Monday, March 13, 2017

#224: Two Poems by W.T. Pfefferle

Gondola Hallways, Part 2

~This poem previously appeared in Signal Fire (1983).

Venice in the summertime.
The little girls play along the marble walked streets
and throw small red and blue balls
against storefronts.

And inside the buildings,
fashionable men and women sell
the finest linens from Paris and Grenoble.

In the waters of Venice a dead man

And down the waterway a few hundred feet
an old woman washes her apron and sings of the long ago,
as Monsieur Demarco floats past the houses
that face the Rue de Bijoutier.



~This poem previously appeared in Signal Fire (1983).

She had definite style.
No one really walked like she did.
No one really could look at you
out of the corner of their eye like she could.

She would walk along the street
and say the most incredible things.
Words fell from her tongue like sassafras,
with all the s’s just rolling like one great wave from her mouth.

She had the finest clothes, and the finest men in town after her.
She was said to write beautiful poems,
and sometimes, when coaxed,
she’d read them at the fall fair,
the s’s rolling off her tongue
like a great wave of water splashing off all of the men's hearts.

She would come to all the parties alone,
but leave with a beau hanging on her arm.
She would smile and laugh as if to say
that she would be back for the others in due time.

She sat alone on Sunday afternoons
in her two bedroom suite in the most fashionable hotel in town.
And when no one was around,
when no one could hear,
she’d cry to a small picture of a tall man
who knew how to get to Spain,
but not how to get back. 



            I was rather unformed as a human and a writer in the early 1980s. I read rarely, and only had the smallest understanding of what poetry and fiction “did.” For me, these early poems were just about exploring spaces that were not mine through people who were not like me. The two poems here are about characters or places quite foreign to my own small town existence. In all of my early work there was a distinct sort of “otherness” about the worlds. I can’t even say I longed to go to these places or know these people in a real way. The writing wasn’t about my love of the foreign qualities; it seemed like an acting exercise more than anything else, wholly created out of nothing except some passing knowledge gleaned from old movies my mother would watch on TV while I played with my Hot Wheels on the carpet.
            What does seem clear to me is I was eager to examine some kind of dichotomy, the pretty stores and the dead body, the stylish lady and then her private pain. It’s a strategy that I now realize came to be central to many of the speakers in my later work, one face for the world, and one for themselves.
            What is the most exciting part of re-discovering these poems is the contributor note from 1983 which has me claiming I was at work on a novel called Ice, a project that was surely made up, and one that I have zero memory of.



W.T. Pfefferle was born in Canada, came to the US in the late 70s, taught at the college level for 30 years, and has published five books, including two collections of poems, the most recent My Coolest Shirt (The Word Works Press, 2015).

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