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by Daniel Richard Fruit
San Francisco; Jamaican Sands; and Poems You Could Learn From
Daniel Richard Fruit
This is a collection of poetry. Any positive resemblances to works better than this or more famous should be reported immediately to the author.
Copyright 1990 by Daniel Richard Fruit
Revised Internet Edition
Copyright 1998 by Daniel Richard Fruit
Published by the House of
Witney. Barney, and Laramie. Limited.
I dedicate this poem to all those hard-working poets that I taught who kept forcing me to get better and to my poor. noble, dear old mother. always the first poet in our family.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Introduction or the Perils of Poetry p. 6
Critical Reappraisal by Thaddeus Maxtomer p. 8
PART ONE: POEMS YOU CAN LEARN FROM p. 9
JAMAICAN SANDS p. 10
I KILLED HIM p. 10
COME DANCE WITH ME p. 11
THIRTY POEMS IN SEARCH OF MEANING p. 11
THE PAPER SAILOR p. 12
HAUNTED CLASSROOM p. 13
TARDY WOMAN p. 14
GHOSTS p. 15
DETENTION DAY p. 16
RAPMAN (original version) p. 19
SHADOW p. 24
THE END p. 25
LET THEM DREAM FOREVER p. 26
FIGURES IN BLACK p. 27
SHE'S LIKE THE DESERT p. 27
I WANT TO THANK YOU p. 28
WITH A LITTLE BIT OF LEARNING p. 30
THE BLACK CALIPH p. 36
A SHIPMASTER'S FAREWELL p. 37
STRANGERS IN THE CLASS p. 37
NEW VISION p. 38
PART TWO: JAMAICAN SANDS p. 39
WHERE ARE YOU GOING? p. 40
I GUARANTEE YOU p. 40
YOU CAN GET IT IF YOU REALLY WANT p. 40
HER KIDNEYS DIDN'T WORK p. 41
ONE ANXIOUS PARENT p. 41
JAMAICAN SANDS p. 42
NOONDAY AT THE REGGAE CAFE p. 42
GANJA MAN p. 43
HELLO STRANGER p. 44
ALONG THE QUEEN'S HIGHWAY p. 45
THE JAMAICAN ECONOMY p. 45
TALK TURKEY MAN p. 46
NOON DAY AT THE OCHO RIOS CAFE p. 47
BYRON LEE AND THE DRAGONNAIRES p. 47
WRITE TO ME p. 48
HEMINGWAY HAD IT HARDER p. 49
FLOATING p. 51
COOL RAIN p. 52
TOTALLY IRRELVANT p. 52
DANCING WITH THE REGGAE QUEEN p. 53
THE PROUD MAROONS p. 55
THREE SQUARES AND A BEECH CHAIR p. 57
MORGAN DIED OF CONSUMPTION p. 57
GREAT JAMAICA AT ITS HEIGHT p. 59
OBEAH (Black and White Magic) p. 60
OH JAMAICA, YOU FOOLED ME AGAIN p. 62
PART THREE: SAN FRANCISCO p. 63
SATURDAY: ARRIVAL, FIRST IMPRESSIONS p. 64
SUNDAY: VIRGINS, CHINATOWN, AND DAVID'S PLACE p.68
MONDAY: THE BAY AND PALLACIO DEL ART p. 72
TUESDAY: NATURAL HISTORY, EXPENSIVE GARDENS p. 75
WEDNESDAY: THE TROLLEY, ALCATRAZ, THE ZOO p. 79
THURSDAY: DEPARTURE p. 83
THIRTY YEARS AND SHRINKING p. 84
ABOUT THE AUTHOR p. 85
ORIGINAL BACK COVER p. 86
AN OLD CAR NEVER LETS YOU DOWN p. 86
Introduction or the Perils of Poetry
You may ask yourself why I've finally brought together the scattered fragments of my poetic cannon. The reason is simple: demand. I began to realize that everyone else was "tipping me off." reading my poems, collecting my work, except me. I once told another teacher "A good poem is a terrible thing to waste." and yet I discarded my works as though they meant no more than the paper I wrote them on.
The feeling that my work should be preserved began when I started noticing my students copying my poems that I'd written just to demonstrate how to write whatever poetry form we were writing. Later, they'd turn in whole lines lifted from me. Then I'd meet members of the school faculty, and they'd be saying:
"Boy, I really loved that poem you wrote for Mrs. Barf's retirement. We laminated a copy for her. Could you sign it?"
Then kids would meet me in the hallway reciting one of my raps from one of our school skits:
"Hey Rapman," the kid would say:
"Well I'm Rapman and I'm here today
To stop the criminal's from getting their way.
I'll scrape the scumbags offa every back street
'Cause the Rapman is too tough to defeat."
Then one night at one of my teacherly classes I showed a copy of a poem I was writing for the introduction to the school's annual poetry book to another teacher.
She said: "That's beautiful. Do you write poems for your girlfriends?"
"Na," I said.
"No wonder you're still single."
Perhaps the final deciding moment, however, came during the last week of school. I was so bothered by girl's coming late to class that I composed a little song, based on Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman," called "Tardy Woman." and I discovered another teacher had run off a class set to have her students sing together.
If everybody else is going to rip me off, I'm going to rip myself off. Hence the title for this volume because all of these poems have been around once before. Some I've read only to myself, and many I've read in public. Some follow in the footsteps of America's greatest poets, Whitman, Longfellow, Springstein, Dylan, Seager (Bob), and Dickinson while other march to the beat of that other drummer. I seriously considered calling this collection "Resurrected Poems," but I didn't want to overstate my talents. On the other hand "Collected Poems" suggested I was already in the grave. "Recycled Poems", on the other hand, while sounding slightly hip tells the reader all the grubbing I had to do through old computer discs and molding manuscripts.
To do these poems justice, they must be read OUT LOUD. For. if I have any redeeming qualities as a poet, it's that my poems sound better than they read. Some, though, might be best read out loud some secluded area such as a soundproof booth or a restroom.
I wrote "San Francisco" during a trip to that city. The idea occurred to me when I realized that guys like Byron used to write epics concerning every trip they ever took. If they could do it on pencil and paper, I could certainly do it on my IBM PC.
For "Jamaican Sands" I simply wrote a group of poems about my experiences in Jamaica, most musical of the Caribbean isles.
"Poems You Could Learn From" compiles most of the poems written
between 1989-1990 while I worked at Stevenson Junior High School.
Welcome to my trashcan.
A POWERFUL BEGINNING:
It's seldom that I have the chance to introduce a major new voice in poetry. This is not the moment though I think this volume offers a lot of interesting work.
It seems something of a moot question, again, as to whether Mr. Fruit is really a poet or a prose writer. Certainly such works as The Plastic Tomorrow and, of course, When the Bugles Call My Name, offer a vision that seems that seems to transcend the typically droll voice of prose. Whether the words really constitute poetry, or the promise of poetry, however, is another matter.
The volume here really attempts three different things. The first few poems offer nothing more pretentious than the poems themselves. Personally, I enjoy some of them much more than others, and typically the less-adorned ones the more. Stand-outs probably include the tight "Jamaican Sands," the comic classroom "Haunted Classroom," and the much-performed "The End." The short plays, Rapman, Detention Day, etc. here function as comic relief.
The second part attempts, in verse, the kind of tour book that Mr. Fruit attempted, with a bit more assurance, in the prose classic The Thin Red Line. Certainly, Jamaica offers a suitable setting for the typically Fruitian contrast between grimmer reality and lustering image. I think it says something, however, when in a volume of usually autobiographical poems, the standouts constitute poems written in the third person, i.e. "The Proud Maroons," and first person, albeit with a different first person "Obeah." A lot of the "talking poems" function more as experiments with the form than genuine works, but they show some attempts to stretch the concept of a poem, kind of like converting a Hemingway conversation to verse.
The last section, "San Francisco," seems the most experimental of all. At times, I'm simply wondering how Mr. Fruit can continue to tell a story, one that often features little action, in iambic pentameter for canto after canto. The best cantos, ironically, feature fairly straight-forward description, such as that of Chinatown, on Sunday, and the museums, on Tuesday, in which nothing happens whatsoever.
Whether it's a real epic, or even a good one, I'll leave to readers' judgment.
In conclusion, then, Recycled Poems, offers some good work. Clearly, Shakespeare Doesn't Work Here offers more mature visions and the better point of departure for the casual reader, but you could do much worse than reading this book of poetry.
POEM YOU CAN LEARN FROM
The beaches here are clean.
The spotless coastline of Jamaica.
Worn white by patient grinding.
The ceaseless labor of the waves.
To emerge fluffy to the touch.
Like a downy feather bed.
Inviting you to lay your head
And tan your mind.
Simply gorge a handful of the earth.
Or drop a single. soiled can of soda,
Man a castle. garrison it with men.
And it is not the same anymore.
You might try to leave your footprints.
Like astronauts upon the moon.
The sea will come and take them back,
For nothing lasts.
I KILLED HIM
I killed Him.
I killed the Emperor of Baghdad
With a swift movement of my hand
I put him surely into his grave
When I deftly closed his book.
I killed the television newsman,
When I hit the channel changer
I'd watched for thirteen hours,
But the news kept getting weirder.
I killed the screaming rock and roller,
When I dared to turn the switch
The sound that he was singing.
Just didn't do a thing for me.
I killed them all, I tell you now,
Though they might want to call me friend.
And if you stop reading this poem
Then you can spell my end.
COME DANCE WITH ME
Come dance with me.
You looked so gorgeous standing there.
The neon lights reflected in your hair,
A vision of golden, lace, and white
Standing out beneath a mediocre night.
Come dance with me.
For I've so many awkward moves I do
Like Fred Astaire, I'll show them to you,
For there is nothing then I could've said
That might've made you turn your head.
Come dance with me.
We'll make our move just coming through the door.
We'll plant our footsteps across the floor.
You will look at me, and I will look at you,
For when you're dancing, every song is true.
THIRTY POEMS IN SEARCH OF MEANING
Or reflections on my fifth creative writing class
So what was that supposed to be:
Why were all those students there.
Was there some order to their madness
Tell me why should I want to care.
When I hear thirty poems in search of meaning.
Some songs they sing are violent
With the anger and illogic of youth.
Sane songs they sing are more gentle
With the gracious mean of truth.
I speak thirty poems in search of meaning.
A handful of papers and grades.
It's just marks and lines that I see.
Or is something that makes me wonder
Whether the real student has been me.
And I am thirty poems in search of meaning.
THE PAPER SAILOR
On Considering My Years as an East Los Angeles Teacher
Jagged lines of black.
That scar a hallway wall.
To leaves a criminal's mark,
But no humanity at all.
I'm just a paper sailor.
Sailing over a sea of white.
Hoping that you will come with me.
As we steer through the night.
Another layer of caked on make-up
That mars an otherwise pretty face
Some teachers says to "be someone"
And she says "Just, get off my case."
I'm just a paper sailor
Gliding through a sea of gray.
Hoping that somehow you hear me.
So I know that I was here today.
Another boy is tuning out.
He says that school is not enough fun
He throws a pencil through a window.
And then he attempts to run.
I'm just a paper sailor.
Wondering if the port is near.
And time we can float together
Through the darkness and the fear.
And then I hear the sound of laugher.
The smile of a remembered song or rhyme.
The illumination of a mind
And I hope still there may be time.
I'm just a paper sailor.
Seeing a blinding light that's true.
Just stay with me. and we'll be there.
And I will see the real you
I met a ghost at Stevenson.
He haunted classroom 108.
He came each day at 8:00
And never came a minute late.
He'd sit down at the teacher's desk,
Where I so seldom sat,
He'd send a scowl across the room,
Any time he'd see a brat.
He'd read the writing on the walls
and sneer at "Stinky Number Five"
And tell the students there to graduate
As though he really were alive.
I kept wondering why he came here.
Why wasn't he up in Heaven or in Hell?
And finally one day I asked,
"Have you some kind of story to tell?"
"You had me several years ago.
And failed me, here, inside this room.
So now I sit here sentenced.
Your classroom as my place of doom."
I grabbed a book and a paper
And gave a seat near the front of class.
"I see there is a Heaven," said I.
"For you still have a chance to pass."
TARDY WOMAN (with apologies to Roy Orbison)