and you

can leave if you want to, just

turn the page or have the kids

come over for cake, little Louie

from downstairs, he likes you

so much he brings his friends

too, the twelve year old girl,

She loves it here we give her

shiny hair and crackling

petticoats. It’s always

just after school and

just before supper. The

flower in the flowerpot smiles

all day in the sunshine

and waves its little

leaves when you come home. Such

a bright yellow floor and

such a big cozy bed

It says Hey Get Up or

You’ve got a temperature or

Stay here with me

let’s watch TV all day.

Sometimes there’s a moon

when we’re alone but

like always the grinning

kind that hangs from a

thin wire. Oh yeah, the

stars have five neat points

The coffee pot giggles and

the dishes wash themselves with

their little rubber gloves

squeaking and laughing.

You have that effect on things

and even the bathroom,

so often left out of things,

is happy, when you’re

home.

 

Oct 25

1978 RR