Elegy for Port Townsend

Circa 1989

Michael G. Strom

I was there when it happened,

the town was full of poets,

painters, troubadours, liars,

pushers, con-men and women with a past

and women with no future.

The years ruined us,

damn near everyone’s

gone.. moved out, got murdered,

made it in Hollywood,

didn’t make it in Hollywood

and think they made it in Hollywood but

were just cast into the spawning

gutters of tomorrow.

Yeah, some of the old crowds still around,

Jim Alden, still around, yeah

Jim Alden and Sandy rowing in from the Comet

in a dingy.  The Comet, that derelict as some

angry city father named,

claiming the comet was demeaning the city.

We partied out there running out

in a run about, powering down

kegs of beer blowing joints in the face

of society…the last renegades

of a decadent culture.

Jim Alden, painter of dreams and hobbits

washing dishes at the Judge’s Chambers

Where he and the manager would drink

Wild Turkey at dawn.

The glittering people were arriving

then piloting Porsches and Beemers

movie people and rock stars

who had their own crowd,

we were different somehow,

didn’t fit in

their narrow little world

they bought up derelict Victorians

hiring artist to work as carpenters

renovated… Hell, I don’t

wanna talk about it much,

It was funny, Sandy next to Jim,

So tiny as to blow away,

brown hair and grown daughters, pouring

drinks at the Snake Pit you know where that is,

until dawn and we were there and no more

than fools of the cloth, dabbing paint on canvas

dreaming… I remember the town tavern

with Malloy sitting in front playing his flute

Malloy, an Irish saint,

with the soul of a poet, barefoot in the town tavern,

dressed in a greatcoat and broad brimmed hat,

fool that he was he always found the truth  that

he found in the bottom of that bottle of

Irish Whiskey… Screaming at the high school girls

lolling at the teen center that

he only wanted to make love to them.

He was a man, wasn’t he?

He was a man, a poet with a flute

a bard of the tongue, Iambic couplets, rhymed–

defunct of reason loaded with wine.

In Jail, out of Jail, then working in fiberglass shops,

half-crazy with the fumes and booze.

Jim, Poet of our hearts,

who died and arouse, turning up on the street sober,

playing his angry flute,

to the blue stocking girls of your dreams

looking for BZ to kick you ass one last time.

BZ… Last heard of him a rumor or a lie,

up in Ketchikan, drinking one beer a day

working as a welder somewhere.

BZ, fresh of Haight Street with a black-haired hooker

in tow, escaping from madness,

joining a commune joining the Town Tavern gang,

wearing his big Shrade knife, drinking pink ladies…

built from red and white port, the cheapest available.

I’m the bouncer here, he told me,

and I make the popcorn, military police

In Nam, more pink ladies, please, and Cathy Sue,

seventeen and beautiful working in the deli.

BZ lover… While Mary Anne found

Jim Oneman running from the law

There was more than one like him,

Tommy Teapot six-two two-twenty-two

All muscle with two front teeth knocked out, said

“This is the end of the road,

From here you just walk into the sea

And open you mouth and breath in the water.”

He finally robbed the Organic market and had

To be busted by his brother in law…

This is before all the pretty people,

When people were real.

Everyone knew who he was,

He had no whores to run. Tommy had nowhere

To go but back to Chicago.

I wonder if he got there?

I don’t know. Tommy teapot curly brown hair,

Curly laughter form behind the bar…

I’ll never forget you throwing the windows

Open on that rat-hole apartment facing the bay

And greeting the day with a howl.

Sun greeting the day, Mt. Baker visible, Rainier too.

Before the movie people came to town

Back in the time of legends.

If you could only know what beauty moved us, only know.

The criminals, the poets, the beauty.

Natural Nancy came to town driving

Her little Saab looking for beautiful Swedish things

And she met the master of disguise laughing

Through the night, a jewel named Peter who name describes his passion

Missed his calling. He should have sold snake oil

To the Indians. Always on the hustle, losing one gal,

Finding another, then finally ending up

In the men’s can broken and bleeding,

Something about a few hundred bucks and

A pound of weed. Then Nancy drifted off to the beautiful

People and we never saw her again,

except at times on the street

with her long black hair flowing down

Her shoulder. Beauty, I have known thee,

ah how I’ve known thee… then Arnie and Sherri,

Soap opera and drama in real life.

Arnie mainlining, sherry drinking sherry

And kids being born… Arnie doing the delivering,

A beauty of a man built like Adonis

Walking the seawall in spring with Krishna

His samoyan Irish setter mix

Having the best traits of both,

smarter than most people. Making the rounds

A golden ghost searching for bird or dear

Loving to run, disappeared one day

as did all the great dogs, but for Craig’s

old Rhodesian ridgeback,

who Arnie took care of in his retiring years.

Arnie and Sherri living in that blue, black and white

Garden converted Bristol bay cutter

Hanging diapers on the boom, white port

All night white port

The small town the brick three story downtown,

Ships passing through to the Orient

Then Sheldon at 20 broke in upon the town

Confirmed in pleasure, illiterate, unethical and charming.

Six foot four, lanky and muscled he stole

Cedar from the Crown and sold it at 400 bucks a cord.

Who could afford not to when one expected pleasures.

Deep black hash and powdered white snow

And his old lady, when they’d fight they’d

Think murder was about to happen

Coming down one too many times,

Too many times left town full of charm

Probably a movie star now or dead

Except thay don’t make stars out of men anymore,

Just sensitive cynical type, vomit and bloodshed,

The modern world better watch out.