Blood Pages George Bilgere

3 posts

Quiet Poems. Desperate Poems.


“The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” Thoreau. And the epigraph to my first book of poetry.

I will forever associate Thoreau’s quote with Sherwood Anderson’s collection of short stories, Winesburg, Ohio. Anderson called his characters “grotesques,” but I thought that a little strong. To me they were just “people,” because, frankly, by Anderson’s ledger, we’d all be grotesques.

Quiet desperation is what pushes me to write, to make sense of things, and I love best poems that speak to Thoreau’s great truth. In George Bilgere’s book, Blood Pages, I came across one:


by George Bilgere

One day my mother astonished me
by getting astride my bike,
the heavy old balloon-tired Schwinn
I used for my afternoon paper route,
and pedaling away down the street,

skirt flying, hair blown back,
a girl again in the wind and speed
that had nothing to do
with pulling double shifts at the hospital,
or cooking meatloaf, or sewing up my jeans,

the old bike carrying her away
from my father dead of booze,
and her own nightly bottle
of red wine in front of the news.

She flew down the road so far
I could barely see her,
then slowly pedaled back to me,
and stepped off the bike, my mom again.


It’s the perfect quiet desperation poem, the kind I like to write myself. For one brief, shining moment, the narrator’s mother, infinitely sad and trapped by life’s circumstances as so many adults are, is a little girl again, hair blowing and skirt flying in the wind, hopes and dreams still ahead of her.

Briefly, the boy loses sight of his mother, as if she has escaped maybe, as if her pursuit of happiness has ended with an actual capture.

But that is the stuff of Hollywood and fairy tales. In life? People pedal back slowly. They step off their what-was-I-thinking bikes. They are moms and dads again. Quietly. Desperately.



Less Said Is Best Said


One of the jobs of poetry is understatement. Hemingway, over in his fiction writings, would call it the “iceberg theory.” You see 10% of the ice, and infer 90% of the Titanic. End of story (and, it so happens, ship).

One good example of this is a poem from George Bilgere’s latest book, Blood Pages, almost but not quite dedicated to me. “The Nod” is a mere 11 lines of simple complication. Bilgere doesn’t give it to you, but you get it. Here’s a look-see at the poem:


The Nod
by George Bilgere

So Gerald, the mailman, comes up the sidewalk
and gives me this little nod, not unfriendly,
but not exactly friendly, and I of course
am aware that the slaves were sold like cattle
in the public square, and I nod back.

It’s a complicated thing, this nod.
The world’s foremost experts
grow tongue-tied trying to explain,
so I’m not even going to try.

I’m just saying we nodded at each other
and Gerald handed me my mail.


As Naomi once said to “Roger That!”: This ain’t a poem about the mail. But how do you write about race? For people like Kevin Young and Tracy K. Smith, no problem. But from the white perspective, it’s a trickier line to walk. Little things loom large. The lateness of the historic day throws longer shadows. A nod, then, can speak to greater divides.

I would try to explain it, but I’d grow tongue-tied, and as any reader of this blog can tell you, that’s not my natural state. Massachusetts is.

So I leave it with you, and bid you good day. With a nod….

The Beauty of Holding a New Book in Your Hands


Can you beat the feeling of buying a new book you’re looking forward to reading? I don’t care what the date is, it’s like Christmas morning.

Better than Christmas morning, even, because you don’t have to put up with all the people and the noise and the obligations (and can you think of three more lethal things for reading?).

And not only is the new book good for you, it’s good for the author, who—unless he’s Dan Brown—is not making much on this writing and appreciates every little royalty he can get. (On this count, I speak from first-hand knowledge.)

Me, I like to look the new book over, feel it front and back, sniff a riff of pages. Oh, yeah. Only then do I turn into it slowly, looking at the colophon, dedication page, epigraph, acknowledgments, table of contents, etc.

And when it comes to a new book of poetry, when I’m done teasing myself with a little anticipation, I read the first poem—the warm-up, the promise of things to come–slowly. Then again. And then, because it’s a magical number, a third time.

You knew where I was going with this, I’m sure. This was me, yesterday, with George Bilgere’s new book of poems, Blood Pages, which can be had on sale if you scroll down here.

Anyway, the first poem. Take a look:


’56 Corvette
by George Bilgere

I’m grateful to the camera for reaching out
sixty years ago and putting a stop
to time, if only for the 1/125th of a second,
so that my father and I can sit a little longer
in the nifty white convertible he’s just bought
and driven home to take me for a spin.

I’m five years old, and taking in
what the camera can’t: perfume of seat leather,
my dad’s Chesterfield, and the lilt
of Vitalis in the air as he slips
the little beauty into first, eases out
the clutch, and heads off to be dead
by the end of the year, his liver
finally throwing in the towel.

We smiled as the shutter clicked,
giving the film its sweet slice of light,
and my mother waved and went back into the dark
part of life that doesn’t get its picture taken.


There. See what I mean? New book. Smooth page. Sweet poem with more to follow. All you need do is find your favorite place to read. You know. Away from people, noise, and Christmas morning.