The Next Page / 'Me First,' a new book of poetry by Ann Curran
In a new book of poetry, Mount Washington resident Ann Curran dishes on people who have touched her world. Here are some excerpts:
August 25, 2013 8:00 AM
Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press
Jack Mitchell/Associated Press
Paul Schutzer/Associated Press
John Fitzgerald Kennedy
By Ann Curran
Me and JFK
For Gov. David L. Lawrence
So young, so handsome, so articulate. so Irish, so Catholic, so humorous. Somehow we had all reached the top with him. My first president. I went door-to-door for him, reported to a consulate around the corner, adored Camelot. When I berated David L. Lawrence for not supporting Kennedy, he said he knew what being Catholic had cost him when he ran for governor of our state. I never in my heart lost faith in him even when Camelot grew uglier than the original. I stood sobbing in my living room as his caisson rolled by. His widow veiled in black, his two babies, his brothers stricken in their morning suits, de Gaulle and other greats moving on foot down Pennsylvania Avenue. Crowds hushed, still wounded by those bullets in Texas.
Me and My First Bishop
The bishop checked my report card for the American Legion which gave me a college scholarship because my Daddy had ruined his life fighting in World War I. Now we know: no one gets over that. The bishop said, "You got an 'A' in logic and you're a woman." He thought that was rather funny. I didn't get the joke at all. He didn't review my grades again. The Dean of Women handled that.
Me and Franco Harris and Lynn Swann
play tennis at the same club. Me, a B-minus player. They, sterling Pittsburgh Steelers. One day those Pro Football Hall of Famers helped me win a key match simply by being there, right on the next court in all their good-looking glory totally distracting my opponent. All I noticed was two hard hitters, but she couldn't keep her eyes on the ball, missing my wimpiest shots. Me and those guys with eight Super Bowl rings beat the crap out of that ditzy dame, and I became the Round Robin Runner Up.
Me and the Ax-Killer
agree to meet at the prison. There is really no other option. Me, a university magazine editor. He, not a distinguished alum. But in prison he blossomed, became more than a bright mechanical engineer. Wrote three books of poetry, seduced a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts, founded the Academy of Prison Arts, even got married. Not enough? Earned an English/psych degree magna cum laude. My favorite: he engineered a new door for the prison and didn't use it as an exit.
The guards set me up in a huge yellow room. I plug in the tape recorder. Then alarmed, see the wire as a weapon. Never trusted batteries. Take a chance. He comes in quietly--a blond guy with glasses. Quite slight. Would have had to use his brains to survive inside. I would guess he seldom smiles. He certainly doesn't this day. He probably never laughs. Strung tight enough to break in two.
We don't get specific on the murder. How he climbed a trellis to his former fiancée's bedroom. Found her sleeping, took an ax to her. Her mother rushed in, saw the worst. Then he begins to destroy her again chopping with words, justifying the murder, explaining his anger with a reason. I'll give it--and his name--no space. We correspond for a time. I start to worry about his release. Most murderers kill once, a terrible volcanic burst of fiery feeling. But this guy is so cool, like a giant icicle doomed to fall and cut through flesh.
Me and Andy Warhol
I didn't want to interview him. A creepy old guy, hanging with weirdos. The twisted photographer insisted. Off we went with some purist art pupils to The Factory and this blushing success. We check out his workout spot with girly weights, watch him react to the scorn of students, conduct a brief interview on the way out the door as he constructs a wall with monosyllabic yeses and noes to hide the person he is, was, will be: an enigma all the way to the grave on a cold Castle Shannon hillside littered with soup cans and Brillo boxes.
Me and Barack Obama
shake hands in a YMCA elevator. Me, a mild-mannered rabble-rouser with a suspicious black bag. He, a candidate for president. We exchange pleasantries. "I'm still debating: Hillary or you." He opts for indirection. "I always play basketball on primary day." I say, "Better than bowling," inserting my tennis shoe firmly in mouth. He'd just lost the bowlers' vote disgracing himself at an Altoona alley. A silence fills the descending elevator full of ball players and would-be protectors. The silence breaks: "That's a low blow."
They took a chance on me that day when the elevator opened revealing a probably harmless gray-haired fan with somewhat alarming luggage. A few still stood sideways watching me. That was yesterday. Today, I'd ask more of them: Protect him from the hatred that rides high in the land of the free, home of some coward who would kill this man to intrude himself in history.