Statement of Record

Three poems by WILLIAM CODY MAHER

T

THE RETURN

There was comfort

In the dense fog

The ocean waves

The return

Was I any different?

Another ghost

I walked past

These figures

Passing through

Deep nights

Of oceans

Separated

And now I was one of them

Whose hands

Reached out to no one. . .

 

I AM THE POET LAUREATE OF NOTHINGNESS

I am the poet laureate of nothingness

I am proud of that disputed fact

It is disputed because there is no proof

That nothingness exists

And I am no argument

For or against nothingness

I was telling my dead mother

Just last night

When we paused

Halfway up McKinnon St

That the house is still there

But I don’t think the people

Will let us live with them

She was standing out of breath

And I felt guilty for asking her

To climb up this hill

That is certainly an example of nothingness

I can’t tell her that there is a view

What would you see if you saw nothingness?

But I am proud anyway

To have this title

A title I gave myself

Why wait for someone

To give you a meaningless title

When you can create your own

I was jealous for many years

When all of my favorite dead poets

Got streets and alleys named after them

Usually those streets were dead end streets

One was in back of a restaurant

Where the dishwasher would dump the garbage

Another one was in an alleyway

Where drunks would piss

And trucks would pull up

To deliver hysterical chickens

But anyway

Being the poet of nothingness

I should make a little speech

Just to kind of inaugurate myself

But my mother

Wants to turn back

And since I have left the womb

I have also had the desire recently

To want to turn back

But how can you turn back

To the nothingness

Of the womb of your dead mother

But I don’t want to end my poem

On such a lonely statement

As though I were speaking

To strangers who had

No love of nothingness

I know you are out there somewhere

And it is to you

That I dedicate this poem

And impose a brief silence

In honor of my mother

Waiting for her son to come home.

 

SMALL TOWN AMERICA

You can live in a place all your life

Know where the cemetery is

Know what happened to your husband

Know what happened at the town hall meeting

When nothing new happened at the town hall meeting

Know when water rights or your own rights were taken away from you

You can know the Star Spangled Banner by heart

You can know what happened to your kids

What happened to your town after the flood, after the tornado,

after the life was kicked out of you

You can know a little or a lot about American history

Or why that new prison was put up

Or why somebody poisoned your dog

Or why you can’t hold your food down anymore

And you can go for a walk down along where the trains used to come in

And you can stare off into the distance and still hear that rumble

you heard as a kid when you placed copper Lincoln pennies on the tracks

And ran for your life through that tunnel to prove you were a small town hero

And you can stand at the bus station watching your brother in his uniform

leave town for the first time in his life

And imagine that everybody leaves town in a uniform

Or you can throw flowers into that grave where you lost your little sister

Because she didn’t have eyes in the back of her head

And that low number of rapes does not mention her name

And you can pick up the local paper

Which will provide you with information about a highway that threatens

To wipe your town off the face of the earth

And you can stare at the winds as they pick up and pray that your town

is not blown away first

And you can hold hands at the church and bond with your neighbors

And you can sit on the front porch late into the night

And be just one more human being under the stars

With a book in their hand, with a bottle in their hands with a gun in their hands with a cry in their throat with a man or woman in your arms and a dream in your heart

And you can bless or curse the day you were born in small town America.

 

About the author

William Cody Maher, born in San Francisco in 1950, is an American writer and performance artist living in Berlin. In 2010 he traveled to America with the photographer Signe Mähler, and they shot the documentary “Down Southern Roads,” a road movie through America’s troubled South. His most recent work is a collaboration with the jazz musician Jochen Seiterle on the CD “Blind Date with Love” (Fixcel Records 2016).

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