Two Poems by Robert Malbin

I Am Oldpoey

I like big fat images swelling into my eyeballs.
I like forlorn street people
Bent as pretzels
Walking toward me when my eyes
Are under a wash of half blind
Their faces and bodies afire
Their minds alive as acrobats
Contemplating the high wire.
I like to not see well.
I like to wear half inch prescription lenses
That belong to other people
Then ride the bus downtown
With a gonzo look on my face.
Dogs dance at me.
Kids pass gas at me.
I'm the guy they fear then hate.
The one who left that cup of coffee
In that ashtray
By your favorite bench
down by the beach.
Slow but radiantly dark
I surprise hoodlums in the park
When they try to steal from me.
I am Oldpoey.
I slam open my umbrella
At every tree full of resting doves I see.

Oldpoey Says
When I was twenty
Poets were the only ones worth reading.
There was life on their page.
There was life there.

At twenty it was easy for me.
I had something.
My wearying sorrow gave me
A soft transcending tone.
I got a lot of praise.
Everything I sent out was published.
I didn’t trust it but still
It felt good.
Have I any advice to pass on?
Watch out for praise --
Especially from very weak people.
It can eat up years of your life.
It can kill you.

At thirty I had more solid poems
Then most have in a lifetime.
And then there was the applause...

At forty I was doing it
To keep from going crazy.
My die was cast.
My life was drowned.
My life was doomed.
My life was over.
I was fucked.
I was a poet.

The fire was alive.
I couldn’t live with dead language --
Which is what most people in the world
Live with most of their lives.

I was useless for a profession.
I was certainly useless for the law.
I was in and out of law school in three months.
Never heard the word “justice” uttered once.

Failing out of law school at 40 was rough.
I went to work as a clerk in a video store.
Learned half of all video rentals
In the U.S. were pornography?
So much for 40.

At 50 I drove a long haul truck
Across mountains
Too many hours and way too tired --
It was the best shit job I ever had.

I wrote songs and charmed a lot of people.
Those songs at 50 were swell.
They still are.

At 60 I’m doing it for
The very best reason.
It seems like I ought.
I have no dreams.
I aspire to neither fame nor greatness.
There is too much bad work and
Stupid self centered people out there
For fame to please me.
The audience isn’t worth it.

I do it because Jack Micheline did it
Until the day he died
And he was a great poet.
I do it because Richard Davidson did it
Until the day he died
And he was a great poet.
I do it because Hank Bukowski did it
Until the day he died
And he was a great poet.
I do it because Rissa Korsun did it
Until the day she died
And she was a lousy poet.

I do it because it’s not about the words anymore.
It’s about the spirit.
And fuck you I’m not giving up.
I do it because I see death out there
Wearing a brown felt fedora
Coming my way.
And fuck you I’m not giving up.
I’m going to finish this trench
I started digging forty years ago.

Robert Malbin has been writing more than forty years. On occasion he's been lucky enough to grab a smile or two.  These poems are from his chapbook Oldpoey In Paris.

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