Robert Lietz
from Maxima
      For A. Matuschak,  proprietor of Matty's, a clothier who built the family  business from      Depression near-bankruptcy to its present 3 locations.  He rretired in 1976, and died in '81.  After highschool and 2 years in the Pacific Northwest with the Civilian Conservation Corps, Matuschak returned to manage the struggling business his grandfather had started. Owner of the green, broad-banded Parker Maxima with which I began the poem, he prospered, married at 42, after years of regrets over separating from his Portland-born first love, and fathered 2 sons he’d left to  carry on the business.  The poem alludes to the science-fiction films of the 1950s as well as to the poliitical climate from the 30s through the 50s.

     Employed and loved enough, ornery enough
to bring a life to bear, you catch adventuring,
speaking the heart of it, in letters home and holding back
how stomachs churned, addressed to women
worrying kielbasa and piroghi.  3rd from center left,
1935, setting out for Eugene or Spokane,
"civilian," as they say, unsure what conservation  held in store
as day-labor.  So you collect yourself,
and mean, in mid-recovery, these jobs years script
to seem the memories of grandkids, brought
through camp-hazards and laughter, straight pool, near-beer
with the help of a friend's sentence, home
to one of five custodial rites, to shopkeeping and apparel,
from thundering saw-toothed seasons
and northwestern skies.  I hear this third or more
of neighborhood make plain.   And hear
the general intent, their charmed superlatives, the voices
of boys come home from fire-fights to comforts,
from log-hauling and dam-labor, their voices urging,
in successive springs, a business prospering,
nothing to spill or smear, the Maxima put back
with rites of quarantine, with filmed accounts
of the last war and talk of the next peril.  I imagine,
1955, a man's eyes cheered by conversations
with the buyers, a 3rd shop's opening, and these,
happily dressed, with no brutalities but private,
here to wish him well, happy, probably right,
leaving with pens no hand would hope
     to scribble heaven by.

     1938.  Once, and now. An odd clarity
in a cup we'd thought run out.
     Angels invite a man from all his lingering,
sealing his grief, these newlyweds
     and these canal skaters, another year,
3-quarters continent between.
     You let the contradictions burn, and grandfathers,
worn out from storms,
     boys with storms to come, inviting stories
on themselves, open-sleeved
     and open-collared now, believing the sway
of parable, Eugene or Spokane,
     and you, Matuschak, feeling the set of body clock,
the last important blood
     to carry on the business.  Beneath these stars
that almost show themselves,
     and stars that vanish after all in good denials,
you feel the seismic relevance,
     that God-my-God  then vanishing, and now
this brighter pass of children in fatigues,
     1942, leaving men for blocks remembering,
their hands more deeply fit
     to pockets with exhaustion.  Even as the buyers
come, the buyers leave more splendid
     in apparel, you nurse these visions rain permits,
this shop that cost you
     your employment in northwoods, obliged by bank
and postal runs, by these
     more common routes, these modesties,
bearing the mark of real time, once
     and once, this play at one of many lifetimes
in the body, once and once, picking
     the lingo out and following instruction,
bearing with hot drinks
     news a shortwave radio will bring you,
the news in eyes spared abstinence
     and cheap success.

     1938.  Men turning on their stools,
in stalls and shops, in the banked light
     of capitals, will be feasting on cold cuts,
grumbling nights their kids
     spend over macaroni suppers, new beards
and peasant skirts, in rooms
     with smoke and beer, with thumping jazz
we only now perceive,
     and how their conversations strain, to find
in late-come weathers
     speed to change, without kin, they think,
without a science, without a place
     condensed to neighborhoods and family.
Initials caution, overplay, implying
     the party faiths, the shop doors pledged to Delano,
absorbing our consent, the appeal
     of body light enlightened by apparel, by
tricks of spring, after the hours
     dulled at work or over party studies, a man
sparked live as wheels climb,
     west in memory, speaking again to that first love
as if he's picked up a new language,
     remembering the splendid sweat, with wine
that seems to replicate a structure,
     and fingers, smoking as they fly, leaving
a heart at risk, a spirit hankering
     for depths, smoking as fingers fly,
and in inspired registers.
     Satchels packed.  An eastern train rescheduled.
You imagine ruins, the charred boards
     love would leave behind, a moment set on hold,
and that love, like an imperfectly set stone,
     there still, after the nickel dancing ends, quickening
capture now, and after the quarter kisses
     men had feasted on.  Oboes advance the clarinets,
so linked by wine and feelings to the planet.
     And by these eyes that met your own, confident, seen
remembering, pine genius and pine luck,
     entailing motion in long-traveled light.  Imagine
the first coordinates.  And ask what hands
     these were that shook the stars from their bright stockings,
that rolled these earths like coins
     to see which one might prove them lucky.   Prove
love, you think, defecting from pine light,    
     unable to abide her steady pertinence, teasing her then
with these queer gods, agreeing, before Time,
     to people this green sphere, devolve as spirits
might devolve, choosing the forms
     they might become, and, feeling the music's sweep,
the calendar as subject, agreeing to words
     and fingers lightly running on wet lips, the burdens
of form, you think, in service to the Beauty,
     until the phrases drag and scratch, the pitch of love
declines in honest ownership, like comedy
     gone wrong, like fortunes lost in simmerings
and detours, raising the linden up, building
     ice on the gene tree, this feel of years,
like grace and gadgetry, until nothing
     strikes you funny anymore.

     Nights he walks the ballgames off,
what's a boy to think, or man to think of him,
     of history, fraying with the moonlight
over them, this spidery pillage each of the terrible words
     catch on, where civilizations end,
where lumbermen collect, where lumbermen
     and clothiers might collect
to make their cases?  I hear the news
     that Danny Biasone is dead,
who made Time work for him, and have
     this hometeam's photograph,
these memories of children pleased to play
     among the rubble, their well-made
or stumbling rhymes, incandescing riffs,
     the memories of boys,
so moved by hybrid circumstance, by dreams
     of their next friction with patrols.
And I imagine Saturdays what might keep
     midweek, and what might come
of partnerships, of selling out at cost, of ads that seem
     amusements after all, imagining
a clothier worn at heart, by late night talks
     of world governance and spy-rings.
How the heart and mind adjust!  And the fingers
     now, drifting in a cash-drawer.
And how the hand adjusts, studying technique,
     to the razor's temperament.  Whatever
that was to bring 3-quarters century to finish,
     whatever it was to hawk those pasts,
unrelieved by matinees, by the pitch of wounds
     or motions of conspiring, the last shop’s
closed for good, their talk with milk or brandy
     finished with their breath,
and with this throb as late-born sons
     discover honor on all-4s, leaving
that past to all the blue-green wash
     spilled over it, leaving behind
the tracks good luck or death
     would make ends of.