Monday, May 05, 2008

Philip Schultz: "Failure"

Awesome poem from the Failure man, Philip Schultz:

To pay for my father's funeral
I borrowed money from people
he already owed money to.
One called him a nobody.
No, I said, he was a failure.
You can't remember
a nobody's name, that's why
they're called nobodies.
Failures are unforgettable.
The rabbi who read the stock eulogy
about a man who didn't belong to
or believe in anything
was both a failure and a nobody.
He failed to imagine the son
and wife of the dead man
being shamed by each word.
To understand that not
believing in or belonging to
anything demanded a kind
of faith and buoyancy.
An uncle, counting on his fingers
my father's business failures -
a parking lot that raised geese,
a motel that raffled honeymoons,
a bowling alley with roving mariachis -
failed to love and honor his brother,
who showed him how to whistle
under covers, steal apples
with his right or left hand. Indeed,
my father was comical.
His watches pinched, he tripped
on his pants cuffs and snored
loudly in movies, where
his weariness overcame him
finally. He didn't believe in:
saving insurance newspapers
vegetables good or evil human
frailty history or God.
Our family avoided us,
fearing boils. I left town
but failed to get away.

[The poem "Failure" from his Pulitzer Prize-winning book Failure.]

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Blogger San said...

Gorgeous, lilting catalog of "faith and buoyancy." A wise poet whose words I must read more of. Much more.

3:35 PM  
Blogger murat11 said...

What wise-ass wise awesome rage to defend your failure father against being written off as a nobody, and then take a gigantic swipe at the asshole (and clueless) rabbi. Talk about being immortalized.

There is such a hard-won wisdom in being able to ferret deeply inside the recklessness of a reckless father and see the fire burning there, the whitmanesque rave to the daily miracle of a father's mess. I didn't get that close in my own father's messy mess, but I did come to recognize and cherish his one true gift - sparing me his godawful chaotic life. It too was a hard won wisdom, after all the years of son for father pining, but in the writing of my first novel I got it loud and clear.

4:36 PM  

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