My name is Stephen Maurer. Below are four of my poems, my bio and my “Curriculum Vitae” (don’t worry, it’s a poem too).
I often think about what grandparenthood means and how it shifts from child to child (I have several). What do daughters and sons want from their children’s grandparents? This poem is based on an experience that led me to imagine one meaning grandparenting has for me, namely. . .
I’m hunched over my grandson
as he huddles against me on the couch,
reading aloud, slow and halting
from a picture book. It’s almost new,
my gift for his father decades ago,
its words big enough for both of us.
We hoot at the fantasy figures,
fighting or fleeing ghosts and villans,
both of us the hero.
My son kneels to steady a camera
to make the moment special.
Soon the boy is napping.
As a child my son didn’t often sit
to read with me, or I with him.
Now, free inside the approaching
limit of my aging life, I can,
but an old concern pushes again
and I ask, awkwardly,
“Do you think I was a good father?”
I see him struggle
with my vulnerable question.
“Yes, at times,” he manages.
Memories return of my many absences;
days and evenings with friends, colleagues,
a profession that captured my lucrative interest.
In the pale light of my window, stained,
clouded after decades of transparency,
we sit looking at each other,
tears form and water his eyes.
“Sometimes I wanted more interest,
less disappointment when I failed,” he said evenly.
The wall clock ticks the present
into the past; the kitchen faucet drips,
rippling the surface of a sink
full of unwashed dishes.
My son stands, walks over and sits,
his son between us,
and the boy’s eyes flutter open.
My son reopens the book.
I knew then there was still time
and room enough.
One of my favorite poems is Robert Frost’s “Mending Wall”.
Awhile ago I began wondering what Frost’s ‘neighbor’, had he read it, might have said. I asked Elizabeth to help me give him a voice and the following ‘persona’ poem came from our back-and-forth.
“He will not go behind his father’s saying,
And he likes having thought of it so well
He says again, ‘good fences make good neighbors.’”
–Robert Frost, Mending Wall
“Some time ago, m’neighbor, Frost,
he stonewalled me,
put light square on my father’s saying,
questioned his good authority and misquoted me,
“good fences make good neighbors.”
Old Frost thought he’d caught me,
started preaching ’bout
someone not liking fences.
Anybody knows a fence
don’t make nobody good or bad.
But he wrote it up, sold the gaping story.
The gents, they all loved it,
parting with a pretty penny.
I ain’t had a decent sleep since
I read it and silence is a lame defense,
especially when the wife, she even noticed.
So I’m restless with this undone business.
Besides, I don’t like them misquotes,
so I’ll bear the mending burden
since I’m in a neighboring mood.
I’ll tend his gap.
What I plainly said m’father said is,
“good neighbors make good fences.”
When Spring is in her unseen airs,
our wall’s unsettled by her elfish appetite,
all in its mischief, putting lilies in the borders,
pushing the grass outa’ focus,
changing what is to what might’a been.
Frost’s apple trees and my pine cones
won’t breed in some gap to make pineapples.
But a solid wall made by two
gives a person choice.
Orchard or pasture, it don’t matter.
I do what I want with what’s mine.
Until then, ain’t nobody knows
what’s walled in or out.
I’m saying no more ’bout this
but rest easier now I had my say
and that gap he made by hisself is mended,
now we both had our say.
Reading the story of how the ‘Big Bang’ theory originated, I came across this humorous incident. Scientific procedures and findings are open to interpretation, especially when they have a personal impact.
Tuned to the cosmos, Penzias and Wilson
heard heretofore unheard isotropic radio noise,
but suspected their receiver myopic,
the noise from big city frizzle
tickling the microwave ears.
Their hypothesis refuted,
scientific method demanded an inspection
of their horn-shaped antennae.
In its throat, a “white dielectric material”,
analyzed as feces, provoked one of them
to order the shitting pigeons shot.
Isotropic noise remained, to be finally
explained as cosmic residue of the Big Bang,
a new theory of cosmic origins.
To others, it was the echo
of the Word of God, creator of heavens.
For the remaining pigeons, the residue
of the Big Bang was a frightening knowledge
of the defecational algorithm
belonging to certain horn-shaped surfaces.
This next poem is loaded with psychoanalytic theoreticians who have different ways of conceiving psychanalysis and doing it. A Google Search may help those who are unfamiliar with these folks and thus help understand the poem (or you can post me your questions)!
Dim yellow light isolates the windows
of the big house on Main Street.
In autumn dusk pumpkins stare
at bare branches splitting backlit clouds.
Little ghouls peer into the doorway
and plead, “just candy, no trick”,
then retreat home, quick.
The Experts arrive.
Jungian masks, over crudités,
discuss pagan gods,
analyzing this archetypal holiday.
Kleinian breast-children costumes waltz,
humming well-known identifications projected,
worried over inadvertent introjections.
A Mr. Bion arrives with seven-linked-
servants to occupy an independent-room,
who stand reluctant to dance
until alpha-linkages are secure.
Skinnerians prance to a reinforcing beat
mouthing lyrics impugning Freud’s fiction.
Dancing together, Kohutian ladies
admire Rollo May’s existential drift,
their steps critiqued in post-modernese
by Popper philosophers,
their drinks sloshing at the brink.
A Mr. Schore and Mary, closely attached,
fox-trot in precise empirical step,
variations repeated in metered mentation,
while a Murray Bowens tuxedo,
tailored in a family-systems cut,
stands alone, wary of overheated dyads.
Too shrewd for common thought,
Lacan stands at the door informing
Freud about linguistic registers,
re-interpreting Oedipus with special words.
The groups mix, grog disappears,
conflict builds, light ebbs, certainties solidify.
Sensing anxiety everywhere, the drugdoc is
desperate for benzo samples to spike the punch.
A shot thunders, someone faints,
masks swivel, searching for a gun.
The Mask of Death presents!
But the host, in Erasmus’ mask, reassures,
pointing to the bangs as interventions
from the fire’s fragmenting coals.
Laughter trembles, catching
hues of fellow-feeling in unmasked faces
who wonder how
Halloween became so real.
I believe when we write poetry, we write about ourselves, especially the important relationships that shape our lives. Many of my childhood experiences are poignantly recalled in poems read first to me at an early age by my mother. My first serious poetry mentor was Joseph Powell. During my hours with him it became clear that some poetry can evoke unconscious depths that approach the ineffable.
I am certified in psychoanalysis by the American Psychoanalytic Association, have practiced and written about psychoanalysis for over 20 years, most recently from a Lacanian perspective. I have served in various positions on the faculties of three Seattle psychoanalytic institutes and on the clinical medical faculty of the University of Washington. I play classical clarinet, love to travel in wilderness. I am a father and grandfather and live with my wife, Elizabeth and our dog, Max. My poems have appeared in Boston Literary Magazine, Yale Journal of Humanities in Medicine, Tiger’s Eye, Darkling, Blueprint Review, Desert Voices, Switchback, Deronda Review, and Touch: The Journal of Healing. I have published two chapbooks, Side Effects: Poems of Remedy and Doubt from the Life of a Psychoanalyst and Steaming Red Tea, and Other Poems About Parenthood, Psychoanalysis and Love.
To read excerpts from either book, go to bigtablepublishing.com and look for chapbooks
To purchase Steaming Red Tea, click here
To purchase Side Effects, click here
Lastly, here’s a poem related to my bio, entitled,
I’m born in LA, Dec. ’41 with
air-raid sirens screaming anger.
Mother’s next pregnancy exiles me
a thousand miles away for a month
with a strange, old witch.
I’m brought come home to a stillborn
sister and an upstaging twin brother.
Mother sees her deceased mother-in-law
hovering over my crib, and each night
reads the same poem:
“When the little boy ran away . . .”
My father’s books are stacked up
from heaven down to hell.
He builds P-38 fighters to kill
the creeping evil killing good people.
On Sundays, we excuse ourselves
into Christ’s True Church.
I’m a good boy in school and church
until Freud and Wm. James
quarrel with Joseph Smith and God
for my allegiance.
J. Smith wins the first round,
my father as referee in his pocket.
But Frankenstein stalks my doubts
nightly in my unfinished bedroom.
On probation, I leave home
as a missionary to London,
still imprisoned by the Stockholm Syndrome.
But Shakespeare is there, waiting.
I return home, marry, enter medical school
and exit the church.
On his way to church, an old mormon
cadillac runs a red light, punishing me
and birthing my first child.
Foolishly I promise God I’ll have faith
if he saves my wife and baby girl.
He does but I don’t.
Swayed by B.Dylan and L.Cohen
I marry a Psychologist and live in a commune.
My father proclaims Hell as my destination.
I’m grafted onto the military and sent to Alaska .
I practice psychoanalysis for 25 years,
hoping to help someone besides myself.
I father more children, overwhelming myself.
The children grow and leave home.
I follow, freeing my second wife to blossom again.
My father ascends to heaven,
still loving me in spite of himself.
I discover a kindred soul, a fellow troublemaker,
a poetess who sings improvisational jazz.
I marry her, feeling love
the way I did before my 2yo exile,
We put mother in a nursing home.
I start to write poetry,
my adventures now contained by words.
I find peace at home as the country
continues its endless wars.