(excerpt from THE BOOK OF FOOLS: AN ESSAY IN MEMOIR AND VERSE)
Why hasn’t my father come here for her? When one faces the family, one falls down in a cordage of myth. Odysseus at sea: strong hero, epic tale, Telemachus unable to send away the suitors. Or the brokenness of one’s own story, the nineteenth century sea diver pulled up, strangled, his air hose around his neck. The sea was poisoned, mercury in the tuna and swordfish we savored at The Charthouse. There was an economy of value, or love, surrounding these fancy dinners, two or three times a year, of which we became vaguely aware. And a prehistory of restaurants that possessed this prestigious slot, the Studio, the Peppermill, each with its items of rapturous anticipation, the mouse, the keylime pie, my sweet downfall someone spoke, the snapper francaise, and each its other recommendations—the darkened candlelit nook, the giant, hand-cranked wood peppermill, or walking the pier among the sailboats. And we learned to cherish them because they were cherished. My father, never blessed by worldly bearing, had broken, first in insanity, then weakness, illness, nearly death, just at the age I needed him most. I don’t expect or ask you to pay any attention, only to wade through this flotsam with me. There’s not a meaning here, not even story; all hell broke loose, the order hardly matters. My friend didn’t think as he pulled the trigger that on the other end of the barrel I would answer the phone in my room that never rings and be told by a kid that David had shot himself. And I didn’t think that Friday, when he handed me back my guitar to run off for a field trip to FIU—I think he was doing research for a paper on Flannery O’Connor’s Wise Blood—and I said “ah, man, you fucked up the tuning,” these might be the last words I spoke to him.
Sam Taylor is the author of two books of poems, Body of the World (Ausable/Copper Canyon) and the forthcoming Nude Descending an Empire (Pitt Poetry Series, Fall 2014), which develops the lyrical voice of a citizen-poet engaged with history, politics, and the urgency of our contemporary moment. The pieces here are excerpts from a third collection, a book-length poem, The Book of Fools: An Essay in Memoir and Verse, which incorporates a number of experimental techniques (self-erasure, strike-thrus, footnotes, and more) into the larger arc of an accessible narrative, while also marrying personal, confessional themes with global, ecological ones. Other excerpts of the poem are forthcoming at The New Republic and Omniverse, and his website is www.samtaylor.us