An old man and his dog were walking along a country road, enjoying the scenery, when it suddenly occurred to the man that he had died. He remembered dying, and realized, too, that the dog had been dead for many years. He wondered where the road would lead them, and continued onward.
After a while, they came to a high, white stone wall along one side of the road. It looked like fine marble. At the top of a long hill, it was broken by a tall, white arch that gleamed in the sunlight. When he was standing before it, he saw a magnificent gate in the arch that looked like mother of pearl, and the street that led to the gate looked like pure gold. He was pleased that he had finally arrived at heaven, and the man and his dog walked toward the gate. As he got closer, he saw someone sitting at a beautifully carved desk off to one side.
When he was close enough, he called out, “Excuse me, but is this heaven?”
“Yes, it is, sir,” the man answered.
“Wow! Would you happen to have some water?” the man asked.
“Of course, sir. Come right in, and I’ll have some ice water brought right up.” The gatekeeper gestured to his rear, and the huge gate began to open.
“I assume my friend can come in…” the man said, gesturing toward his dog.
But the reply was, “I’m sorry, sir, but we don’t accept pets.”
The man thought about it, then thanked the gatekeeper, turned back toward the road, and continued in the direction he had been going. After another long walk, he reached the top of another long hill, and he came to a dirt road which led through a farm gate. There was no fence, and it looked as if the gate had never been closed, as grass had grown up around it. As he approached the gate, he saw a man just inside, sitting in the shade of a tree in a rickety old chair, reading a book. “Excuse me!” he called to the reader. “Do you have any water?”
“Yeah, sure, there’s a pump over there,” the man said, pointing to a place that couldn’t be seen from outside the gate. “Come on in and make yourself at home.”
“How about my friend here?” the traveler gestured to the dog.
“He’s welcome too, and there’s a bowl by the pump,” he said. They walked through the gate and, sure enough, there was an old-fashioned hand pump with a dipper hanging on it and a bowl next to it on the ground. The man filled the bowl for his dog, and then took a long drink himself.
When both were satisfied, he and the dog walked back toward the man, who was sitting under the tree waiting for them, and asked, “What do you call this place?” the traveler asked.
“This is Heaven,” was the answer.
“Well, that’s confusing,” the traveler said. “It certainly doesn’t look like heaven, and there’s another man down the road who said that place was heaven.”
“Oh, you mean the place with the gold street and pearly gates?”
“Yes, it was beautiful.”
“Nope. That’s Hell.”
“Doesn’t it offend you for them to use the name of Heaven like that?”
“No. I can see how you might think so, but it actually saves us a lot of time. They screen out the people who are willing to leave their best friends behind.”
~ Author Unknown
So let us ask the question;
Of transformed galaxies and
Mass produced vanities
Of simple walks and simple talks
Of kings and queens and limousines or
Riding on the bus
And let us ask the question;
Of random death and high school fun,
Of Chinese checkers replacing guns,
Of starving children in the sun and
Monsters on parade,
And let us ask the question;
Of an American government’s slow decay,
Of gods of war and these violent days,
Of a well meaning people led astray
And those who blindly march,
And let us ask the question;
Of the cost, the price
And the wait
Some may read the words, others not. But the poem or the story never truly ends. The writers will write and singers will sing and every tomorrow is just another beginning. The human heart and voice, just like the muse is something eternal. And when we all drop off the map or walk somewhere off into the afterlife another kid will be there to take our place. Dreaming and creating their story, their poem, the world.
~ R.M. ENGELHARDT
If love = desire
How much we could have learned.
If knights could have defeated dragons,
steadfast, strong and true, I would
have been all of these things for you.
But love thee, love thee not,
cancel my thoughts beside the vast
cataclysm of unwanted dreaming.
And here in the dark my existence still
lingers for the spark which you have
ignited once more “abandoned”
After everything quits,
happening. The phone
rings. A knock comes
at the door. Lightning
flashes across the bed
where you bend, looking
at the dictionary.
Asleep, you keep waking
from dreams. The surface
of your life keeps
being broken, less and less
frequently, at random.
Raindrops after a storm:
surprise: the ghost of awe.
He’s been called the unofficial poet laureate of the French Quarter. Everette Maddox (1944-89) was a native Alabamian (Montgomery-born), who, like so many complicated literary souls, made his way to New Orleans to better commune with his muse. While there he taught for a few years at Xavier University and the University of New Orleans, hung out at Uptown’s Maple Leaf Bar (where he founded a reading series that is still going strong) and gradually descended into homelessness and alcoholism, all the while churning out verse on scraps of paper. He published two books of poetry during his lifetime, as well as dozens of individual poems in newspapers (including Mobile’s old Azalea City News) and magazines, which helped secure him a devoted regional readership.
Now, a wonderful new volume collects a nice range of Maddox’s verse and presents it for a new generation of readers. “I hope it’s not over, and good-by” (UNO Press, paper, $16.95) edited by Ralph Adamo is as good a one-volume introduction to this compelling poet as one could wish for, and every lover of Gulf Coast literature will want a copy on his or her shelf.
In his brief introduction, Adamo, a Crescent City poet and journalist, explains that this volume “is intended as a showcase of his [Maddox’s] styles, concerns, his wit, and sometimes dazzling sensibility.” Clearly, Maddox’s devotion to his art, to the detriment of his health and, in the end, his very survival, will be difficult for most readers to fully fathom. But the intensity of his experience and his gift for communicating it come through very strongly in this book.
Several of the poems reference locales around the South — Birmingham, Montgomery and Mobile among them — but New Orleans is by far the dominant presence, and it is beautifully evoked time and again. In “2900 Prytania,” named for Maddox’s first New Orleans address (pictured on the cover), he wrote: “These top few/ lines sagging/ with words/ like ennui/ lagniappe/ crème de menthe/ constitute/ the wrought-iron/ balcony/ of a poem/ shaped just like/ my new 120-/ year-old house/ in New Orleans:/ a wooden lime/ peel hanging/ out of a lightning-/ murdered tree/ 2 stories/ down to knock/ against/ a honeysuckle-/ scented neighborhood/ of weird readers.”
In “New Orleans,” the city’s watery nature is to the fore: “From the air it’s all puddles:/ a blue-green frog town/ on lily pads. More canals than Amsterdam. You don’t/ land — you sink.” It concludes, “I’ll never write another line/ for anything but love/ in this city where steam/ rises off the street after/ a rain like bosoms heaving.” And in “Front Street, New Orleans,” place and history intermingle: “… Only Governor/ Bernardo de Galvez who played/ ‘so decisive a role’ in the War/ for American Independence/ just off the ferry from Spain/ on his horse looks indecisively/ over my head up Canal Street/ as if to say Where can a man get/ a drink in this part of History”.
Getting a drink was certainly a significant concern for Maddox. In the introduction, Adamo writes that the poet was frequently “under the influence (from drink served in places that would not be mistaken for glamorous),” and poem after poem references alcohol and drunkenness. In “Urban Maudlin,” Maddox wrote: “Is it the accumulated/ effect of the screwdriver,/ bourbon on the rocks,/ Dixie beer and three brandies/ I’ve had today that/ has caused the first/ g to be torn from the/ Pi gly Wiggly sign across/ the street from this bar?” And in “Drinking Glass,” he composed a poem in praise of an empty glass: “Pick it up and hold it/ to the light — / a repository of dust,/ hair and lipstick.//” But, he continues, “Dump it out/ (salvaging the butt),/ rinse it, twirl it/ once on a cloth,/ and look! how Clarity/ Rides Again.// Raise it now in a toast/ to Friendship,/ and observe,/ deep in the amber booze,/ the old bright planets/ winking.”
If ultimately careless of his health and worldly prospects, Everette Maddox was fortunate indeed in the devotion of friends like Ralph Adamo, whose determination to share his extraordinary poetic voice will keep his memory and his work evergreen.