Poetry by Joe LaBine
Ph Conclusions 1
Phil, I hope you appreciate my clean car. I’ve been asked to pick you up at the Walkerville train station at 4pm because you’re the new writer in residence. Woopity doo!
I nearly got into an accident because of you. Still, you might appreciate the three steps to cleaning my Cavalier:
Step 1 has me bagging all the garbage on the floor of the back seat, sheets of paper, dirty cups; sweeping out the crumbs and grit in the grooves of the front passenger seat, wrappers in the cup holders, and throwing it all in the Canterbury dumpster fifteen minutes before I have to come get you.
Step 2 involves bagging all the remaining ‘stuff’ (A Guide to Composition Pedagogy, Townes Van Zandt, to-go cups, an umbrella, three Asics running shoes, Hudson Bay blankets, Stef’s chapstick) & placing these in the trunk. Twelve minutes—doubtless, you’ve already arrived.
Step 3, and I’m breezing down Riverside. I come this close to careening my car into a maroon 4-door because I was wiping dust off of the dash with the sleeve of my shirt while I drove.
At the station, you’ve emailed me but I failed to give you a phone number. I recognize you, but you don’t know what I look like. You don’t know that you could have been stranded here for hours—waiting. Your bags feel heavy with books.
Ph Conclusions 2
Phil, your face is everywhere. It stares back at me when I sit at my desk; it watches my back as I walk through the hall.
When I enter my cubicle, black-and-white-newsprint-you (32 X 11) greets me every morning now.
It’s the second coming, the triumphant poetic return of poster-you, Windsor’s Sphinx.
I got asked to interview you by the Department Head.
I order a double shot espresso and you order a large black coffee. I order a pumpkin cranberry muffin after I see you order a pumpkin cranberry muffin—I pay.
Back at the table we eat with our hands which is no civilized way to start an interview, but-
You’re going to sit there while I lay out the six books you deny writing in “Becoming a Poet,” You said you wouldn’t write another book for 10 years. Lyre.
I also have the four issues of the Windsor Review; your published poems in them. And I also know that Wayman was Windsor writer in residence while you were an undergrad.
What do you say to that? Conundrum. Tongue Twister.
What I don’t expect you to say is that A Writer’s Guide to Restaurants is basically a chapbook.
Or that the cover of Homes, your Black Moss Press book, has a “sucky little picture” of you on its cover.
Then I produce a photocopy of “Indians” by you sometime in 1973, or 1974. I place it on the stack of books sitting on our table.
I believe it is the only short story you ever published. I have Xeroxed it from an old copy of Generation Magazine. I hand it over.
“Indians” is a wimpy two page story. I can see now that you don’t appreciate me dredging up all your early work, and that it’s “better left forgotten.” My girlfriend does not condone my idolatry of your poetry, and wants you to write more stories.
But the early work reaches me because I am a crappy poet.
You tell me that while you were an undergrad you won an Essex County Short Story Contest. Alistair MacLeod was the judge. You thought your story wasn’t very good. It earned cash, but was “never published.”
Phil, my embarrassment hardly seems worth my awful cranberry muffin.
But then you say the most profound thing you’re ever going to say to me.
In Killdeer, in trying to subvert legend & avoid self-canonization, by maintaining and growing your own humility, harvesting beautiful sequences, and by shucking the bardic self-aggrandizing habits—all the stupid things poets do—you create legend.
 I actually put the chapstick & the pens from my door into the to-go cup.
1a Phil says, “Never put Townes Van Zandt in the trunk!”
 I found the Armor All wipes I’d been looking for under my seat about three days later.
 C**** asked me in part because I am obsessed with you and in part because I know more about you than anyone in the Department (especially her)—I know Tom Wayman you, the Bronwen Wallace years, Flat Singles Press, Eighteen Poems, work poems, all the lies you tell in Killdeer, Bobcaygeon Please, I could go on…
4a Phil says, “Oh just use her actual name. Lovely woman.”
 I paid $25 for my copy from one of the dealers Juniper books uses online.
5a Phil says, “You got ripped off!”
 I disagree with you. I think your short story writing from the mid-70s is terse, poignant, & under-rated.
6a Phil says, “Quit sucking up!”
 I tell her all your poems are stories. But she just doesn’t…capitulate.
7a Phil says, “Not going to happen, Stef. The intention is never prose.”
 For now, maybe.
8a Phil says, “Join the club, Bub! The long, slow club…”
 Interviewing a poet, going home, and writing a poem about it.
9a Phil says, “Let’s see the poem. Is this it?”