Robert Sward

THE 1950's

The doctor thinking he's
got to learn about the world
all over again from
	square one

Looking over words
as he'd peer
over a newly trimmed hedge
seeing something just beyond
	and to one side

The doctor doesn't think he knows anything for sure
only the hula hoops and twinkies,
the blues and violets of his mind
	very late at night

He doesn't know what he's putting down
only that he's noticing,
noting, noticing
his stethoscope here
	and here

Red and pink lipstick cases
with a little mirror on one side,
hats, stockings, garter belts
	 and gloves

There is sound
there's the refrigerator
	and the water dripping

He bought a shirt in 1950 the most remarkable
	feature of which
is a snag or tear will reduce it
	to nothing.
It's a shirt made of a single cell
that, when it's reduced to nothing,
a single cell remains.
	The original cell of that fabric.

What he is seeking is a quilt
made up of the original cells of all the fabrics.

What the l950s does
like a blow to the back or side of one's head
it relocates your mind

The doctor in Intensive Care
where he belongs
if anyone else is here or still here
	that's fine.

	*	*	*

What were the 1950s?  Teresa Brewer and the Korean War

It was hard apples and the popularity of DDT
Popularity was a word heard a lot of in 1950

It was James Dean
and Peter Lawford,
TV's Karen and Chubby,
	the Mickey Mouse Club
		taken seriously

It was the time many people who came into their own
	in the 1960s
first got laid
or had wet dreams
the last wet dream the doctor had was sometime in	
	the 1950s

Basketball games on Chicago's north side
and the walk home at 5 o'clock
	carrying a switchblade knife,
	the two Rosenbergs frying in the electric chair
	McCarthy and his crony Roy Cohn
the atomic bomb already five years old

Plastic surgery
and nose jobs
in a new light

Nixon saying, "California politics is a can of worms"
Captain Kangaroo, Howdy Doody
Arthur Godfrey on television.
the Outside
the Inside
Fresh hot toast with butter on it from the mother
	of a friend
the doctor's own mother dead at 42
the knowledge there were two different worlds
Involved elaborate schemes for not making up your
	mind anyway
"Saturday night is the loneliest night in the week--"
Taking No-Doz and staying up all night for exams

Right-handed angel playing a trumpet
and Moses coming down off the mountain
not with the 10 Commandments
but a set of scrolls
	and where the commandments
	would normally go
	double sets of chimes.

Moses coming down with castanets
Saul of Tarsus with a set of drums
Christ fluting
Buddha blissful at the keyboard

	*	*	*

The jazz was good
Death was softened, advancements made
in the salesmanship of everything
The doctor's own deepest impulses
	were not to nurse or nurture
	but to attack

Hanging out at Sonny Berkowitz' Pool Hall,
wearing blue suede shoes,
Levis and navy blue shirt,
he bought a zip gun,
joined a street gang

Once, doing reconnaissance,
exploring the intricacies
of the Chicago Drainage Canal,
he entered a sewer
and ambled deeply as he could
reflecting all the while
on his chances of surviving
the synchronized flushing
of three-and-a-half million toilets.

For the first time in 2,000 years
one went four years to a University
without saying one true word
going to work for Hallmark Greeting cards
or the phone company
one knew something was at hand because things
became easy.
Richard Wilbur's poems
arrived at one's door
in little four-line stanzas
Tin-Pan alley
people in college dormitories subscribing
	to the Kenyon Review
and listening to Pat Boone

	Five foot two, eyes of blue,
	cotton candy hair
	strapless white lace dress
	zipped up over
	a snug corset
	seated on a sofa
	in a dormitory
	in Champaign, Illinois,
	touch me, touch me
	black patent leather belt open
	and matching black patent leather
		pocket book
	beside her,
	'petting' it was called,
	one foot touching the floor at all times
	("that's right you two,
		or I 'll have to ask you to leave"),
	ejaculating beneath her dress
	somewhere or other
	discreetly as possible

Birds flutter and when they walk
they flutter too.

The doctor sees giant mushroom cloud
father of the H-Bomb Edward Teller
Police Action Korea Harry Truman
and Dwight David Eisenhower,
each with six legs and arms
dancing to the music
	 of Lord Shiva and Judy Garland
	doing it
		on a pink velvet loveseat.

The doctor makes a mental note to turn
his socks inside out to empty
out the sand before putting
them into the laundry bag.
Copyright CrossConnect, Inc. 1996