Elegy for Port Townsend
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.