Serving House: A Journal of Literary Arts
  • Home
  • About
  • Archive
  • Bio Notes
  • Bookshelf
  • Contents
  • Submit
SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

[Four Poems]

by Dan Gilmore

Telling Your Stories in a Tweeting World:
A Guide for the Aging

Of course you love your stories. Of course
you must tell them. But keep them brief.

It’s way too much to say, One cloudy day in June
I walked across a crowded street in St. Paul and
a blue Dodge with a rusted chrome bumper clipped me
on my left thigh.
Better: Car hit thigh.

Remember, most people who might like your stories
are either dead or busy trying to tell their own stories.

Also, certain subjects don’t lend themselves to brevity.
Do not tell your dreams. They are significant only to you.

Eliminate vacations, service clubs, and speculation
about an afterlife. Don’t talk about anyone dead or near-dead.

Avoid keepsakes, photos and your father’s watch. No poetry,
religious or political opinions or acts of bravery.

Avoid all attempts at humor and ignore even the slightest urge
to write your autobiography. And never talk about feelings,
flatulence, or anything that smells.

Achieving brevity can be accomplished by pretending that you
are not talking about yourself but someone you don’t know
and don’t like very much.

Rely on nouns and verbs. Run, Spot, run, should be cut to Run, Spot.

No more gossipy romantic tales. Cut to the chase. Dick and Jane hooked up
is enough. And don’t think anything you say will be remembered.

The cruel fact is, you are probably your only listener, so consider
staying home. Drink some warm milk and spend the evening
talking to yourself.



From our bedroom window, I watch
a mother bird nudge a featherless,
stubby-winged, bug-eyed chick to the edge
of her nest. Two have gone before.
Their bodies lie at the base of the tree,
motionless. JoAnn is still in bed.

Mornings are tough. Two years have passed
since her stroke and two months since she broke
a hip. Love sustained us for a while. Now,
I don’t know what keeps us going. Habit maybe.
Not hope, not now, no holding on to the belief
that life will return to normal. Maybe it’s fate
or early choices playing themselves out.

The chick stands on the edge of its nest,
flaps its tiny wings as if to practice. I’m certain
it will crash. It hesitates, then leaps out
into what we call air but is really just nothing.
It flaps away but falls straight down. JoAnn
calls out to me. I know she’s in pain, but
I can’t stop watching the bird. It’s losing
altitude. Then a few feet from the ground,
it somehow manages to catch the air. It lifts up,
flies away and circles back to its nest.


Tunnel of Love

Memories fade, but I’ve managed
to salvage enough to make a comfortable
rocking chair and a crazy quilt to keep
me warm. It’s hard to know what’s true
and what isn’t, but imagined memories
serve just as well. It’s true that life felt
as bright as a neon question mark the day
I took Janet Horne to the county fair.

It’s also true that we paused to gaze
at the fat lady. I’m certain we shared
a cone of pink cotton candy. But it may
not be true that our hearts beat faster
when we entered the Tunnel of Love.
I’m not even sure we entered the Tunnel of Love.

But tonight I sit in my rocker with my quilt
and I remember how my body tingled
when we sat side by side, how the little boat
lifted and swayed as water softly slapped
the sides. Our shoulders touched. Our
fingers entwined. Our lips, still sweet
with cotton candy, brushed. We swept
our hands in the water, paddling backwards,
as I’m doing now, trying to hold that boat
in the tunnel for as long as I can.


The Hyperbolist

I spent most of my life addicted to the pursuit of truth,
an affliction that almost destroyed me. I devoured
world religions, history and statistics, sat Zen meditation
and suffered sweat lodges, read The Fountainhead,
Summerhill, struggled with Ordinary Language Analysis,
drank from the bitter cup of love with three wives,
had a go at theoretical physics and music, tried skydiving,
colonics, calisthenics, fire walking, tantric twosomes and
moresomes, encounter groups, twelve Rolfing sessions,
neuropsychology, existentialism, behaviorism, logical
positivism, hedonism, atheism, asceticism, depth psychology,
NASCAR, Iyangar and Dancing With the Stars.

I walked every path, looked under every stone, and
in the end became a slave to subtlety, a restrained
but very dull trivializer. My search for truth made me
a listless, list-making snob, a self-righteous skeptic,
a person who possessed all the attributes of those college
professors who year after year manage to fool their students
into believing they are alive. Finally, I escaped to poetry,
to the world of fantasy and imagination. Surely this
would give me some relief from my dreary search for truth.
But after reading my first poem, my instructor said
I must tell the truth, that my poem was filled with hyperbole.
To me this seemed like a good thing. What was wrong
with turning the common weeds of life into gigantic fields
of orchids? Enough picking at the crusty scabs of this elusive
thing called truth. And there, while I brooded over my failed poem,
the spirit of excess entered me. I became a hyperbolist

committed to filling my life with ballyhoo, exalted desire,
exorbitant self-pity, wild and forbidden love, and inordinate
sensationalism. Today, all my weeping willows are giant oaks
with limbs that embrace hucksterism. I tell my tales with unbridled
amplification and excessive lily-gilding. I boast of my achievements,
proclaim loudest the most mundane, proudly parade my losses
and choices that almost destroyed me. I turn all my molehills
into mountains, attack dusty storms of truth with the waters
of my imagination, brandish my sword in the name of intemperate
celebration. I throw off the reins of propriety. I dance the dance
of embellishment. I am addicted to blatant ornamentation and
corpulent elaboration. For it’s the garnish of excess that tastes
so much sweeter than the truth-teller’s gray meat. I worship
the gods of exaggeration and believe with all my heart
that facts always stand in the way of a well-told story.



SHJ Issue 8
Fall 2013

Dan Gilmore

has published a novel, A Howl for Mayflower, and two collections of poetry, Season Tickets (Pima Press) and Love Takes a Bow (Imago Press). He has won the Raymond Carver Fiction Contest, the Martindale Fiction Award, and three first-place awards for short stories in Sandscript. His poems have appeared in Atlanta Review, San Diego Reader, Aethlon, Blue Collar Review, The Carolina Review, Sandscript, and Loft and Range.

“...we have been born here to witness and celebrate. We wonder at our purpose for living. Our purpose
is to perceive the fantastic. Why have a universe if there is no audience?” — Ray Bradbury