Baron Wormser teaches in the Stonecoast MFA program and the Fairfield University MFA program and directs the Frost Place Conference on Poetry and Teaching in Franconia, New Hampshire. He has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, and he served as poet laureate of Maine from 2000 to 2005. His books include The White Words (Houghton Mifflin, 1983); Good Trembling (Houghton Mifflin, 1985); Atoms, Soul Music and Other Poems (Paris Review Editions, 1989); When (Sarabande Books, 1997); Mulroney & Others (Sarabande Books, 2000); Subject Matter (Sarabande Books, 2004). A chapbook, Carthage, was published by The Illuminated Sea Press in 2005, and his memoir, The Road Washes Out in Spring: A Poet’s Memoir of Living Off the Grid, was published by The UP of New England in 2006 and was issued in paperback in April 2008. An edition of new and selected poems, Scattered Chapters, was published by Sarabande Books in April of 2008. Also in April of 2008 CavanKerry Press published a volume of short stories entitled The Poetry Life: Ten Stories. His ninth book of poetry, Impenitent Notes, will be published by CavanKerry Press in 2011. He has also co-authored Teaching the Art of Poetry: the Moves (Lawrence Erlbaum Associates, 2000) and A Surge of Language: Teaching Poetry Day by Day (Heinemann, 2004), both withDavid Cappella. He lives with his wife on twenty-six acres in Cabot, Vermont.
The Army-Navy Game
This feels as eternal as anything in America—
An inevitably gray December day,
The thermometer a few wan degrees above freezing.
I perch on the living room couch
(The cushions are shot; my body feels weirdly weightless)
Waiting for my mom to get herself ready
To visit the kindly implacable doctor.
Though I can’t throw a football fifteen yards
With anything like accuracy, I know this game
Is played every year and it’s conceivable that I,
As yielding human stuff, could be on that field
Or in the band blowing a cold trumpet.
The announcers talk about bragging rights
And servicemen all over the world.
They talk with some old guys who used to be young guys.
When I go upstairs to check on my mom,
Who should have come downstairs by now,
I find her lying on the floor softly crying.
Her walker is down there beside her.
She’s on her side staring up at me as if
I were a cloud or the top of a tree.
Her eyes are small. Her lipstick is smudged.
Her hair is sparse.
I bend over and start to hoist her up
But she’s heavy as grief.
Downstairs the TV chatters on.
I could be there in Philadelphia yelling
With wholesome excitement but I’m here
Propping pillows under my mother and positioning
A chair for her to grab onto and hearing her quaver that
She would as soon be dead.
Her voice is high and thin,
Weary of its body.
I’m young but sympathize.
I forfeited my ration of eternity as a kid
Playing football in the backyard:
Come nightfall, Stevie Schwartz and I
Kept heaving our ardor through the black air.
It sounds as though someone has scored a touchdown.
I’ve got my mom up onto a chair.
She’s stopped crying. I’m grateful.
Oh, Army-Navy-December-football-cancer-afternoon life,
I, too, should start cheering.
Elegy for Paul Butterfield
The blues don’t come to you in a mist
No, the blues don’t come to you in a mist
The blues come when you dirty and pissed
Et cetera for decades of choruses
As when your whiteness disappears into blankness
As when your darkness stops answering the phone
As when your modest fame goes to cash a small
check and doesn’t return
As when your friends get bored with the plaintive notes
played too often before
Found dead in your apartment
That’s how it’s supposed to be
Oh, found dead in your apartment
That’s how it’s supposed to be
If you live the life
Then it becomes your story
You stood for how long on the burning stage
Blowing and chanting from the throbbing gut
Of pan-racial hoodoo, the appropriated blues
That left you fumbling with the half-life of smack
The black riff of hollow solitude
Love is what’s bound to go bad
Say, love is what’s bound to go bad
The woman wants what you never had
On the cover of the first album
You stood cool but earnest
As if to say, “This is Chicago.”
You couldn’t have known
How true the rhymes were,
How the song goes down slow