November 11, 2020

“Teddy Levine,” Poems by Robert Cooperman

“Teddy Levine,” Poems by Robert Cooperman
Teddy Levine, on Line to Buy Girl Scout Cookies, Outside the Wild Weed Dispensary:  Denver 
 
“The Girl Scouts of Colorado have decided it’s now cool to peddle their baked goods 
  outside marijuana dispensaries.” —The Denver Post 
 
Jesus-freakin’-Christ, 
this woman’s taking all day, 
can’t make up her mind, 
so she’s demanding free  
samples of every variety. 
 
The girls behind the table 
roll their eyes, but afraid  
to tell her to screw off, 
so the scout leader informs her,  
with a smile tight as a dolphin’s  
rear end in a rip tide, 
 
“I’m so sorry; we can’t  
break open boxes.” 
Madam Entitled stalks off 
as if a butcher had tried  
to pass off gristle for T-bone. 
 
Finally, it’s my turn! 
But I forget what I want, 
the kids snickering 
like I’m already stoned, 
which, I confess, I am, a little. 
 
I point, while the ounce  
in my pocket gets hot  
as a fired .45 on old TV westerns, 
when cowboys rode off 
into the sunset, free as mustangs,  
and schoolmarms waved goodbye 
and tried not to weep, 
not like Wendy and me. 

**

My Father-in Law’s Hands 
 
Surgeon’s fingers: long, lean, strong as pliers.   
When not operating, he’d practice by darning  
the socks your mother would’ve tossed,  
but a son of the Great Depression, Albear believed, 
 
“Use it up, make it do, wear it out,”  
so he darned as if to remove a gall bladder  
or more delicate, stamina draining surgeries. 
He was never so happy as when tinkering  
 
with a car, laying out the parts in logical order, 
cleaning or replacing them, and re-starting  
the engine that now purred like a sated jaguar. 
I envied his gift for fixing things, me the eternal  
 
fumble-fingers, no sense of how parts fit together,  
more likely to smack my thumb with a hammer  
than the nail I’d aimed at, or to send screws  
flying like taunting crows; and as for a drill: 
 
as dangerous in my trembling hands as a chainsaw. 
But Albear was a happy man with tools,  
and the patience to show me how the job  
should be done; indeed, the patience of a saint. 

**

Gary
 
I thought I saw Gary today, 
his thinning pennant rising  
and falling in the zephyr 
of his 70’s Buick’s open window, 
as he pulled out of a parking lot. 
 
I was about to call out, to ask  
how he was doing, had he gotten  
married, did he have kids, 
grandkids, was he happy,  
did he have time for a cup of joe,  
to catch up on old times, 
 
when it hit me: he’d never  
come home from Vietnam, 
had insisted he could do 
the two-year stretch easy  
as his flicked-off folk riffs  
on his acoustic guitar. 
 
When I saw him one last time, 
his straw-colored freak-flag  
had been shorn by the army barber:  
the first warning he’d be left  
with nothing. 

**

My Father and John Garfield 
 
The star of Body and Soul, 
among other Forties flicks,  
he died in flagrante,  
which impressed my dad even more  
than that Garfield was Jewish  
and a dynamo on the silver screen. 
 
“That’s the way to go,” Dad chortled,  
to make me squirm, and Mom stare  
as if he’d farted at a synagogue funeral.   
Years later, he’d brag he and Mom still did it, 
about the last thing I wanted to hear, 
but I’d nod and smile, “Cool, Dad.”  
 
and escape to my apartment,  
and try not think about Dad’s boasts  
or Garfield’s tsunami coronary,  
though dying “in the saddle” far preferable  
to the screaming agony of a Vietcong  
Bouncing Betty taking my legs,  
exploding my chest and intestines. 
 
Mom was spared the horror of Dad  
going out the way Garfield had.  But lucky  
for him, terrible for us, he went in a flash, 
one night: a super-nova heart attack,  
behind the wheel of his car, slumped over  
for my brother to find after Jeff had talked  
on the phone for a good ninety minutes  
to a girl he thought he loved in high school, 
 
Jeff knowing what he’d find, cops  
standing sentry by the driver’s door,  
Dad all alone, so very all alone. 

**

Jeremy Lind, Buying Girl Scout Cookies Outside the Wild Weed Dispensary: Denver 
 
“The Girl Scouts of Colorado have decided it’s now cool to peddle their baked goods 
  outside marijuana dispensaries.” —The Denver Post 
 
Marijuana?  Smells like every skunk 
in the state let loose a stink bomb: 
what led to Ella leaving, accusing, 
 
“God, you’re such an old man! 
Where’s your sense of adventure?” 
 
Adventure?  All you do is cough  
and giggle: little to laugh about, 
when love’s fickle as a kitten 
testing its claws for the first time. 
 
But I do love Girl Scout cookies, 
always look for the kids setting up  
tables and boxes outside supermarkets  
or at mall entrances. 
 
So I stand in line now, scowl 
whenever someone bounces out  
of the Wild Weed with a smirk 
and a stuffed brown paper bag. 
 
I love all the flavors, but Thin Mints  
are my favorites: that little snap  
when you bite down, the mint  
and chocolate mingling, better  
than the hippie incense Ella used  
to reek up our house with, 
her and her friends all laughing,  
getting off on how square I was.   
 
Square?  That means “dependable.” 
Exactly the kind of person 
this world needs more of. 

***

Robert Cooperman is the winer of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry, for IN THE COLORADO GOLD FEVER MOUNTAINS. MY PARENTS’ WARS was named one of Ten Great Reads for 2017 by WEST WORD MAGAZINE. His latest collection is THE GHOSTS AND BONES OF TROY.
This is his first feature on The Fictional Café.

Teddy Levine
#girl scout cookies#poetry#robert cooperman#weed dispensary
3 comments
  • Alexandra says:

    No wonder #ROBERT COOPERMAN was the winner of the Colorado Book Award for Poetry. The poems are visual, purposeful. As much as I love Girl Scout cookies, the poem Gary brings tears to my eyes.. thank you.

  • Christine North says:

    Oh, my heart. These are fabulous, each one a journey around a blind curve with a surprise waiting in the middle of the road. I could picture Jeremy Lind, and the surgeon who was strong and steady enough to delight in power tools, and the cringe-worthy dad, and the keen observer whose mind ends up at a pang of realization, and poor Gary, gone but not forgotten.

    Here is the genius of Robert Cooperman, whose observations are as sharp as scalpels and stealthily funny enough to elicit a laugh.

  • Linda Klein says:

    Enjoyed reading your poems today. Soothes my morning. Can’t get the poem Gary out of my head.
    Proud to be your cousin.

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