[Publisher’s Note: The last Marshall Jamison poem we published here in Boles Blogs was — Paul’s Wife — on June 15, 2000. Marshall died September 2, 2003 at the age of 85. We still massively miss him. Boles Blogs author Steve Gaines — who worked with Marshall in educational television in Nebraska — recently found the following poem Marshall wrote to celebrate Steve’s retirement from the network. Steve was kind enough to email us Marshall’s original, handwritten, poem — which we are overjoyed to present to you today: The first new Marshall Jamison poem published here in 13 years; and a decade after his death.]
Although I saw her only twice
In the bleak light of the hospital room
She shared with her husband,
Her beauty truly shone, lighting her person
With a soft aura of
A peaceful and flower filled garden.
When she smiled it caused this viewer’s heart
To pause, then beat on with enduring, increasing
A woman to demand a hero’s worship,
But her modesty proclaims true innocence
Very late last night I heard
Billy Taylor play
most of the works of
as a kind of tribute
on the Duke’s
one hundred birthday year.
Now I’ve known Billy Taylor
for at least half
of those well remembered years
and have heard him play many times
in many places
from the jazz joints
of Kansas City
to penthouse apartments
on Madison Avenue.
And last night
as I listened in Florida
I heard him play
from a studio
in New York.
It seemed to me,
as he played,
his hands caressed the keys,
expressing a depth of feeling,
of joy in the expertise he displayed.
It was a rich interpretation of his
old friend’s creative work.
From my heart, Billy, keep on playing!
I’m saying good-bye to Nebraska –
some years after I left it physically.
It has been my custom to salute
staff members of the Nebraska Educational Network,
with whom I served for almost twenty years,
with a few lines of poetry,
when they left the Network.
(Some critics might deem the efforts doggerel.)
One summer day
about seventy years ago or more
my younger brother, Jim and I
fished for flounders in the bay
under a cloudy mackerel sky.
With the tide rising,
good sport that she was,
sat in the stern of Fred Beck’s
small white skiff
and cracked clams for our bait.
Now we boys were not very good
fisherman at that age,
about six and seven or eight.
But within about two hours time
we had hooked and successfully caught
a pail full of flounders of all sizes,
the largest almost big enough
to be deemed halibut.
Our catch included a dozen or so
which Mother unhooked with dispatch
by whacking them mightily
on the side of the boat.
We tried our luck in the harbor again recently
but somehow without our bait expert
cracking clams in the stern
our catch was sadly limited
to two tiny sculpins.
After an hour or so
we left them for the seagulls.
My father was the smartest man I knew.
All my life.
But he couldn’t hit a curve ball.
Or teach me, his eldest son,
how to hit a curve ball, either.
When I was eight years old,
my brother six,
we moved within walking distance
of old Boston Braves Field
in Alston, Massachusetts.
There, where ancient “Rabbit ” Maranville
played shortstop exhibiting
various unique skills
to which he was well known
in the National League.
The most appreciated by us loyal
Braves fans was the
Vest Pocket Catch
when the grizzled veteran
caught an infield fly in an imaginary
Rabbit’s partner, Moran, played
He shared my shortcoming —
he couldn’t hit a curve ball, either.
Wally Berger patrolled center field
and he could hit a curve ball a mile.
So could Sid Gordon
who played third base.
who had just traded away
to New York
for a mess of potage
(my Dad’s description)
staggered through the season
in spite of our
I never learned to hit a curve ball.
On a corner in the Village
where MacDougal Street
meets Minetta Lane
still stands the ancient bar
where Manny, the smiling bartender,
poured and smiled and listened.
Over half a century ago
to ancient scene designer,
and to his black-clad wife, Julie,
listened to Monte,
the reporter from The Daily Mirror,
to his pal,
and to Phil Cazazza,
the fat wine merchant
of Bleeker Street.
Listened to Chelsea,
the Italian tenor,
and to Red,
the musical plumber,
and to an uncounted number of fledgling actors
who at one time or another
haunted the old Provincetown Playhouse
just up the street.
So Manny poured
and Manny listened
in interested silence,
his attention real,
never phony or false.
because he cared about you,
his fellow Man,
and you knew it.
Too bad you never met him.
But, they say,
the real old timers,
that if you step into
The Minetta Tavern to this day,
you can still catch a little of Manny’s spirit
if you listen quietly to what’s going on.