Monday, May 18, 2015

Nobody can Write Your Poems

To write is an entertainment I put on for myself.
- Jean Cocteau

Red and Darlene moved in four years ago. I met them when I was standing on the street with my dog Lily. I had just accidentally sliced my thumb open with the antique serrated bread knife and I had no band aids or money to buy them so I wrapped my thumb in toilet paper and taped it up and stepped out. As I held the leash Red saw the blood drops hitting the sidewalk and ran inside and got a butterfly bandage and bandaged my thumb. "I drove an ambulance, I know a serious cut when I see one," he said. I was relieved, and our friendship began.

The following week I brought them a loaf of my bread and they loved it.

One day I saw a dead orange tabby cat in my bushes and I asked Red if it was theirs. "No, but would you like me to remove it?" Red asked.
"Wow, thank you," I said.
"I used to be a driver for the humane society," he said.
"Really?" I said.
"We even once had a Great Dane that nursed a motherless kitten."

At Christmas Red and Darlene bought a blue and white ceramic mini loaf pan decorated with a penguin, and left it on the porch with a card: "More bread please!" I dropped off a few more loaves.

One day last summer at 6 AM I went out and snipped away at my shrubs. Red came out and told me stories, including how he was booted out of the Marines for standing up to a drunk Colonel. He got emotional reliving it as he spoke, sweating and becoming weepy. I kept snipping the shrubs, listening. "You did the right thing," I said.
"Would you like to hear my latest poems?"
"Absolutely," I said.
He walked across the street and returned with two typed pages and began reading. I got goosebumps. They were heartfelt and powerful.
"These are excellent," I said, thinking that he should give a reading at our local public library.
"I have hundreds of these," he said.

Red has told me about being lowered into the jungle by helicopter on a wire to rescue soldiers in Vietnam, driving a city ambulance, being homeless with Darlene and living out of their car, divorcing his nasty first wife and the awful custody battles they had, his son in prison, his landlord he calls 'Alabama,' his love of getting embroiled in the dramas of the neighborhood.

Red has a quick wit and a love of words that I can appreciate. "You know you can call me if there's a problem," he reminds me, "and I'll be over faster than you can say 9-1-1."
"Thanks Red," I say, "but there's a great local police force for that job, plus I don't want to interrupt your most important job, writing poems. Nobody can write your poems."

Recently Red befriended the local drug dealer. He knew all about the early-morning surprise search warrant, from the dealer's point of view. "The police searched his wife, the toddlers were traumatized." I think he was the one traumatized. Red had an angry 'Pitbull Warning' sign in his window facing the street and 'Private Property' signs on his landlord's chain link fences and gates. When he saw me picking up trash from the sidewalk one day, he called out to me. "You'd better wear gloves. We found needles in our backyard once." I realized this tough-and-tumble Marine was actually more frightened in the neighborhood than he showed himself to be, and probably suffering from PTSD.