Talk About Poetry discussion of one of Marvin Bell’s Dead Man poems, About the Dead Man and Your Hands, parts 1 and 2. The podcast is here: Marvin Bell’s About the Dead Man and Your Hands.
Participants are: Phil Memmer, Executive Director of the Syracuse YMCA Downtown Writer’s Center (DWC); Georgia Popoff, a Community Poet in Syracuse and teacher at the DWC, Stephen Kuusisto, Director of the Syracuse University Honors Program / Professor of Disability Studies for the Center on Human Policy, Law, and Disability Studies in the School of Education, and me, Bob Herz, founder & editor of Nine Mile Magazine, and publisher-editor of the W.D. Hoffstadt & Sons press.
All three of my colleagues are distinguished poets and writers and teachers. More important, they care deeply about poetry, its making, and the ways in which we discuss poetry and apply it to our lives.
And here’s the poem —
1. About the Dead Man and Your Hands
Mornings, he keeps out the world awhile, the dead man.
The dead man, without looking, believes what you said of the garden.
He knows the color of a rose is the color of a rose is the color.
He sees the early sky lit by a burn toward which we sidle.
He will take care of you, the dead man will do that.
He will wait for your hair to grow back.
He thinks the things you touched are lucky to be yours.
The dead man knows where to be and where not to be, how he survives.
He is aware, at all times, of your place, your dog, your rug, your roof, your chairs and tables.
Here is his own table, from the basement of the “as is” shop.
The dead man is of this old table, he is of his front and back doors, he is of the tea on the burner and the burner, too, he is.
It cannot stop the dead man, that others have caught on.
The dead man at his worst still looks his best.
2. More About the Dead Man and Your Hands
Nights, he lets in the world, the dead man does it, always.
By any late night, he has lost the need to believe.
The dead man plays a nighttime piano, he blows a nighttime horn, he sings more after midnight.
Dead man’s music is nighttime, call it earthly, call it planetary.
The dead man feels the high registers heard by animal ears.
He feels the rumbly pedal note struck by redwoods enlarging and tectonic plates lurching.
What is it about his hands and your hands, is it the absence of certainty?
He has stirred distinctions into a broth, a soup, a stew, a gravy.
You cannot find yes and no, true or false, in a dead man’s soup.
So what if they have caught on, the dead man is out front and stays up later.
Hence, when the dead man maketh eyes, he’s gotcha.
He’ll care for you, now that he’s gotcha, and he hath giveth his hand.
He can’t talk about the children if you are going to cry.