I heard today from
my friend and former student Dennis Morton in Santa Cruz that his fellow
townsman, and my former Iowa Workshop classmate, the poet Morton Marcus, died
today. Dennis and I had been corresponding over the past few days about Mort,
so this was in the air between us.
We’d last seen each
other in April 2006 when Dennis put together a reunion of Mort, Vern Rutsala,
and me in Santa Cruz: the three of us older people had not been together since
we’d been schoolmates in Iowa City in 1959-60, the best of friends, as we
remained ever after, until now. This picture, below, is of Joan Rutsala, Mort
Marcus, and the docent of Robinson Jeffers’ home, Tor House, in Monterey,
California, during that reunion (click on the picture to see it entire):
R.I.P. MORTON MARCUS
1936 – October 28, 2009
Here lies the offbeat
Whose beard wound round
His rage, created by the
vented on a rose.
Our deepest sympathies to Donna, and to Mort
himself, goodbye, old friend.
The photo above is of the Cate Farm in Dresden Mills, Maine, where our family spent summers and sabbatical leaves from 1956-1995, and where my wife Jean and I have been retired since 1996. It is the location for the poems to be found in the free, downloadable on-line chapbook titled: Attic, Shed, and Barn by Lewis Turco, Tokyo: Ahadada Books, 2009, 28 pp.
ATTIC, SHED AND BARN
There are always the attic, the shed
and the barn when you’ve nothing else to do
except gaze out the glass door at the turkeys
feeding in the snow. You’ve given them cracked corn,
and you’ve fed the bluejays their peanuts
in the box hanging from the underside
of the deck. So it’s down to the barn where
the seasons lie ruminating among boards
and boxes, and up the shallow steps
made to be used by the dying grandma
who left before she could use them. Now you’re
nearly old enough to appreciate them
yourself. Upstairs, over your bookshop,
the new part of the building, you begin
to see more recent yesterdays gathering:
the overflow of books, posters still scrolling
among themselves on the floor, and this:
your first computer! An Osborne One left
over from 1982, looking like
a sewing machine in its carrying case.
You know today your watch has more K
than that Osborne had. They called it the first
portable computer — its six-inch monitor,
built in, could show only a quarter-page at
a time. People got dizzy if they
watched as you worked, scrolling back and forth, up
and down, whipping out the words faster than you
used to be able to type, and that was fast.
As far as you know, the machine still
works…and there’s the file of floppies! All that
deathless verse you had to retype on later
hard drives. You wonder how long it will lie there
Maine, October 21, 2009. Exclusive to the Dresden Mills Gazette. The Centers for Disease
Control in Atlanta, Georgia, today released an urgent appeal to the medical
community and to the nation at large regarding an impending health emergency.
According to Dr. Horace
S. Asce, M. D., seminal assistant director of reproductive assets at the
Centers, bird flu has crossed with swine flu to coalesce into a major epidemic
threat indigenous to the United States and potentially a danger to everyone
“This could cause a
pandemic,” said Dr. Asce when asked why he and not someone from the department
of infectious diseases was spokesman for the Centers on this issue.
“Because,” Dr. Asce
replied, “this disease is spread by unfertilized eggs. Anyone who has eggs for
breakfast is in danger of infection.”
“Why breakfast?” he was
asked by reporters present, in particular Wesli Court, chief influenza
correspondent of the Dresden Mills Gazette.
“Sorry,” the doctor
said, “I did not mean to imply one could catch this new strain of flu only at
breakfast. One is at risk at any meal where eggs are served, in any form.”
“Is eating eggs the only
way somebody can become infected?” Court asked in a follow-up question.
“No,” said the doctor.
“One can also catch this disease by reading a particlar novel written by the
French author Marcel Proust.”
“What novel is that?”
“Swann’s Way,” he was told.
“Because,” Dr. Asce
explained, “This cross between swine flu and bird flu is called Swann flue,”
said the Doctor.
“You can get sick from a
“Oh, yes,” said Dr.
Asce. “I speak from experience. Many novels have made me sick.”
“Is this novel flu a
single strain?” Court rejoined.
“No,” Dr. Asce said.
“There are two strains. The more lethal has a capital S and a double n, as in
‘Swann.’ The other strain is simple swan flu, and you can avoid it if you duck
or are goosed in time.”
“That would be a good
thing,” opined the reporter, which the doctor confirmed. “Not only good, but
eggcellent,” he agreed.
“Has anyone died of swan
flu?” Court asked.
“Only readers of Proust so far,” was the
reply. “The best defense against this deadly disease is to refrain from reading
French novels. In fact, to be perfectly certain that one will not be infected
at any stage, in my opinion one should reman at a distance from French
literature entirely for an extended period,” said Dr. Asce.
Of thorns; we watch color transform our landscapes,
Knowing that the allcolor of our winter
Is nascent beneath this flowering of ocher.
This renaissance of summer is but windfall.
Soon we will hunker down upon our settles
In sweater and jacket.Backlogs of oak or
Maple will burn; their smoke will stitch our
To the winter weather that falls and settles.
From The Collected
Lyrics of Lewis Turco / Wesli Court, 1953-2004, www.StarCloudPress.com, 2004. ISBN 1932842004, jacketed cloth, $49.95; ISBN 1932842012,
quality paperback, $26.95, 460 pages.Originally published in The
Southern Review, xxvi:1, January
1990; reprinted in Heartbeat of New England, An Anthology of Contemporary
Nature Poetry, edited by James
Fowler, Charlestown: Tiger Moon Productions, 2000 and in The Book of Forms, Third Edition, Lebanon: University Press of New
The Virginia Quarterly Review "The Mutable Past," a memoir collected in FANTASEERS, A BOOK OF MEMORIES by Lewis Turco of growing up in the 1950s in Meriden, Connecticut, (Scotsdale AZ: Star Cloud Press, 2005).
The Tower Journal Two short stories, "The Demon in the Tree" and "The Substitute Wife," in the spring 2009 issue of Tower Journal.
The Tower Journal Memoir, “Pookah, The Greatest Cat in the History of the World,” Spring-Summer 2010.
The Michigan Quarterly Review This is the first terzanelle ever published, in "The Michigan Quarterly Review" in 1965. It has been gathered in THE COLLECTED LYRICS OF LEWIS TURCO/WESLI COURT, 1953-2004 (www.StarCloudPress.com).
The Gawain Poet An essay on the putative medieval author of "Gawain and the Green Knight" in the summer 2010 issue of Per Contra.