|In Some Quiet Place
The Poetry of Jim Metcalf
|Jim Metcalf was originally from Texas, he was a newspaper reporter, columnist and, eventually, hosted his own television show, "A Sunday Journal," on a local New Orleans station from the early 1960's until illness prevented him from continuing in the mid-1970's. He was known as the unofficial poet-laureate of the city. He had four books of poetry published, the first titled "In Some Quiet Place." He died too young and, after all these years, many New Orleanians still miss him...miss the half hour respite he gave the city every Sunday, when he would take us to a quiet place and soothe away our troubles for awhile. Although he's not with us anymore, we can still find a quiet place in his poetry. As he used to say at the beginning of each show, "Please to begin....."|
|A Place I Used to Go
There was a place
I used to go
when I was very young;
when there was no world quite as real
as the world of books
Across a meadow,
beneath the trees
that lined a sparkling stream
there was a magic land
where I was king
and others came
by invitation only.
Tom Sawyer used to drop around,
and Huck and Becky Thatcher;
and I remember
one time Tarzan came
and swam up and down the river.
|Rupert Brooke and Robert Burns
would come and sit
and write poems
about wars and flowers.
But mostly, I was there alone,
watching the world around me;
and wondering things like
why the sky is blue
and how much a grain of sand
if I were an ant.
I wish I could find
that land again;
but I've lost it,
somewhere in the noise
and hurry of my life.
I wonder if Tom and Becky
go there still...
or if they grew old
like I did.
|Beauty in the Rain
If you fancy that you have an eye for beauty,
test it on a rainy day...
A cold and foggy day that wears no make-up.
Test it in the shades of gray
that consume the sun and rob the flowers of their colors,
leaving them forlorn in dingy places
like tired and aging ballerinas in faded dancing clothes;
huddling in the drafty wings of empty opera houses.
Gaze across the rooftops and the chimneys,
painted like Utrillo's Paris
on the canvas of the smoke and fog
of a dying afternoon in winter.
It takes no eye for beauty
to find it on a lovely day.
It thrusts itself upon you
in the sunshine and the warm.
But it hides; becomes aloof, elusive
in the cold and in the rain.
Walk slowly, little one, and let me walk beside you,
as you see the wonders you will see.
And I will try to see them through your eyes...
eyes still fresh and beauty seeking;
eyes that do not hide behind the dimming veil of ugliness.
Tell me what you see when birds fly by...
when buds of green appear on April's trees.
Tell me about the ripples on the pond,
and the colors of the flowers.
There is so much I need to know;
so much I have forgotten
I remember only how to look.
I do not remember how to see.
So let me walk along with you
and share the world you know.
I will be the learner.
You will be the teacher.
On seeing a flying demonstration of World War II aircraft, 1971.
The years have been most kind to you, my friends.
You've hardly changed at all since last we met
at Uxbridge, outside London.
Or was it that old landing strip
between Liege and Brussels?
Or maybe another one, after that,
in Frizlar or in Aachen?
The dates, the times, the sequences,
are not as easily recalled as once they were;
but it's no matter.
I know we've met before.
I've seen you all at one time or another...
silhouetted against a contested sky
with death in metal capsules
spilling from your bellies,
or waiting on ramps in foggy dawns
as lights came on in quonset huts
and young men awoke from troubled sleep
and faced another day...
another nightmare of reality...
then walked slowly to a briefing room
to find out where it was to happen.
And when they learned, they shrugged
and climbed aboard and muttered,
"That's as good a place to die as any."
Yes, I remember all of you.
How could I forget?
We spent our youth together,
and shared the dying of our innocence
and the beginning of our fear.
|Before I Sleep
If I have let this day pass by
and can't remember something good about it,
then I have been ungrateful
and I beg forgiveness.
If I have been involved too much with me...
my wants and woes, to see the beauty that surrounds me,
then I have played the fool and I am sorry.
If I have not stretched out my hands
to loved ones to show them that I care,
then I have been unfeeling and I am ashamed.
If I have failed to help when it was needed,
yet asked others to help me
then I have been selfish and I apologize.
If I have not seen the face of God
reflected in a million ways and places,
then I have been blind and I ask for another chance
to try again tomorrow.
|Voices of the Bayou
In whispers quiet, I hear the voices
from another time echo through the bayous.
And I listen to the tales they tell;
of life and death...
of happiness and sorrow...
of men and boats
and sudden storms
and voyages unfinished.
Where are they now whose dreams gave life
to wood and steel and fashioned craft
to reap the harvest of the water?
Where is he who homeward came
at sunsets past and waved to loved ones
waiting on the shore?
And where are they who watched his face
as he drew near,
knowing the measure of the catch
would be reflected there?
I ask, where are they now?
And the voices whisper,
"They are here...and will forever be...
in this quiet place...
here, beside the water...."
|Bourbon Street at Dusk
Time to get up now, you tired old sinner.
You've been resting all day
behind those drapes you closed this morning,
just as the sun was coming up
and the day people were beginning to stir.
They're turning on your lights now,
so it's time to roll out...cake on the make-up
and put those sparkling things in your hair...
those neon lights that attract the convention guys.
Across the way, some of your friends
are taking battered old horns out of their cases.
A banjo's tuning up.
And somebody's fooling around with an old upright piano.
Any minute now, they'll be bustin' loose
with a hand-me-down version of jazz.
Trying to hold onto the music
that all started somewhere down here by the river.
And you saw it all.
I guess you've seen about everything,
come to think of it.
Heard every sad story there is to tell,
and every bum joke.
You've heard the steady step of reformers
chasing sinners drinking Hurricanes from plastic cups.
That's your thing, old girl.
This is "New Orleens" as the tourists say,
and you're the star of the show.
Curtain's going up, so please to begin,
You lovable old phony.
You're not half as tough as you pretend.
I know...I've seen you crying
when you thought no one was watching.
These fleeting moments of your sunshine years,
these warm and golden seconds of your nights and days,
too soon will pass...and leave you with half-remembered moments.
Like shadows they will come and go;
the Christmas lights...the birthday cakes...the red balloons...
the brand new bikes and popcorn from a paper bag
that dad held in the park one day...was it Spring? Or Summer?
You will not recall except that it was warm and nice
and that he laughed and rode you on his shoulders.
If you could hold just one day of now and remember it forever,
through all your dawns and dusks and seasons giving way to seasons,
there would always be a part of you the years could never change.
And though you might have seen a hundred winters,
there would be a certain look of April in your eyes.
|Pelican Publishing...where you will find Jim Metcalf's books and many other wonderful treasures!|
|This was originally a Friday's Journal page.|