for George and Bab
_ _ 1.
They’ve done it right by God: the historic spaces
stripped of their inauthentic accretions and made available
to the same dedicated commerce of far-fetched valuables
that got the whole Boston experience motating in the first place.
_ _ 2.
This isn’t just some godforsaken flier at a roadside small-business bonanza.
It’s the embodied etiology of a mass hysterical daydream
worthy of one of the original merchant adventurers.
_ _ 3.
And doesn’t it strike you as extraordinary this practically teenage
Richelieu in the employ of the Proud Popover
ushering us up genuine Piranesian factory-style catwalk staircases
into the old stone echochambers of William Lloyd Garrison’s thunder
thanks to the imaginativeness of the really great franchiser
who got him that frogged duck redcoat to hide his Anheuser
Busch Natural Light tee-shirt and beltbuckle under?
_ _ 4.
Everybody a billboard! Certo! Chiapan or is it Belizian
floursackfacsimiles, Mazdamedallions, LeFigarologos
comparisonshopping the toveracks, the quarkbins, the wampeteropenerbarrels
right out in the openfront breakneck deafening cobble and rail and rubble
where Anthony Burns trudged and Vanzetti deliberated.
Whaddaya say we go crazy and buy us a cod.
_ _ 5.
I’m coming, I’m coming, only a few small purchases.
But look at these little gizmos with the ceramic crankhandles.
_ _ 6.
Find me the cheeses! Get me a melon! Buy me a lime!
Get me in ten-man tandem with them poets of the olden time
pillaging the quotidian, parceling it up into rhyme
and trucking it off to the doorstep of posterity to deliver it
squalling righteous and barefaced like an Edward Everett.
It’s beautiful, it’s got character written all over it,
it’s Boston even if a Bostonian has to discover it
hiding its mug where the mugracks flash the escutcheons
of ANTIOCK, AMHOIST, HANOVER AGRICULTURAL AND MECHANICAL,
and the pushcart piggybacks home on the Porsche-top ski-rack.
Toss me the big lyre and the Li Po clap-stick.
And if this ain’t stuff enough for the metrical celebration
of spiritus loci, cold sliced pork pie and the celebrator’s loquacity
while the harbor detail snap to and the snare drums roll,
then I have so misjudged mine and my L. L. Bean canvas tote bag’s capacity
as to qualify for a hardship subscription to the Cosmopolitan.
_ _ 7.
Get thee a heftier tote bag O my soul
we can open it wide and throw everything in we can call it an
Ode to the Boston of Zinn White Wojtyla Douglass Douglas Tubman and Martineau
we can open it wider and call down inside of it Rise up as one and be vocative O
baskets O briskets O bouquets O gourmet dishes
O rarebits and rice-boats, tikia-kebobs and shishes.
O microwave chicken Kiev O cashew quiches,
I am getting the hang of it, righthand-to-lefthand-lettered gefiltefishes,
weird little items for opening oysters. O knishes
O gjetost oh fozzle it shouldn’t be quiches it’s quiches.
As in Gimme your Klimts, your Toulouses, your scenic Helvetias
and where is the waiter and where are our rock-cornishes flambées Grand-Corniches
and what do they do for an encore, these fabulous groomed-to-the-eyeballs geishas
steering their highstrung miniatures on scissoring leashes
from the Parker House to Felicia’s I mean Feli—, uh, Felicia’s
by way of the two-buck prawns and the 3-lb. peaches
of Quincy Market and Haymarket market O sakes O pulques O chichas
oh fozzle again I keep running aground on these rhapsodological beaches
where as soon as you say geishas you wish you could take it back and say geishas
but too late! too late! they go vanishing under the feathery glassed-in acacias
looking as ravishingly underdeveloped as Sam Jaffe’s or J. Carroll Naish’s
MittelShangrivalian accent when they used to come on after the Ars Gratias
but look! handpainted Hatian creches I mean creches
but look! ravaging tandems of pitilessly nubile Arapeshes
closing on us like a full-court press-gang for the La Leches I’m sorry La Leches,
their Chés, turquoise-on-pink, vivid against giant four-color display Chés
and the vocables won’t sit still it’s like one of the W.H.A.’s
amateur-nights-on-ice it’s like maybe it’s something I ate chez
O’Malley last night oh murder it’s help that cafe chaise pardon me cafe chaise
longue I am fainting a little don’t tell me it it shouldn’t be J.Carroll Naish’s
pitheco-Indo-European it shoulda been J. Carroll plain old Naish’s
as in On second thought we’ll settle for two corned beef hashes
and a cup of joe
and a quick ticket to Nantasket or Squibnocket or Îlot-au-Haut
because as a Nash from the great days of the Nashes might have lamented, O
it isn’t the cuisinart it’s the cuisine argot
and I don’t care if it’s the argot as in the argot merchant disaster
or the argot as in What kindsa colada makings the bar got
or all three
as in the American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language
which is about as much help on the point as a set of chopsticks with a hero sandwich
but at least lends the entire weight of its authority to the inherent confusion
while the ode goes marching along without me to its conclusion
twirling its object methodically while the rhymes keep ranks
in spite of an occassional brownbagger or pomeranian nipping at its flanks
and holy Ned. Like Nantucket said to the Argo’s hapless master
Goodbye, Captain Papadopoulos, and thanks.
George Starbuck (1931–1996) was an American poet. The recipient of the 1960 Yale Series of Younger Poets Prize for his first collection, Bone Thoughts (Yale University Press, 1960), he authored more than a half dozen books of poetry during his lifetime.
“Interview with George Starbuck” by Sharona Ben-Tov Muir appeared in AGNI 17.