Poet’s Corner Press



by John Morearty

My credentials are gone! Vanished in a cloud of blue smoke, November 9, 1992.

Not my Ph.D., that’s still curling on the wall, but Old Red Truck. It was my badge of honor, my certificate of authenticity, issued by Chevrolet in 1963. It was a rolling rattletrap reminder that I was who I pretended to be–an impoverished peace and justice activist, Poor But Honest John.

I cherished every dent–parking lot dings, the gouge in the driver’s door (which usually latched), the huge sheet-metal distortion suffered in hasty joy the morning my bankruptcy (honorably incurred, of course) came through. I loved its rainbow glory–white top, two shades of red fading to orange, a green smile where I hit a Cadillac while chanting my mantra, black lumber rack, homemade brown plywood camper, and remnants of rusty chrome. And I delighted in its tailgate, my rolling billboard: bumper-stickers like No Nukes, Kick the Bomb Habit, Robin Hood was Right, Solar Energy, Honor Labor, Bill Sousa, Pat Johnston, Patricia Malberg for Congress, Freeze Nuclear Weapons/Mondale Ferraro, World Instant of Cooperation, and my own Sow Justice Harvest Peace. Funkily painted in yellow, above all these, was the phrase I had spotted on a vehicle in Sausalito: Carpenters Make Better Louvers.

As I rolled this ravaged beauty from Mendocino to New Mexico; as I drove to peace demonstrations at Livermore Lab, or Norman Shumway’s office, or City Hall Square; as I parked squarely in front of Burns Tower, to chair U.N. Association meetings; as I backed into customers’ driveways (transmission fluid oozing) and unloaded my sawhorses; as I pulled into lumberyards next to shiny new $20,000 pickups and heard them say “Hey, here comes Thermonuclear John”–as I paraded Red Truck through the world I thought, “Voluntary poverty, that’s me. John Morearty, the Mad Monk of Carpenter Road. Jesus was a carpenter, he ate organic food. Dorothy Day would be proud of me….”

Then I cut my hair, got married, and moved from the fringes to a respectable house in Old Stockton. My teenage stepdaughter took to calling Red Truck “The Sh..mobile”; my beloved bride said, “Honey, wouldn’t it look really nice with a new coat of paint?” So this spring I scraped off all the bumperstickers, pulled off the chrome, laid in a little Bondo, and had it painted Porsche Red–gouges, lumber rack and all. Looked pretty good.

But in October, my mechanic Tim delivered a death sentence–collapsing rings, new brakes, $3000+.

So I sold my credentials, for eight hundred American dollars. I borrowed eight thousand from my son Mike, and bought a 1986 Dodge pickup–red, of course.

Now who am I?

Copyright John Morearty 2002

Riding The Morgan Horse
by Douglas M. Tedards

Pal was the Morgan horse
I rode when I was growing up.
Even after years in the saddle
he could throw me in a second–
a scrap of white paper,
a covey of quail,
or a startled rabbit
and I’d be in the air,
then on the ground…
parts of me and his tack
scattered in the field
or along some country road.

Soft landing or not
I’d climb back up
but knew in time
I’d be thrown again…
This equine whirlwind
could turn me into a horseless rider
in a flash of wings
from a flushed covey
or wind-rippled sheets
from a laundry line.
The slightest movement
always catching his eye
much quicker than mine,
and I seemed to finish the ride
purely at his own pleasure.

I learned never to take him for granted,
and until the day
he was too old for the saddle
I remained his apprentice rider.

It is oddly the same
for me now, writing these words–
a poem thrown together
for an afternoon jaunt
then written over and over, inexhaustibly,
until it turns on a dime
heading for home.

Such writing rarely comes easily,
words tossed into the air
or left stranded on the page,
watching it all come together
in a flash of images
formed purely for their own pleasure.

As a young horseman
and now a writer of poems,
until the day I am too old for words,
I will remember what I learned
from Pal and his knack for throwing me
out of his saddle at the slightest provocation:
hold on tight, prepare for the unexpected,
and enjoy the ride.


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