Metamorphosis

Metamorphosis

 

   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. 

Metamorphosis

poetry by dick boak

All text on this page © 2008 dick boak. All rights reserved.

 

Introduction

 

     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.

 

dick boak

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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.

Qu

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.

 

 

-------

 

 

Haiku

 

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,

oyster-pearl grey

and silver eyes.

 

Row after row,

cold and hard,

shredded gills

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.

 

 

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The Middle Class Tragedy

 

(from Metamorphosis, 1967)

 

(8:00 am)

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.

 

(11:00 am)

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 

are vain

without the garden delicacies 

discussed with disgust

in the Wednesday Morning Flower Club.

 

(1:00 pm)

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…

 

(3:00 pm)

“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.

(5:00 pm)

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.”

 

(6:00 pm)

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.

 

(6:45 pm)

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.

 

(6:46 pm)

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…

 

(7:00 pm)

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!

 

 

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The Snow

 

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.....

 

 

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One Way

 

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.

 

 

-------

 

 

Haiku

 

The stone of heavens

ripples the oceans of time

into creation.

 

 

-------------------

 

 

Love and hate –

Two opposites

Too much alike

To be different.

 

 

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The Light

 

Off shore, 

there’s a light in the distance

on the grey horizon;

shining, shimmering,

gleaming, glowing,

golden.

 

Just a light,

like a sunken star

beneath the ripples

of crystal water

so pure and clean

and diamond bright.

 

Off shore,

there’s a light in the distance

on the hazed horizon

and the light struggles with the wave

like a candle in the wind 

flickering, jumping,

dancing yet still –

yes, still

glowing.

 

I’m far away

and the light flies

into the distance

through the waves

forever glowing, faint or flaming,

forever gleaming, far and fervent,

forever dancing

in the darkness or the sun.

Forever’s forever

Golden.

 

 

-----------------------------------

 

 

God is an imaginary mirror

in the heavens which we look into

to see ourselves.

 

 

----------------

 

 

The Cocoon

 

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

of life-less-ness.

 

A dimes worth of existence into the blind man’s cup.

 

 

-----------------------

 

 

A Christmas Spirit

 

christmas spirit 

burning soot

families sit like smiling stones

secure in candy couches red;

five minute phoneys

happy lost

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.

    Joy, sorrow,

    emotion and love

    are responses.

They cannot be willed.

 

 

-----------

 

 

The Tree

 

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

 

 

-------

 

 

whisp-

purring swirls

toward nowhere horizons

go

 

blue-eyed skies

watching

waiting

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.

 

 

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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

is torn

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.

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