The Boak family’s creative, athletic and witty third son was going down the road to ruin. This was unacceptable. My parents had close friends whose son Buzzy was attending Blair Academy, a private boarding school for “young men” in the tiny hamlet of Blairstown, New Jersey. I was ushered there in my suit and tie for a meeting with an overly starched admissions director who explained to my parents with great concern and detail that my prior year’s showing would require that I repeat a sophomore year. With great dismay, I packed my bags and left my entire world behind me.
It didn’t take me long to reinvent myself in my new environment, though I had a difficult time accepting that I was now what I had previously come to despise.... a preppy. I was effective, however, in projecting an Eddie Haskell charade upon my dormitory masters and classroom instructors. For my fellow students I maintained my truer self perhaps: the devious and clever prankster, cigarette smoker, dare taker, Beatles mop-top, and impish comedian. To Blair’s credit, strict discipline forced me to maximize my capabilities and pursue my interests. An open-minded creative writing instructor exposed me to the beat poetry of Lawrence Ferlinghetti that fermented well with the Bob Dylan lyrics echoing from my contraband record turntable. Robert Atkinson, my drafting mentor, concurrently recognized my drawing skills and opted to develop them by tormenting me toward compulsive perfection of drafting detail in India ink. I responded well to these challenges and raised the ante by tackling the complete works of England’s biting social satirist Evelyn Waugh.
I skipped sports for a semester in order to undertake a solo writing project wherein I isolated myself in the student lounge. Through a process of staring in deep contemplation, I managed to churn out daily mini-tragedies, often accompanied with crude and confusing illustrations. These were gathered and pruned into my first publication unoriginally entitled “Metamorphosis,” a Kafka-esque transformation of sorts to which, in my cockroach splendor, I was beginning to relate.
And so, my rare and forgotten first edition of 250 copies of Metamorphosis, was written in 1967 and published on a barely functional A. B. Dick mimeograph machine in the dusky basement of Locke Hall at Blair Academy. I was 17 years old.
The covers were haphazardly silkscreened from handcut stencils producing a tremendous mess of red and black paint that I suspect still remains. Decades later, the poems seem immature to me – purposefully shocking – topical yet troubled and trite. Interesting though, especially in the context of the time and of what was to follow.
poetry by dick boak
All text on this page © 2008 dick boak. All rights reserved.
In my poetry I have tried to express a mood. I have written mostly from personal experiences and dreams, and I have tried to write Truth with a "pinch of feeling." It does not matter to me if you, the reader, do not like what I say. What does matter is that I communicate with you and that each poem has an effect upon you. To be specific, THE MIDDLE CLASS TRAGEDY might seem to be an absurd situation, but by creating such a situation, I have tried to show the truth behind the comic, typical, and finally "tragic" MIDDLE CLASS family.
My thanks to Mr. Cassen and the executive committee for making this project possible. Life is cause and effect... I have caused and I hope you will be affected.
Life is knocking at your door.
I urge you, waken to that sound.
Tears have stained and love has torn
The clothes off minds that do explore
Their fearful fates, they've never found.
Love is whispering in your ear.
I urge you, listen to that voice.
Your past is gone and can't return
Tomorrow's storm will never clear
Unless your conscience makes its choice.
Passion's purr is pounding fast.
I urge you, always half abstain.
ench your thirsts in other streams
For first desires will end the last
With nothing but your will to blame.
I barred my doors and sealed my ears.
I never was urged to see or sense.
Asleep in life and deaf in love,
My life's been nothing through the years
So I'll save you the experience.
A man is lying in a dark alley.
Lift him to his feet again.
Dirty leeches crawling in the gutter,
Ten-cent liquor dripping from his chin.
Habit lurching in his eyes
Seeing nothing but red on black;
Lift his carcass into a coffin –
Peaceful dreaming on his back.
Darkness casting unseen shadows,
Leave his wallet where it was...
Rich men forced him into the shadows,
Poor men strip him like a car.
Frozen solid on the curbstone,
Thawed into vapor: Golden Star.
Vapor rises; solids sink to surface.
Social sinners living with no purpose.
If you have a conscience, kill it now!
A man was lying in a dark alley
On the road to sacred peace.
Someone pushed him into the sewer
Reeking channels, dark as hell.
Wooden Cross-Chain clings to the body
Floating in the dregs of past.
Is to isn't; was to never –
Liquid graveyards flowing fast.
God created men
as the grains of sand in the
hourglass of time.
Fulton Street Blues
In melted ice graves
the sad fishes lie
with calcium scales,
and silver eyes.
Row after row,
cold and hard,
treaded in blood
with the smell of death.
The frozen tubes
that once carried the life fluid
stiff – and the body
that once pulsed swiftly
is now: For Sale.
The Middle Class Tragedy
(from Metamorphosis, 1967)
And the sun rises again
over the white-washed microcosm.
Then through the arteries of the house
flow simultaneously the tired bodies
down the staircase,
two by two,
upon the sunny side down eggs
lying cold in the kitchen.
Father’s munching his corn flakes
guaranteed to stay crisp
(provided you keep him dry)
“Just a little squirt of rum
in my coffee please,” he says.
“No cream or sugar.
It’s much too early for that.”
Mother’s in complete frantic
(as Mother’s usually are)
Grandfather didn’t like the eggs,
Or the coffee, or for that matter, anything.
So he drank her cooking wine
And now there’s nothing left for Mother’s tantrum.
The kid’s are crying already.
It seems that one wanted Kartoons
And the other wanted Kaptain Kangaroo!
So they compromised as children do,
To watch the channel 5 news
And seeing that neither wanted news
They cried instead.
But things are softer now.
Father’s off to the office
And Granddad’s out cold on the couch.
The baby’s locked in the crib
Secured with cotton and barbed wire.
And the kids have gone to school
secured with smoke bombs and squirt guns.
Mother’s fixing onion dip and crackers
with sprinklings of rare sugared ant wings,
and her hopes of maintaining
the utmost social status
without the garden delicacies
discussed with disgust
in the Wednesday Morning Flower Club.
The party’s over now and Mother,
again in complete frantic,
rants and raves
over the Gin, Vermouth and Bourbon
that so coincidentally walked unnoticed
out the door with the
Wednesday Morning Kleptomania Club.
A Salem to soothe the nerves
and a slow slow count
from one to five hundred.
Oh the hell of it all!
The kids will be home soon
Trailed by the usual toothleth leeches
And the stray wounded animals
Seeking the refuge of security.
If only they knew what security was like…
“Bang you’re dead!” and the kids are home
to crayon the walls
and trampoline the beds
and pinch the baby
and burn the sickly gray dog until –
it goes plowing out the door,
tail in mouth, seeking refuge.
And then to Mother’s pleasant surprise
the cute one has buried himself
in scores of Downy disposable diapers…
And the dog returns with father,
newspaper in mouth,
teethmarks to the “Great Society.”
Father’s in his chair
slurping his martini
avoiding the olive
at the same time
staring through his toes
at the human comic strip.
And Mother’s in the pantry
cooking marshmallows and Rice Krispies
with a pinch of arsenic
to keep the spirits up.
A smile of chagrin at the thought
of her cunning witch-like craft.
Granddad’s playing double solitaire
with himself; jumping up
as fast as his heart will let him
to take the Queen of Hearts.
(the only card without a move)
He always did beat Grandma
when she was alive.
And John’s in the cellar
with his beer and his billiard cue
shooting a masse with a left hand twist
on the twelve ball.
He made that shot once, but never since
and now he’s a cross-eyed neurotic
locked happily in the cellar.
Only one member left in this family.
The dog, so wrongly named George,
and George’s rabies shot is tomorrow
though he has no teeth;
he sits contented nibbling grass
and swallowing roaches that constitute
his healthy rabid diet.
The house is quiet now
except for an occasional explosion
of Granddad tripping over a spade
or Mother’s hungry disposal
or the cow-bell on the dog’s tail.
Yes, all is quiet now
except for the kid who dared to cry.
But then it happened, without a word
and Father gulped six martinis
in amazingly rapid succession
over the King of Black Spades.
And the dog howled, and the kids cried
and Mother spilled the Rice Krispies
and John growled in the cellar.
Everyone wished they were dead
except Granddad, who lay out-
stretched upon the paisley carpet
and Father said one holeymary
and Mother crossed herself
and the kids cried some more
but the stillness prevailed…
Then Mother exclaimed, “Dinner is served.”
Father staggered to the table
and George’s dog food rolled unnoticed
under the cellar door.
No one said grace, except Granddad
who had other commitments (obviously)
as did everyone.
And then the roof fell in!
I love the snow that others hate,
The snow that gusts through broken glass
Biting noses warm secure.
I love the snow that men despise,
The snow that flies through painted skies
Caressing wings of silver doves.
I love the snow that burns my tongue,
The snow that covers autumn leaves
With crystal stars, ever pure.
I love the snow that turns to gold,
The snow that falls like dreaming tears
And dresses worlds in fancy gloves.
I love the snow that I've never seen,
The snow that swirls the night to day
Past blinded eyes
so far away.....
Children flee with their war toys
Soft and sleek
Learning and yearning
Over the mound
Through the wood
Into the purple horizon.
And those less fortunate
Hard and brittle
Dust and dried tears
Cover the wound
Dirt white or black
Fall off the purple horizon.
Then the canvass-skinned
Minds once rich
Now shriveled down
Into an hourglass.
The all’s all
Onto or under the Purple Horizon.
O Infinite Star
O infinite star beyond my reach;
Stand up, stay still and smile.
My eye of glass sees nothing here
‘Cept ugliness and guile.
Does love lie on your nothing beach?
Do odious strifes exist?
Your light must surely blind the tear
And calm God’s vengeful fist.
O infinite star beyond my reach;
We’ll never calm our vengeful fists.
The candles flame will die, I fear –
To poisoned morbid winter mists.
The stone of heavens
ripples the oceans of time
Love and hate –
Too much alike
To be different.
there’s a light in the distance
on the grey horizon;
Just a light,
like a sunken star
beneath the ripples
of crystal water
so pure and clean
and diamond bright.
there’s a light in the distance
on the hazed horizon
and the light struggles with the wave
like a candle in the wind
dancing yet still –
I’m far away
and the light flies
into the distance
through the waves
forever glowing, faint or flaming,
forever gleaming, far and fervent,
in the darkness or the sun.
God is an imaginary mirror
in the heavens which we look into
to see ourselves.
An ugly silk cocoon
with its rutted tan threads
of lace and wax
lies on the branch.
So innocent and dorment
waiting to burst
toward the blue heaven
flapping violent – to keep the air.
Then with that silent crash
the Change sways toward the sun
free to the wind
with but one charge of life.
With so short a span
it comes to a stop
whirling down and swiveling
taken by current
like a falling leaf
into a perfume
A dimes worth of existence into the blind man’s cup.
A Christmas Spirit
families sit like smiling stones
secure in candy couches red;
five minute phoneys
while Santas guide their maids to bed
forget the years
of plastic tears
forget the lifts
of empty gifts
remember truth of something’s not
without the symbols hard and false
season’s reason fading pale
the somethings like it used to be
glowing faces bright and warm
christ lived years
‘til wretched hands
pinned him to
the christmas tree
Response is a remarkable thing.
emotion and love
They cannot be willed.
A tree stands tall in the barren woods
with arms of green stretched like the cross,
and rocks lie solemn on the crust
of carpets spun with golden moss
A tree stood tall in the barren woods
‘til hatchets chopped it to a shred.
Now the roots lie ‘neath the crust –
the natural grave to house the dead.
LSD – Body of Mind
a mind that travels with the blood
unconscious of the real effect
through veins and spleens, red with fear
alone in channels of a dream
his mind flows swiftly through the streams
until... amidst the journey’s road
came a rift of mental strain
or you might say “two roads emerged”
from one fast flowing artery
symbolic of his sexual strife
He chose the route to heartful peace
Yet sorry he could no take both
he split his mind to dual traits
and traveled both to heart and soul
until his choice became his fate
toward nowhere horizons
for ( ! ) to happen
o infinite nothingness of world
where are you
but beyond hope
A feather is a gusty wind,
a life without demand.
I’m waiting for the air to calm
so I can find a place to land.
The Last Page
The first word
and the last blood stained page
the last of faded frustrations
i feel diffused now
like the star’s light
miles away yes
this word game
it’s no good
the last page ruins it all
everything I say
by smiling prodigies
and frowning idiots
i’ll tell the truth.
this page is five minutes of thought
unlike the rest
but don’t worry about me
it’s all a phase
and i don’t believe a word i say
(even these last pages)
The following simple cartoons were drawn concurrently with the writing of Metamorphosis and Tears, circa 1967.