Poetry Friday: How listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" leads me to another fabulous poet

Poetry Friday is hosted by Kate at Book Aunt   
Garrison Keillor and George Bilgere: A Prairie Home Companion, December 10th, 2011
Last Saturday night we listened to Garrison Keillor, who introduced his listeners to yet another fabulous poet: George Bilgere.  I was entirely unfamiliar with his work, but was captivated by this one, which he read aloud to us:
The Table

I’m helping my brother-in-law
Knock apart an old table
By the tool shed, a table they’ve loaded
With planting pots and fertilizer bags
For years, until a decade outside
In wind and rain has done it in,
And suddenly, as in a myth
Or fairytale when the son
Recognizes his lost father under the rags
Of an old beggar, I realize
It’s the kitchen table of our childhood,
Where my mother and my two sisters and I
Regathered and regrouped inside
A new house in a new state
After the divorce, where at the end

Of every day
We talked about our day,
Practicing our first fictions
Over pork chops and mashed potatoes
When mom had a job, or fish sticks
Or fried Spam, or chicken pot pies
When she didn’t.
Where we dyed
Our Easter eggs, and played through
Rainy days of Scrabble.
Where I sweated over algebra
And German verbs, and our mother
Would drink a bottle of wine
And lay her head down and weep
Over everything, terrifying us
Into fits of good behavior,
Of cleaning and vacuuming, until
She snapped out of it,
As if nothing had happened
And made it up to us
By doing something crazy,
Like making pancakes for supper.
The table where my uncle
Got me drunk for the first time
And where I sat down for dinner
For the last time with my grandmother.
The table where my sister
Announced she was pregnant.
Where I said that, on the whole, Canada
Looked a lot better than Vietnam.
Where the four of us warmed ourselves
At the fire of family talk.
Plain brown table of a thousand meals.
I’m starting to sweat now, the hammer
Overmatched by iron-grained walnut
Bolted at the joists. It takes a wrench
And crowbar to finally break it down
To a splintered skeleton, to the wreckage
Of an old table, built
When things were meant to last,
Like a hardcover book, or a cathedral,
Or a family. We stack up what’s left
For firewood, and call it a day.

I loved the poetry in the particulars – how that very ordinary table, like so many odd and ordinary objects in our lives, become invested with meaning and history.  Here is another of his poems, somewhat in the same memoirst vein:

Corned Beef and Cabbage

By George Bilgere

I can see her in the kitchen,   
Cooking up, for the hundredth time,   
A little something from her   
Limited Midwestern repertoire.   
Cigarette going in the ashtray,   
The red wine pulsing in its glass,   
A warning light meaning   
Everything was simmering   
Just below the steel lid   
Of her smile, as she boiled   
The beef into submission,   
Chopped her way   
Through the vegetable kingdom   
With the broken-handled knife   
I use tonight, feeling her   
Anger rising from the dark   
Chambers of the head   
Of cabbage I slice through,   
Missing her, wanting   
To chew things over   
With my mother again.
You can find more poems by George Bilgere here: http://www.georgebilgere.com/table.html
Advertisements

6 thoughts on “Poetry Friday: How listening to "A Prairie Home Companion" leads me to another fabulous poet

  1. Felt sad as I was reading both poems :(Heartstrings tugged with these lines:"It takes a wrench And crowbar to finally break it down To a splintered skeleton, to the wreckage Of an old table, built When things were meant to last, Like a hardcover book, or a cathedral, Or a family."- I love it when poetry delves into the particulars, the cryptic codes, and the reader is able to craft their own story into it – and visualize a meaning that is neither here nor there, yet powerful in that in-between state of existence. Thanks for sharing.

  2. As I read your post and then read the "Table". As I was reading through it and was getting to the end I kept hoping he would save it. How like like some things we just have to let go.

Thank you for reading my blog! Please leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s