The Bard of Belltown

Harvey Goldner passed away last week, from cancer at 65. I didn’t know him very well, but we published a poem of his last summer. The Seattle P-I has written a nice obiturary for him — he drove a taxi a few nights a week to pay for his room at a boarding house, and dedicated the rest of his life to poetry. There’s a simple beauty to that, at least in mind mind, and I hope it was as fulfilling for Harvey as it is in my imagination.

His poem from issue #25, “War and Peace,” is one that I still think of often, and so fits my definition of greatness. Perhaps like Goldner himself, it’s playful and important at the same time. He will be missed, but a body of work worth reading remains.

    Harvey Goldner

    WAR AND PEACE

    Big bombs fell out of the
    sky. Big bombs fell all over
    the countryside. Chickens died,
    some cows, a few lucky people
    from down the road. Then the war,
    the exhilaration, was over.

    A new tax collector came by–
    different uniform, same fishy
    eyes. The craters made by the
    bombs filled with rainwater.
    Kids played in the bomb ponds
    until Cousin Bob, the smart one,

    came back from the big city
    and taught us how to raise
    catfish in the bomb ponds.
    His lovely wife, Bobette,
    gave us a dynamite
    recipe for hushpuppies.

    Now, when the new tax collector
    (different uniform, same fishy
    eyes) comes by on the first of
    every month to collect, we
    have a party–all the catfish
    and hushpuppies you can eat.

    So far, he hasn’t gotten too
    greedy, not yet. But if he does,
    Aunt Mary, the ancient one,
    still has left some of the
    good poison which she
    murdered the last one
    with.

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