HEMINGWAY: A Desperate Life highlights the fascinating, sometimes incredible, feats and follies of a great writer who often could not distinguish between facts and fantasy, truth and braggadocio. David Ray’s poetic sequence counterpoints lyric and narrative, major and minor modes of amusement, admiration, and astonishment in beholding Hemingway’s Falstaffian posturings as well as his sufferings. In the end, the poems express compassion for the “desperate life” of this “larger-than-life” personality.
Whirlybird Press, 2011
124 pages, paperback, $12.00 ISBN 978-0-9647053-5-7
Cover painting: Martha Armstrong, More than red, yellow and blue
Hadley was sure they could find a forest
where things to do would be more beautiful
than anywhere else. To her, Ernest
was a very perfect gentle knight
and she didn't know any arms
in the world she wanted around her
as much as his. There was no heart
like his, and as for the poison within him,
from whence all his badness came,
it's all parental stuff. Love would take
care of this once they were together
and he could do little things for her
and let her do oh so awfully much for him
though she was the older and tempted
to be too maternal. But she just wanted
to be picked up and loved to death.
Any woman with a gram of sense would adore
him and she would never get bored with him.
She promised that after their marriage
she would hold his head to her breast
and kiss him tenderly until he just sailed
swiftly off to sleep, but not too far away.
Ernest liked to interview Black Dog,
especially about existentialism
and whether man and dog have a future
and how he thought the war in Europe
would turn out. But Black Dog
never cared much about these subjects
and, like Ernest, had a way
of redirecting the concerns to his own,
such as biscuits and a tossed stick.
Putting all his rules
into action—cut, cut, cut!—
Ernest tried hard to create
the shortest short story
in the world—but then
he found it. Aristotle
would have acknowledged
that all the elements
of tragedy were present.
It was just six words,
no need for a title.
So many many-toed cats
prowled through and around
the house in Key West
that Ernest often played
arranging them around
his bed, and he vowed
never to kick them
or give into the temptation
to use them for target practice.
It is said that some tagged along
to the Finca Vigía in Cuba,
and that their descendants still
wander the property—
vigilant kitties, capitalist
felines, since Ernest much
preferred that proclivity
to communist propaganda.