Poetry at Sangam



WITHOUT FORM by Joshua Gray

‘Form is fine. But form is too confining.’

So said this pizza maker, whatever he may have meant
by such a declaration.
Rick squinted his eyes as if reacting to a joke,
a gene inherited by his mother’s rope.
But now Rick was swimming, his mind, smart enough for straight-As,
trying to decode this lone, simple phrase.

The pizza man, with greasy hair, buck teeth and a tan,
threw the dough in the air and threw again,
a one-man tango.
He set the dough down and poured the crushed tomato
then lowered his octave as if in answer,

‘In the juvescence of the year came Christ the Tigre.’

Rick’s squinted eyes widened and his mouth opened.
‘Eliot,’ said the maker, then as if to quantify, ‘T…S…’

That evening Rick left work a free man to the second power:
his last day working pizza prep and a new genius to devour.

But the poet would have to wait.
Rick’s best friend Vinny was about to begin
his trip back to Venice where he hadn’t been
since his family moved to America many years before.

Rick was in college in the nation’s capital
but he drove across the river to his parent’s place
where he and Vinny were meeting them for an evening meal.
Early April showers were shunning the warmer weather
and Rick was drenched before making it in the house.
But when he stepped inside he saw his father sitting quietly alone.
There was no supper, no mother, no best friend.
Rick’s father turned, found some words to say to his son:

‘In the juvescence of the year flew your mother the Tigre.’

Intending to stay only for hours, Rick remained with his father throughout
the weekend and talked, actually talked, no Mano a Mano.
His mother, never happy
with where her husband was herded for work,
went off to Venice with his best friend,
hoping for any amount of romance.
Jack was away on some track and field trip
and would find out the following day
of his mother’s exploits with the Italian buffoon.

When Rick drove back to campus
he stopped into his frat house
where the guys were holding their heads after the weekend rumpus;
he showered and shaved, making as much raucous as a mouse
and then went in search of Doris.

Rick managed to meet Doris on campus a few months before
as he gagged on gruel,
even though they’d gone to the same secondary school.

He called her earlier to tell her he’d be back Sunday
so he went to fill her in on why all was not well, not now anyway.

Rick picked up a few pebbles and tossed them to Doris’ window,
who heard them hit the glass and glanced over into the tangible world.

The next day and after his early class
Rick found T.S Eliot
sitting among old modern poets. The book fell
open as if the world were full of Faulkner idiots.
Rick skipped his late morning class and scoured the pages
until he came across the line he’d been looking for —
what seemed like ages.
‘…In the juvescence of the year/came Christ the Tigre.’

That evening Rick the Virgin stood on a street corner sharing a Camel
with Doris the Bull. Doris’ dad drove by
every Monday evening to hand her a Ben Franklin and handle
any issues she had; she never had any, but told her lie
for the visit to last longer than the red light.

(Watch. This time Rick came to meet her father, who would eye
him and invite them for supper that Saturday.
Hesitant Doris would be overturned by Eager Rick and all would be settled.)

Doris took a drag and then saw her dad in the distance
so she quickly exhaled and returned the rogue to Rick.
Seeing the pencil-man beside his daughter,
Her dad extended an invitation.
Doris declined but Rick refused the no.
She was nervous about his meeting her mother
but it didn’t show.

came and lived and was about to fade
when they pulled up and around the gravel driveway.

Rick followed Doris into the carport up three steps and through
the side door. Doris’ dad met her in the kitchen as did
a French poodle, black and yippee. Doris decided
pretty much right away that Rick cared little for the dog,
so she scooted Rick into the living room
where his eyes met with the eyes of the two large dolls
that have sat in the same position for years.
Rick seemed a bit stunned by them, almost afraid
they would attack him when he wasn’t looking.
About to ask, the thought threw itself out of her
when she heard her mother descending the staircase

Upon their greeting Doris was relieved
her mother was not drunk though
she had been drinking, a bit tipsy perhaps.
Rick was a bit reserved but Doris did not know
why and whether the dolls did him in
or if he noticed the brandy on the breath.
Dinner time and Doris’ dad cut the meat
as her mother brought out the bread.
Her dad asked Rick if he had heard
the news of the day and Rick said no
he’d been at the library reading Eliot
so Doris’ dad told him of the sixty men
freed from Castro the Commie because
of their health and why not was the idea.
Doris checked out of that one
and into the life of her mother how she was
and all that and only stopped a moment upon hearing
her dad say something she couldn’t imagine
escaping his mouth.

‘In the juvescence of the season came Castro the Tigre.’

(Excerpted from the book-length poem Principles of Belonging.)