Editor’s note: In this week’s Poetry Corner, we feature the work of Douglas McClellan, who received his master of fine arts degree in Visual Arts in 1950. He taught art for 37 years at art institutes, colleges and UC Santa Cruz. His art has been widely exhibited including solo shows in Northern and Southern California, and group exhibitions on the East and West Coasts, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York and the Library of Congress in Washington, DC. He started writing poetry seriously at age 70 and has published six slender volumes. He currently alternates between digital collage and poetry. To learn more, visit dougstudio.com. The following poems are from the collection, “Exit Lines (semi official last words from the famous and otherwise).”
Bat Masterson, d. 1921
We all get the same amount of ice.
The rich get it in the summer.
The poor get it in the winter.
When I kicked the gunfighter mud
off my boots and got me a typewriter
the world got complicated. Nowadays,
I got no lawman badge to hide behind
and taking this old world as it is,
can be mighty, mighty discouraging.
Heinich Heine, d. 1856
God will forgive me. It is his profession.
I courted you. You made me a proper European:
many say I have done well at it. I come before you now
to be lifted, and if you must, cleansed, for my journey.
Our dealings have always been agreeable, no reason now,
old friend, to change. Death need not complicate
our simple business––we both know just what to do.
Marco Polo, d. 1324
I have not told half of what I saw.
Forget noodles and fireworks––dare to think
of dragons that swallow palaces, of magicians
who fly on flaming silks. Imagine women
so fair that clay armies march at their behest
across a land so vast that the sun itself
tires on its day’s journey between borders.
Eugene O’Neill, d. 1953
I knew it. I knew it. Born in a hotel room––
and God damn it––died in a hotel room.
Sic transit gloria blah-blah-blah––[exit Orestes] in another fleabag,
bathroom down a hall with wallpaper that whispers failure.
Joe Nightclerk, well-known theater critic, chuckles behind his cigar.
My hands, twitchy and raw from re-tying the cords
of bruised lives, lie folded stiffly on bedsheets
that have known at least a hundred travelling salesmen.