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Best Famous Depression Poems

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by Barry Tebb |


 Here is a silence I had not hoped for

This side of paradise, I am an old believer

In nature’s bounty as God’s grace

To us poor mortals, fretting and fuming

At frustrated lust or the scent of fame 

Coming too late to make a difference

Blue with white vertebrae of cloud forms

Riming the spectrum of green dark of poplars

Lined like soldiers, paler the hue of hawthorn 

With the heather beginning to bud blue

Before September purple, yellow ragwort

Sways in the wind as distantly a plane hums

And a lazy bee bumbles by.

A day in Brenda’s flat, mostly play with Eydie,

My favourite of her seven cats, they soothe better

Than Diazepan for panic

Seroxat for grief

Zopiclone to make me sleep.

I smoke my pipe and sip blackcurrant tea

Aware of the ticking clock: I have to be back

To talk to my son’s key nurse when she comes on

For the night shift. Always there are things to sort,

Misapprehensions to untangle, delusions to decipher,

Lies to expose, statistics to disclose, Trust Boards

And team meetings to attend, ‘Mental Health Monthly’

To peruse, funds for my press to raise – the only one 

I ever got will leave me out of pocket.

A couple sat on the next bench

Are earnestly discussing child custody, broken marriages,

Failed affairs, social service interventions – 

Even here I cannot escape complexity

"I should never have slept with her once we split" 

"The kids are what matters when it comes to the bottom line"

"Is he poisoning their minds against me?" 

Part of me nags to offer help but I’ve too much

On already and the clock keeps ticking.

"It’s a pity she won’t turn round and clip his ear"

But better not to interfere. Damn my bloody superego

Nattering like an old woman or Daisy nagging 

About my pipe and my loud voice on buses –

No doubt she’s right – smoking’s not good 

And hearing about psychosis, medication and end-on-sections

Isn’t what people are on buses for.

I long for a girl in summer, pubescent

With a twinkle in her eye to come and say

"Come on, let’s do it!" 

I was always shy in adolescence, too busy reading Baudelaire

To find a decent whore and learn to score

And now I’m probably impotent with depression

So I’d better forget sex and read more of Andr? Green

On metaphor from Hegel to Lacan and how the colloquium

At Bonneval changed analytic history, a mystery

I’ll not unravel if I live to ninety.

Ignorance isn’t bliss, I know enough to talk the piss

From jumped-up SHO’s and locums who’d miss vital side effects

And think all’s needed is a mother’s kiss.

I’ll wait till the heather’s purple and bring nail scissors

To cut and suture neatly and renew my stocks

Of moor momentoes vased in unsunny Surrey.

Can you believe it? Some arseholes letting off fireworks 

On the moor? Suburban excesses spread like the sores

Of syphilis and more regulations in a decade of Blair

Than in the century before.

"Shop your neighbours. Prove it. Bring birth certificates to A&E

If you want NHS treatment free. Be careful not to bleed to death

While finding the certificate. Blunkett wants us all to have ID

Photo cards, genetic codes, DNA database, eye scans, the lot – 

And kiss good-bye to the last bits of freedom we’ve got"

"At the end of the day she shopped me and all I’d done

Was take a few pound from the till ’cos Jenny was ill

And I didn’t have thirteen quid to get the bloody prescription done" 

To-morrow I’ll be back in the Great Wen,

Two days of manic catching up and then

Thistledown, wild wheat, a dozen kinds of grass,

The mass of beckoning hills I’d love to make

A poet’s map of but never will.

"Oh to break loose" Lowell’s magic lines

Entice me still but slimy Fenton had to have his will

And slate it in the NYB, arguing that panetone

Isn’t tin foil as Lowell thought. James you are a dreadful bore,

A pedantic creep like hundreds more, five A4 pages

Of sniping and nit-picking for how many greenbacks?

A thousand or two I’d guess, they couldn’t pay you less

For churning out such a king-size mess

But not even you can spoil this afternoon

Of watching Haworth heather bloom.

by Anne Sexton |

The Fury Of Rainstorms

 The rain drums down like red ants, 
each bouncing off my window. 
The ants are in great pain 
and they cry out as they hit 
as if their little legs were only 
stitche don and their heads pasted. 
And oh they bring to mind the grave, 
so humble, so willing to be beat upon 
with its awful lettering and 
the body lying underneath 
without an umbrella. 
Depression is boring, I think 
and I would do better to make 
some soup and light up the cave.

by Alexander Pushkin |

The Wish

 I shed my tears; my tears – my consolation;
And I am silent; my murmur is dead,
My soul, sunk in a depression’s shade,
Hides in its depths the bitter exultation.
I don’t deplore my passing dream of life --
Vanish in dark, the empty apparition!
I care only for my love’s infliction,
And let me die, but only die in love!

by Les Murray |

Travels With John Hunter

 We who travel between worlds 
lose our muscle and bone. 
I was wheeling a barrow of earth 
when agony bayoneted me. 

I could not sit, or lie down, 
or stand, in Casualty. 
Stomach-calming clay caked my lips, 
I turned yellow as the moon 

and slid inside a CAT-scan wheel 
in a hospital where I met no one 
so much was my liver now my dire 
preoccupation. I was sped down a road. 

of treetops and fishing-rod lightpoles 
towards the three persons of God 
and the three persons of John Hunter 
Hospital. Who said We might lose this one. 

Twenty days or to the heat-death 
of the Universe have the same duration: 
vaguely half a hour. I awoke 
giggling over a joke 

about Paul Kruger in Johannesburg 
and missed the white court stockings 
I half remembered from my prone 
still voyage beyond flesh and bone. 

I asked my friend who got new lungs 
How long were you crazy, coming back? 
Five days, he said. Violent and mad. 
Fictive Afrikaner police were at him, 

not unworldly Oom Paul Kruger. 
Valerie, who had sat the twenty days 
beside me, now gently told me tales 
of my time-warp. The operative canyon 

stretched, stapled, with dry roseate walls 
down my belly. Seaweed gel 
plugged views of my pluck and offal. 
The only poet whose liver 

damage hadn't been self-inflicted, 
grinned my agent. A momentarily 
holed bowel had released flora 
who live in us and will eat us 

when we stop feeding them the earth. 
I had, it did seem, rehearsed 
the private office of the grave, 
ceased excreting, made corpse gases 

all while liana'd in tubes 
and overseen by cockpit instruments 
that beeped or struck up Beethoven's 
Fifth at behests of fluid. 

I also hear when I lay lipless 
and far away I was anointed 
first by a mild metaphoric church 
then by the Church of no metaphors. 

Now I said, signing a Dutch contract 
in a hand I couldn't recognise, 
let's go and eat Chinese soup 
and drive to Lake Macquarie. Was I 

not renewed as we are in Heaven? 
In fact I could hardly endure 
Earth gravity, and stayed weak and cranky 
till the soup came, squid and vegetables, 

pure Yang. And was sane thereafter. 
It seemed I'd also travelled 
in a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, 
of flowers and phone calls and letters, 

concern I'd never dreamed was there 
when black kelp boiled in my head. 
I'd awoken amid my State funeral, 
nevermore to eat my liver 

or feed it to the Black Dog, depression 
which the three Johns Hunter seem 
to have killed with their scalpels: 
it hasn't found its way home, 

where I now dodder and mend 
in thanks for devotion, for the ambulance 
this time, for the hospital fork lift, 
for pethidine, and this face of deity: 

not the foreknowledge of death 
but the project of seeing conscious life 
rescued from death defines and will 
atone for the human.

by Philip Levine |

On The Meeting Of García Lorca And Hart Crane

 Brooklyn, 1929. Of course Crane's
been drinking and has no idea who
this curious Andalusian is, unable
even to speak the language of poetry.
The young man who brought them
together knows both Spanish and English,
but he has a headache from jumping
back and forth from one language
to another. For a moment's relief
he goes to the window to look
down on the East River, darkening
below as the early light comes on.
Something flashes across his sight,
a double vision of such horror
he has to slap both his hands across
his mouth to keep from screaming.
Let's not be frivolous, let's
not pretend the two poets gave
each other wisdom or love or
even a good time, let's not
invent a dialogue of such eloquence
that even the ants in your own
house won't forget it. The two
greatest poetic geniuses alive
meet, and what happens? A vision
comes to an ordinary man staring
at a filthy river. Have you ever
had a vision? Have you ever shaken
your head to pieces and jerked back
at the image of your young son
falling through open space, not
from the stern of a ship bound
from Vera Cruz to New York but from
the roof of the building he works on?
Have you risen from bed to pace
until dawn to beg a merciless God
to take these pictures away? Oh, yes,
let's bless the imagination. It gives
us the myths we live by. Let's bless
the visionary power of the human—
the only animal that's got it—,
bless the exact image of your father
dead and mine dead, bless the images
that stalk the corners of our sight
and will not let go. The young man
was my cousin, Arthur Lieberman,
then a language student at Columbia,
who told me all this before he died
quietly in his sleep in 1983
in a hotel in Perugia. A good man,
Arthur, he survived graduate school,
later came home to Detroit and sold
pianos right through the Depression.
He loaned my brother a used one
to compose his hideous songs on,
which Arthur thought were genius.
What an imagination Arthur had!

by Donald Justice |

Pantoum Of The Great Depression

 Our lives avoided tragedy
Simply by going on and on,
Without end and with little apparent meaning.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.

Simply by going on and on
We managed. No need for the heroic.
Oh, there were storms and small catastrophes.
I don't remember all the particulars.

We managed. No need for the heroic.
There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows.
I don't remember all the particulars.
Across the fence, the neighbors were our chorus.

There were the usual celebrations, the usual sorrows
Thank god no one said anything in verse.
The neighbors were our only chorus,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.

At no time did anyone say anything in verse.
It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us,
And if we suffered we kept quiet about it.
No audience would ever know our story.

It was the ordinary pities and fears consumed us.
We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
What audience would ever know our story?
Beyond our windows shone the actual world.

We gathered on porches; the moon rose; we were poor.
And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
Somewhere beyond our windows shone the actual world.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.

And time went by, drawn by slow horses.
We did not ourselves know what the end was.
The Great Depression had entered our souls like fog.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues.

But we did not ourselves know what the end was.
People like us simply go on.
We had our flaws, perhaps a few private virtues,
But it is by blind chance only that we escape tragedy.

And there is no plot in that; it is devoid of poetry.

by Rg Gregory |

absinthe and stained glass

absinthe makes the hurt grow fonder
the green fairy burbles what's this 'ere
when vincent (sozzled) knifes his lug off
all spirits then succumb to fear
depression takes the gloss off wonder
and people (lost) tell god to bug off
the twentieth century drowns in sheer
excuse that life is comic blunder
temporality dons its gear
forbidden thought soon rips its gag off

stained glass (you think) must be bystander
its leaded eyes seek far not near
the day's bleak dirt it learns to shrug off

the history of the race confuses
heady spirit with bloody need
nothing can stop the sky from tingling
intrinsic hope rewords its screed
assumes it must outlive its bruises

stained glass deigns to face the mingling
of atavistic search for creed
with each desire gets what it chooses
it tries to suck out truth from greed
and calmly pacifies the wrangling

lasting spirit allows no ruses
what's bottled dreads to pay much heed
between the two meek life is dangling

(from le trianon - stained glass window by berge)

by Charles Bukowski |

We Aint Got No Money Honey But We Got Rain

 call it the greenhouse effect or whatever
but it just doesn't rain like it used to.
I particularly remember the rains of the 
depression era.
there wasn't any money but there was
plenty of rain.
it wouldn't rain for just a night or
a day,
it would RAIN for 7 days and 7
and in Los Angeles the storm drains
weren't built to carry off taht much
and the rain came down THICK and 
MEAN and
and you HEARD it banging against
the roofs and into the ground
waterfalls of it came down
from roofs
and there was HAIL
exploding smashing into things
and the rain 
just wouldn't
and all the roofs leaked-
cooking pots
were placed all about;
they dripped loudly
and had to be emptied
again and
the rain came up over the street curbings,
across the lawns, climbed up the steps and
entered the houses.
there were mops and bathroom towels,
and the rain often came up through the 
toilets:bubbling, brown, crazy,whirling,
and all the old cars stood in the streets,
cars that had problems starting on a 
sunny day,
and the jobless men stood
looking out the windows
at the old machines dying
like living things out there.
the jobless men,
failures in a failing time
were imprisoned in their houses with their
wives and children
and their
the pets refused to go out
and left their waste in 
strange places.
the jobless men went mad 
confined with
their once beautiful wives.
there were terrible arguments
as notices of foreclosure
fell into the mailbox.
rain and hail, cans of beans,
bread without butter;fried
eggs, boiled eggs, poached
eggs; peanut butter
sandwiches, and an invisible 
chicken in every pot.
my father, never a good man
at best, beat my mother
when it rained
as I threw myself
between them,
the legs, the knees, the
until they
"I'll kill you," I screamed
at him. "You hit her again
and I'll kill you!"
"Get that son-of-a-bitching
kid out of here!"
"no, Henry, you stay with
your mother!"
all the households were under 
seige but I believe that ours
held more terror than the
and at night
as we attempted to sleep
the rains still came down
and it was in bed
in the dark
watching the moon against 
the scarred window
so bravely
holding out 
most of the rain,
I thought of Noah and the
and I thought, it has come
we all thought
and then, at once, it would 
and it always seemed to 
around 5 or 6 a.m.,
peaceful then,
but not an exact silence
because things continued to

and there was no smog then
and by 8 a.m.
there was a
blazing yellow sunlight,
Van Gogh yellow-
crazy, blinding!
and then
the roof drains
relieved of the rush of 
began to expand in the warmth:
and everybody got up and looked outside
and there were all the lawns
still soaked
greener than green will ever
and there were birds
on the lawn
CHIRPING like mad,
they hadn't eaten decently 
for 7 days and 7 nights
and they were weary of 
they waited as the worms
rose to the top,
half drowned worms.
the birds plucked them 
and gobbled them
down;there were
blackbirds and sparrows.
the blackbirds tried to
drive the sparrows off
but the sparrows,
maddened with hunger,
smaller and quicker,
got their
the men stood on their porches
smoking cigarettes,
now knowing
they'd have to go out
to look for that job
that probably wasn't 
there, to start that car 
that probably wouldn't
and the once beautiful
stood in their bathrooms
combing their hair,
applying makeup,
trying to put their world back
together again,
trying to forget that
awful sadness that
gripped them,
wondering what they could
fix for 
and on the radio
we were told that
school was now
there I was
on the way to school,
massive puddles in the 
the sun like a new
my parents back in that
I arrived at my classroom
on time.
Mrs. Sorenson greeted us
with, "we won't have our
usual recess, the grounds 
are too wet."
"AW!" most of the boys 
"but we are going to do
something special at
recess," she went on,
"and it will be
well, we all wondered
what that would
and the two hour wait
seemed a long time
as Mrs.Sorenson
went about
teaching her
I looked at the little
girls, they looked so 
pretty and clean and
they sat still and
and their hair was 
in the California
the the recess bells rang 
and we all waited for the 
then Mrs. Sorenson told us:
"now, what we are going to
do is we are going to tell
each other what we did 
during the rainstorm!
we'll begin in the front row
and go right around!
now, Michael, you're first!. . ."
well, we all began to tell
our stories, Michael began
and it went on and on,
and soon we realized that
we were all lying, not
exactly lying but mostly
lying and some of the boys
began to snicker and some 
of the girls began to give
them dirty looks and
Mrs.Sorenson said,
"all right! I demand a
modicum of silence
I am interested in what
you did
during the rainstorm
even if you
so we had to tell our 
stories and they were
one girl said that
when the rainbow first
she saw God's face
at the end of it.
only she didn't say which end.
one boy said he stuck
his fishing pole
out the window
and caught a little
and fed it to his
almost everybody told
a lie.
the truth was just
too awful and
embarassing to tell.
then the bell rang
and recess was 
"thank you," said Mrs.
Sorenson, "that was very
and tomorrow the grounds 
will be dry
and we will put them
to use
most of the boys
and the little girls 
sat very straight and
looking so pretty and 
clean and
their hair beautiful in a sunshine that 
the world might never see 

by Richard Brautigan |

Part 7 of Trout Fishing in America



Tree, snow and rock beginnings, the mountain in back of the

lake promised us eternity, but the lake itself was filled with

thousands of silly minnows, swimming close to the shore

and busy putting in hours of Mack Sennett time.

 The minnows were an Idaho tourist attraction. They

should have been made into a National Monument. Swimming

close to shore, like children they believed in their own im-

mortality .

 A third-year student in engineering at the University of

Montana attempted to catch some of the minnows but he went

about it all wrong. So did the children who came on the

Fourth of July weekend.

 The children waded out into the lake and tried to catch the

minnows with their hands. They also used milk cartons and

plastic bags. They presented the lake with hours of human

effort. Their total catch was one minnow. It jumped out of a

can full of water on their table and died under the table, gasp-

ing for watery breath while their mother fried eggs on the

Coleman stove.

 The mother apologized. She was supposed to be watching

the fish --THIS IS MY EARTHLY FAILURE-- holding the

dead fish by the tail, the fish taking all the bows like a young

Jewish comedian talking about Adlai Stevenson.

 The third-year student in engineering at the University of

Montana took a tin can and punched an elaborate design of

holes in the can, the design running around and around in

circles, like a dog with a fire hydrant in its mouth. Then he

attached some string to the can and put a huge salmon egg

and a piece of Swiss cheese in the can. After two hours of

intimate and universal failure he went back to Missoula,


 The woman who travels with me discovered the best way

to catch the minnows. She used a large pan that had in its

bottom the dregs of a distant vanilla pudding. She put the

pan in the shallow water along the shore and instantly, hun-

dreds of minnows gathered around. Then, mesmerized by

the vanilla pudding, they swam like a children's crusade

into the pan. She caught twenty fish with one dip. She put

the pan full of fish on the shore and the baby played with

the fish for an hour.

 We watched the baby to make sure she was just leaning

on them a little. We didn't want her to kill any of them be-

cause she was too young.

 Instead of making her furry sound, she adapted rapidly

to the difference between animals and fish, and was soon

making a silver sound.

 She caught one of the fish with her hand and looked at it

for a while. We took the fish out of her hand and put it back

into the pan. After a while she was putting the fish back by


 Then she grew tired of this. She tipped the pan over and

a dozen fish flopped out onto the shore. The children's game

and the banker's game, she picked up those silver things,

one at a time, and put them back in the pan. There was still

a little water in it. The fish liked this. You could tell.

 When she got tired of the fish, we put them back in the

lake, and they were all quite alive, but nervous. I doubt if

they will ever want vanilla pudding again.



Half a block from Broadway and Columbus is Hotel Trout

Fishing in America, a cheap hotel. It is very old and run by

some Chinese. They are young and ambitious Chinese and

the lobby is filled with the smell of Lysol.

 The Lysol sits like another guest on the stuffed furniture

reading a copy of the Chronicle, the Sports Section. It is the

only furniture I have ever seen in my life that looks like baby


 And the Lysol sits asleep next to an old Italian pensioner

who listens to the heavy ticking of the clock and dreams of

eternity's golden pasta, sweet basil and Jesus Christ.

 The Chinese are always doing something to the hotel. One

week they paint a lower banister and the next week they put

some new wallpaper on part of the third floor.

 No matter how many times you pass that part of the third

floor, you cannot remember the color of the wallpaper or

what the design is. All you know is that part of the wallpaper

is new. It is different from the old wallpaper. But you can-

not remember what that looks like either.

 One day the Chinese take a bed out of a room and lean it

up against the wall. It stays there for a month. You get used

to seeing it and then you go by one day and it is gone. You

wonder where it went.

 I remember the first time I went inside Hotel Trout Fish-

ing in America. It was with a friend to meet some people.

 "I'11 tell you what's happening, " he said. "She's an ex-

hustler who works for the telephone company. He went to

medical school for a while during the Great Depression and

then he went into show business. After that, he was an errand

boy for an abortion mill in Los Angeles. He took a fall and

did some time in San Quentin.

 "I think you'll like them. They're good people.

 "He met her a couple of years ago in North Beach. She

was hustling for a spade pimp. It's kind of weird. Most

women have the temperament to be a whore, but she's one

of these rare women who just don't have it--the whore tem-

perament. She's Negro, too.

 "She was a teenage girl living on a farm in Oklahoma. The

pimp drove by one afternoon and saw her playing in the front

yard. He stopped his car and got out and talked to her father

for a while.

 "I guess he gave her father some money. He came up

with something good because her father told her to go and

get her things. So she went with the pimp. Simple as that.

 "He took her to San Francisco and turned her out and she

hated it. He kept her in line by terrorizing her all the time.

He was a real sweetheart.

 "She had some brains, so he got her a job with the tele-

phone company during the day, and he had her hustling at


 "When Art took her away from him, he got pretty mad. A

good thing and all that. He used to break into Art's hotel

room in the middle of the night and put a switchblade to Art's

throat and rant and rave. Art kept putting bigger and bigger

locks on the door, but the pimp just kept breaking in--a huge


 "So Art went out and got a .32 pistol, and the next time

the pimp broke in, Art pulled the gun out from underneath

the covers and jammed it into the pimp's mouth and said,

'You'll be out of luck the next time you come through that

door, Jack.' This broke the pimp up. He never went back.

The pimp certainly lost a good thing.

 "He ran up a couple thousand dollars worth of bills in her

name, charge accounts and the like. They're still paying

them off.

 "The pistol's right there beside the bed, just in case the

pimp has an attack of amnesia and wants to have his shoes

shined in a funeral parlor.

 "When we go up there, he'll drink the wine. She won't.

She'Il'have a little bottle of brandy. She won't offer us any

of it. She drinks about four of them a day. Never buys a fifth.

She always keeps going out and getting another half-pint.

"That's the way she handles it. She doesn't talk very much,

and she doesn't make any bad scenes. A good-looking woman, r

 My friend knocked on the door and we could hear some-

body get up off the bed and come to the door.

 "Who's there?" said a man on the other side.

 "Me," my friend said, in a voice deep and recognizable

as any name.

 "I'11 open the door. " A simple declarative sentence. He

undid about a hundred locks, bolts and chains and anchors

and steel spikes and canes filled with acid, and then the

door opened like the classroom of a great university and

everything was in its proper place: the gun beside the bed

and a small bottle of brandy beside an attractive Negro woman,

 There were many flowers and plants growing in the room,

some of them were on the dresser, surrounded by old photo-

graphs. All of the photographs were of white people, includ-

ing Art when he was young and handsome and looked just like

the 1930s.

 There were pictures of animals cut out of magazines and

tacked to the wall, with crayola frames drawn around them

and crayola picture wires drawn holding them to the wall.

They were pictures of kittens and puppies. They looked just

fine .

 There was a bowl of goldfish next to the bed, next to the

gun. How religious and intimate the goldfish and the gun

looked together.

 They had a cat named 208. They covered the bathroom

floor with newspaper and the cat crapped on the newspaper.

My friend said that 208 thought he was the only cat left in the

world, not having seen another cat since he was a tiny kitten.

They never let him out of the room. He was a red cat and

very aggressive. When you played with that cat, he really

bit you. Stroke 208's fur and he'd try to disembowel your

hand as if it were a belly stuffed full of extra soft intestines.

 We sat there and drank and talked about books. Art had

owned a lot of books in Los Angeles, but they were all gone

now. He told us that he used to spend his spare time in sec-

ondhand bookstores buying old and unusual books when he

was in show business, traveling from city to city across

America. Some of them were very rare autographed books,

he told us, but he had bought them for very little and was

forced to sell them for very little.

They'd be worth a lot of money now, " he said.

 The Negro woman sat there very quietly studying her

brandy. A couple of times she said yes, in a sort of nice

way. She used the word yes to its best advantage, when sur-

rounded by no meaning and left alone from other words.

 They did their own cooking in the room and had a single

hot plate sitting on the floor, next to half a dozen plants, in-

cluding a peach tree growing in a coffee can. Their closet

was stuffed with food. Along with shirts, suits and dresses,

were canned goods, eggs and cooking oil.

 My friend told me that she was a very fine cook. That

she could really cook up a good meal, fancy dishes, too, on

that single hot plate, next to the peach tree.

 They had a good world going for them. He had such a soft

voice and manner that he worked as a private nurse for rich

mental patients. He made good money when he worked, but

sometimes he was sick himself. He was kind of run down.

She was still working for the telephone company, but she

wasn't doing that night work any more.

 They were still paying off the bills that pimp had run up.

I mean, years had passed and they were still paying them

off: a Cadillac and a hi-fi set and expensive clothes and all

those things that Negro pimps do love to have.

 Z went back there half a dozen times after that first meet-

ing. An interesting thing happened. I pretended that the cat,

208, was named after their room number, though I knew that

their number was in the three hundreds. The room was on

the third floor. It was that simple.

 I always went to their room following the geography of

Hotel Trout Fishing in America, rather than its numerical

layout. I never knew what the exact number of their room

was. I knew secretly it was in the three hundreds and that

was all.

 Anyway, it was easier for me to establish order in my

mind by pretending that the cat was named after their room

number. It seemed like a good idea and the logical reason

for a cat to have the name 208. It, of course, was not true.

It was a fib. The cat's name was 208 and the room number

was in the three hundreds.

 Where did the name 208 come from? What did it mean? I

thought about it for a while, hiding it from the rest of my

mind. But I didn't ruin my birthday by secretly thinking about

it too hard.

 A year later I found out the true significance of 208's

name, purely by accident. My telephone rang one Saturday

morning when the sun was shining on the hills. It was a

close friend of mine and he said, "I'm in the slammer. Come

and get me out. They're burning black candles around the

drunk tank. "

 I went down to the Hall of Justice to bail my friend out,

and discovered that 208 is the room number of the bail office,

It was very simple. I paid ten dollars for my friend's life

and found the original meaning of 208, how it runs like melt-

ing snow all the way down the mountainside to a small cat

living and playing in Hotel Trout Fishing in America, believ-

ing itself to be the last cat in the world, not having seen

another cat in such a long time, totally unafraid, newspaper

spread out all over the bathroom floor, and something good

cooking on the hot plate.


I watched my day begin on Little Redfish Lake as clearly as

the first light of dawn or the first ray of the sunrise, though

the dawn and the sunrise had long since passed and it was

now late in the morning.

 The surgeon took a knife from the sheath at his belt and

cut the throat of the chub with a very gentle motion, showing

poetically how sharp the knife was, and then he heaved the

fish back out into the lake.

 The chub made an awkward dead splash and obeyed allthe

traffic laws of this world SCHOOL ZONE SPEED 25 MILES

and sank to the cold bottom of the lake. It lay there white

belly up like a school bus covered with snow. A trout swam

over and took a look, just putting in time, and swam away.

 The surgeon and I were talking about the AMA. I don't

know how in the hell we got on the thing, but we were on it.

Then he wiped the knife off and put it back in the sheath. I

actually don't know how we got on the AMA.

 The surgeon said that he had spent twenty-five years be-

coming a doctor. His studies had been interrupted by the

Depression and two wars. He told me that he would give up

the practice of medicine if it became socialized in America.

 "I've never turned away a patient in my life, and I've

never known another doctor who has. Last year I wrote off

six thousand dollars worth of bad debts, " he said.

 I was going to say that a sick person should never under

any conditions be abad debt, but I decided to forget it. Noth-

ing was going to be proved or changed on the shores of Little

Redfish Lake, and as that chub had discovered, it was not a

good place to have cosmetic surgery done.

 "I worked three years ago for a union in Southern Utah

that had a health plan, " the surgeon said. "I would not care

to practice medicine under such conditions. The patients

think they own you and your time. They think you're their

own personal garbage can.

 "I'd be home eating dinner and the telephone would ring,

'Help ! Doctor ! I'm dying! It's my stomach ! I've got horrible

pains !' I would get up from my dinner and rush over there.

 "The guy would meet me at the door with a can of beer in

his hand. 'Hi, dec, come on in. I'11 get you a beer. I'm

watching TV. The pain is all gone. Great, huh? I feel like a

million. Sit down. I'11 get you a beer, dec. The Ed Sullivan

Show's on.'

 "No thank you, " the surgeon said. "I wouldn't care to

practice medicine under such conditions. No thank you. No

thanks .

 "I like to hunt and I like to fish, " he said. "That's why I

moved to Twin Falls. I'd heard so much about Idaho hunting

and fishing. I've been very disappointed. I've given up my

practice, sold my home in Twin, and now I'm looking for a

new place to settle down.

 "I've written to Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, New Mexi-

co, Arizona, California, Nevada, Oregon and Washington for

their hunting and fishing regulations, and I'm studying them

all, " he said.

 "I've got enough money to travel around for six months,

looking for a place to settle down where the hunting and fish-

ing is good. I'11 get twelve hundred dollars back in income

tax returns by not working any more this year. That's two

hundred a month for not working. I don't understand this

country, " he said.

 The surgeon's wife and children were in a trailer nearby.

The trailer had come in the night before, pulled by a brand-

new Rambler station wagon. He had two children, a boy two-

and-a-half years old and the other, an infant born premature-

ly, but now almost up to normal weight.

 The surgeon told me that they'd come over from camping

on Big Lost River where he had caught a fourteen-inch brook

trout. He was young looking, though he did not have much

hair on his head.

 I talked to the surgeon for a little while longer and said

good-bye. We were leaving in the afternoon for Lake Josephus

located at the edge of the Idaho Wilderness, and he was leav-

ing for America, often only a place in the mind.




As much as anything else, the Coleman lantern is the sym-

bol of the camping craze that is currently sweeping America,

with its unholy white light burning in the forests of America.

 Last summer, a Mr. Norris was drinking at a bar in San

Francisco. It was Sunday night and he'd had six or seven.

Turning to the guy on the next stool, he said, "What are you

up to?"

 "Just having a few, " the guy said.

 "That's what I'm doing, " Mr. Norris said. "I like it. "

 "I know what you mean, " the guy said. "I had to lay off

for a couple years. I'm just starting up again. "

 "What was wrong?" Mr. Norris said.

 "I had a hole in my liver, " the guy said.

 "In your liver?"

 "Yeah, the doctor said it was big enough to wave a flag

in. It's better now. I can have a couple once in a while. I'm

not supposed to, but it won't kill me. "

 "Well, I'm thirty-two years old, " Mr. Norris said. "I've

had three wives and I can't remember the names of my child-

ren. "

 The guy on the next stool, like a bird on the next island,

took a sip from his Scotch and soda. The guy liked the sound

of the alcohol in his drink. He put the glass back on the bar.

 "That's no problem, " he said to Mr. Norris. "The best

thing I know for remembering the names of children from

previous marriages, is to go out camping, try a little trout

fishing. Trout fishing is one of the best things in the world

for remembering children's names."

 "Is that right?" Mr. Norris said.

 "Yeah, " the guy said.

 "That sounds like an idea, " Mr. Norris said. "I've got to

do something. Sometimes I think one of them is named Carl,

 but that's impossible. My third-ex hated the name Carl. "

 "You try some camping and that trout fishing, " the guy

 on the next stool said. "And you'll remember the names of

 Your unborn children. "

 "Carl! Carl! Your mother wants you!" Mr. Norris yelled

 as a kind of joke, then he realized that it wasn't very funny.

 He was getting there.

 He'd have a couple more and then his head would always

 fall forward and hit the bar like a gunshot. He'd always miss

 his glass, so he wouldn't cut his face. His head would always

 jump up and look startled around the bar, people staring at

 it. He'd get up then, and take it home.

 The next morning Mr. Norris went down to a sporting

 goods store and charged his equipment. He charged a 9 x 9

 foot dry finish tent with an aluminum center pole. Then he

 charged an Arctic sleeping bag filled with eiderdown and an

 air mattress and an air pillow to go with the sleeping bag.

 He also charged an air alarm clock to go along with the idea

 of night and waking in the morning.

 He charged a two-burner Coleman stove and a Coleman

 lantern and a folding aluminum table and a big set of inter-

 locking aluminum cookware and a portable ice box.

 The last things he charged were his fishing tackle and a

 bottle of insect repellent.

 He left the next day for the mountains.

 Hours later, when he arrived in the mountains, the first

 sixteen campgrounds he stopped at were filled with people.

 He was a little surprised. He had no idea the mountains

 would be so crowded.

 At the seventeenth campground, a man had just died of a

 heart attack and the ambulance attendants were taking down

 his tent. They lowered the center pole and then pulled up the

 corner stakes. They folded the tent neatly and put it in the

 back of the ambulance, right beside the man's body.

 They drove off down the road, leaving behind them in the

 air, a cloud of brilliant white dust. The dust looked like the

 light from a Coleman lantern.

 Mr. Norris pitched his tent right there and set up all his

 equipment and soon had it all going at once. After he finished

 eating a dehydrated beef Stroganoff dinner, he turned off all

 his equipment with the master air switch and went to sleep,

 for it was now dark.

 It was about midnight when they brought the body and

placed it beside the tent, less than a foot away from where

Mr. Norris was sleeping in his Arctic sleeping bag.

 He was awakened when they brought the body. They weren't

exactly the quietest body bringers in the world. Mr. Norris

could see the bulge of the body against the side of the tent.

The only thing that separated him from the dead body was a

thin layer of 6 oz. water resistant and mildew resistant DRY

FINISH green AMERIFLEX poplin.

 Mr. Norris un-zipped his sleeping bag and went outside

with a gigantic hound-like flashlight. He saw the body bring-

ers walking down the path toward the creek.

 "Hey, you guys !" Mr. Norris shouted. "Come back here.

You forgot something. "

 "What do you mean?" one of them said. They both looked

very sheepish, caught in the teeth of the flashlight.

 "You know what I mean," Mr. Norris said. "Right now!"

 The body bringers shrugged their shoulders, looked at

each other and then reluctantly went back, dragging their

feet like children all the way. They picked up the body. It

was heavy and one of them had trouble getting hold of the feet.

 That one said, kind of hopelessly to Mr. Norris, "You

won't change your mind?"

 "Goodnight and good-bye, " Mr. Norris said.

 They went off down the path toward the creek, carrying

the body between them. Mr. Norris turned his flashlight off

and he could hear them, stumbling over the rocks along the

bank of the creek. He could hear them swearing at each other.

He heard one of them say, "Hold your end up.'' Then he

couldn't hear anything.

 About ten minutes later he saw all sorts of lights go on at

another campsite down along the creek. He heard a distant

voice shouting, "The answer is no ! You already woke up the

kids. They have to have their rest. We're going on a four-

mile hike tomorrow up to Fish Konk Lake. Try someplace

else. "

by Edgar Bowers |


 The angel of self-discipline, her guardian
Since she first knew and had to go away
From home that spring to have her child with strangers,
Sustained her, till the vanished boy next door
And her ordeal seemed fiction, and the true
Her mother’s firm insistence she was the mother
And the neighbors’ acquiescence. So she taught school,
Walking a mile each way to ride the street car—
First books of the Aeneid known by heart,
French, and the French Club Wednesday afternoon;
Then summer replacement typist in an office,
Her sister’s family moving in with them,
Depression years and she the only earner.
Saturday, football game and opera broadcasts,
Sunday, staying at home to wash her hair,
The Business Women’s Circle Monday night,
And, for a treat, birthdays and holidays,
Nelson Eddy and Jeanette McDonald.
The young blond sister long since gone to college,
Nephew and nieces gone, her mother dead,
Instead of Caesar, having to teach First Aid,
The students rowdy, she retired. The rent
For the empty rooms she gave to Thornwell Orphanage,
Unwed Mothers, Temperance, and Foster Parents
And never bought the car she meant to buy;
Too blind at last to do much more than sit
All day in the antique glider on the porch
Listening to cars pass up and down the street.
Each summer, on the grass behind the house—
Cape jasmine, with its scent of August nights
Humid and warm, the soft magnolia bloom
Marked lightly by a slow brown stain—she spread,
For airing, the same small intense collection,
Concert programs, worn trophies, years of yearbooks,
Letters from schoolgirl chums, bracelets of hair
And the same picture: black hair in a bun,
Puzzled eyes in an oval face as young
Or old as innocence, skirt to the ground,
And, seated on the high school steps, the class,
The ones to whom she would have said, “Seigneur,
Donnez-nous la force de supporter
La peine,” as an example easy to remember,
Formal imperative, object first person plural.