Richard Walsh


Loren Eiseley, sounding like the prairie,
his long Khakied legs in the aisle,
said to me,
alone, lonely, yearning,
the train rumpityrumpiting,
from Philly to New York.
 “So, stranger, tell me a story,”
 a lie I have told to many classes over the years--
my one wondrous intimate  meeting with a significant writer.
I recognize him from his picture on the flyleaf of The Night Country
and the L. C. E. on his briefcase;
not wanting to appear tongue-tied
or to fawn, I instead stammer “I”, “I”
“Take your time, friend, take your time.”
He put his elbow on the arm of the seat, his chin in his hand
—He makes me feel possible so
I tell him the story of the time me and my friends,
hanging out by our “tree,”
on  the fence line between our development and CISH (The Bug House)
met Pete Reiser, the old Brooklyn Dodger, “details details!”
We bring him cigarettes, beer, and Hostess cupcakes,
 he gives us batting and fielding tips—
Charlie finds out he was known for crashing into walls,
which was probably why he was in the hospital,
so we ask him about it,
 but he tells us angrily that he doesn’t talk about that.
After trying to get him to hit us a few,
we don’t  see him that much. 
Then never. 
Of course, we find out later it wasn’t really Pete Reiser;
Charlie again. 
The tree becomes just a tree.
We become just sappy kids.
I am out of words. 
He sits quietly for a short time
 then he applauds softly and thanks me,
 shakes my hand, thanks me again;
likely blushing,
 I ask him what he’s working on—
“Life”; we laugh;
 then he describes what will become All the Strange Hours.
My stop, before his,
 but I stay on all the way to Grand Central—
I can still see him walking off, turning to me,
 “Next time, son, it will be my turn to tell you a story.”
Fading into fog, dissolving, he
fatherly, waves and is gone.
But not from my memory.
For all the strange years
he remains
A truth beyond truth,
Beyond myth.

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