Broadside #23 (Summer 2011 / 11.13)

Rupert Fike

Prideful Buddhist

          – in Memoriam, J. D. Salinger

You leave college your senior year, become
a townie garbage-man in spiritual crisis,
the polite term for taking too much acid
too soon after reading Franny and Zooey
wherein Franny leaves her dreadful weekend date
to commence a new life of ceaseless prayer
right there in the restaurant bathroom –
her break the model for your break from . . . all . . . this.
Okay, you’re inarticulate, but at least
you’re not three chapters behind in everything
anymore, plus you’re making a buck-fifty
an hour hanging on a bad-mufflered truck,
hopping off while the thing’s still rolling
for the can-drag, the quick dump, the toss back
before a sharp whistle (that still needs work)
to Slim the driver, your parents in shock,
repeating, “This is just a phase, a phase . . . ”
which, of course, is their constant mumbling prayer,
their concerns so the same as Franny’s mom’s
when she put the praying girl on their East Side couch,
brought in soup and smart brothers who only
made things worse rattling on about Noble Truths,
Bodhisattvas, all no help to her or you.
But at least you’ve stopped hiding from the war
you watch the poor fight on TV each night.
You will take a physical but until then
you make cowboy coffee in the morning,
and on cold nights you buy a short bag of coal
from Preacher’s little shack by the side-tracks,
and when they switch you to Leaves and Limbs
you make a scene, a grand show of refusal
because it’s an all-white crew, the cleaner truck
ruining everything, all your selfless aspirations!
But wait, now you’ve become Franny’s bad date,
his Flaubert-paper-pride no different from yours
when any true seeker should know by now:
all trucks end up at the same dump.


Author’s commentary: The Catcher in the Rye’s moral stance was my gateway drug to Franny and Zooey, the harder stuff that, instead of more goddams and chrissakes from Holden, was the story of a college girl in deep spiritual doo-doo, her brother offering a ham-handed primer on the Buddhism/Oneness thing to try and pull her back from the abyss.

Wait, I didn’t know there was an abyss.

Had Salinger planned it this way – tossing Catcher’s smart-alecky bread crumbs as a trail leading to the Glass family’s mixed-up spirituality? I didn’t ask that question. I was too overwhelmed by the koan of ego-death, brain flypaper. And then in what Hunter Thompson might have called a “hellish convergence,” here came LSD to set the stain with an overkill of “make-it-stop” awareness, induced psychosis. Veggie-land.

I chose the 2nd person POV because it implies the imperative, a series of moral commands I had no choice but to follow insane as the commands may seem today. I’ve read this poem at colleges, and when I ask if students still have spiritual crises, the question gets sometimes a chuckle but mostly not. Nobody has time for such anymore. That wacky old Zeitgeist done shape-shifted again. But in another galaxy we truly believed we were on a path. Plus the Beatles were obviously going through the same thing. So there.

Rupert Fike, nominated for a Pushcart prize in both fiction and poetry, won the Snake Nation Review poetry competition in 2007. His work has appeared in Rosebud, The Georgetown Review, Natural Bridge, The Atlanta Review, The Cortland Review, storySouth, and others. Fike’s non-fiction work, Voices from The Farm, accounts of life on a spiritual community in the 1970s,is now available in paperback.

About bluefifthreview

Blue Fifth Review, edited by Sam Rasnake, Michelle Elvy, and Bill Yarrow, is an online journal of poetry, flash, and art.
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8 Responses to Broadside #23 (Summer 2011 / 11.13)

  1. Eliz77 says:

    How sweet to see a truth-teller getting heard! Oh yes, the bank of truth is always open, people keep forgetting to pay into their account. Bless you Rupe! You know the account is never paid in full. You keep on singing the thoughts and dancing the words. [Yeah, I know I am mixing my metaphors, but had to get out of the bank with my ee soul intact.]

  2. Marcus Speh says:

    great piece, “you watch the poor fight on TV each night” still true as it once was. when the writer takes a true look over his shoulder at the past, we’re all looking. enjoyed.

  3. My sons are having spiritual crises/revelations. They think the sixties are still alive. They’re reading Ram Das and Auldous Huxley’s Doors to Perception. I like your poem very much.

  4. Lutz says:

    wow ~ you move me! truly thank you.

  5. Saw Liz above put in her own beautiful poetry. Sweet poem Rup! I just watched Howl last night, the story of Allen Ginsberg, so am right in sync with your poem. His poetry was put to animation which was very cool!

  6. Richard Speel says:

    one man’s rubbish in another man’s…rubbish…letting go is hard sometimes…great writing as usual, Rupe!

  7. Buffalohunter Moore says:

    Refreshing to the spirit that there is a national memory still intact in the worldly sense of the acid-evolution. I remember when the Beatles…..

  8. Pingback: 2011 – All Blue Five Notebook Issues, Special Issues, Features, Quarterlies, and Broadsides | Blue Fifth Review: Blue Five Notebook Series

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