Life Lessons

Two Poems by Richard Beban

Photo by MI PHAM on Unsplash

Rules Learned from a Bottle of Liquid Detergent


Keep Joy out of the reach of children

If Joy gets in your eyes,

rinse thoroughly

with water.  If swallowed,

drink a glass of water to dilute.

By Frederick Weygold - Speed Art Museum, Public Domain,

Friday the Laundress Said

she would no longer wash my

favorite shirt, the  khaki cotton

with the pocket flaps, epaulets

& button tabs that

gathered the rolled-up sleeves.

“I cannot take responsibility,” 

she said, Middle European

honor at stake. Her fingers probed

the sou-sized holes at the corners

of the pockets.  She clucked at the

collar, not just frayed, but after

ten years, separated altogether.

& when she held the back in

front of her face, like Salome’s veil,

the cloth revealed Salome’s mustache

& crooked yellow teeth.

“This is cheap shirt,” she eulogized.

“you can get another.”  “The Louvre,”

I said, “Pompeii.  Michangelo’s David;

St. Peter’s Square;  Versailles buried

in autumn leaves. Four-in-the-morning

lightning across the face of a

Barcelona cathedral. A riot of pink

& purple cosmos in Monet’s garden.

A loneliness so profound on a dock

in Salerno I thought I would die.

Lunch on a sun-bright terrace

in Mediterranean Spain with two

crazy film directors & twenty-two

kinds of mussels fresh from the sea.

A week in Sylvie’s Paris bed, her yogi’s

body bent in asanas of love, my 

novice’s bones barely able to keep

up, but my flesh was sighing &

I had to follow.”

The thin khaki cotton threads

pulsed under her fingers.

A slow nod, & she threw the

shirt on the scrap table, smiling,

satisfied.  I left, to weave it

back together. 

Richard Beban, who died in 2019, has been hailed as a “nostalgic vagabond of history, literature and family.”  Carolyn Kizer said, “his poems…throb with energy and irony.”  His work has appeared  in 45 periodicals and poetry websites,  in 16 national anthologies, and he has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. He and his wife, Kaaren Kitchell, helped run one of Los Angeles’ most successful weekly reading series at Venice’s Rose Cafe. These poems are from the book, What the Heart Weighs (Red Hen Press). 

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