i.m. James Ravlin, 1912-1997
Light quick mosquitoes speed flitter
and slide at latter-day angle easily
mounting every corniced ingle and
fuming, spuming, better, better and better.
Mosquitoes there were in Saskatchewan,
where you were born, between
elevators, Grandma's steel-eyed span.
Those clever, clever lips hovered
in camel smoke
like a Cheshire hookah, smiled.
And tumbled out an accent stranger
and stranger. What flute
troubled earth to bear him?
The bare tongue-footed ague of him?
The sweet-eyed flourish, the high note
of his Viennese liner? Where now,
sailor man, handsome PT-boat boy-o?
He sleeps in his long canoe. He is
scattered... a late Minnesota snow.
Unmoored from the height of land,
drifting from Lawrentian divide,
blueberry, pine, air-filled
cliff, the taste of iron.
The cherry trees and the dogwood
bloom now in this sinner-town.
Pale green sprays tender
over the graveyard.
Soon come the clever mosquitoes,
the new swarms. I inch along.
A snail, with prairie on my tongue.
Hesitant, grieving, stubborn grew, the rose.
I seem to remember reading once that many archaic peoples recognized some kind of special occult relationship between a person & their maternal uncle. That's certainly true as regards the development of Forth of July. My uncle James Ravlin was an unusual character. Born in Saskatchewan in the winter of 1912, where his father (my grandfather) was on a building project. Jim Ravlin was very handsome, a Navy officer in WW 2. Became a lawyer, went east, worked for the tobacco companies, married into high society, shed his midwestern accent for a kind of high WASP drawl. Wrote Finneganesque letters to everyone (my grandfather's grandfather had come to the US from Dublin). Moved family to SF; left his wife; daughter Juliet jumped off Golden Gate Bridge, on his birthday; lived with his mistress, an important music agent in NYC; spent his last years with her in apartment overlooking Lincoln Center. Was a friend of poet James Merrill. The poem posted previously today was a kind of (lesser) echo of this one, which really got Stubborn rolling (toward my cousin Juliet!). It's an elegy for my uncle. (I know I've posted it before - sorry!)