Saturday, October 6, 2007

Your Attic Is Ticking

This is a Brautigan-themed blog. Loosely. But it's really just stuff I like, and I really like Bill Holm's work, so you'll be seeing more of it here. At some point.

I think Mr. Brautigan would have enjoyed Bill Holm and Howard Mohr. Not just their poetry but their company, too. I was fortunate to have lunch with Howard Mohr some years ago and I once met Bill Holm very briefly at a small-press book show.

Mohr and Holm used to tour the small, isolated farming towns of Southwestern Minnesota, reading their poetry in churches and retirement homes and township halls. Here's one of Mohr's, from his collection "How to Tell a Tornado."


Coming home late one night I find him
under the kitchen sink with a flashlight
taking down the names of canned goods.
I know it's him.
He shines the light in my face.
He reads from his list:
"Artificial colors, bulging tops,
barbiturates and chemical garbage.
And this is only the beginning.
Sit down please."
I sit down, shielding my eyes,
trying to make out his face.
"Crawling between your walls
I discovered mice nesting among the wires.
The water heater has no safety valve.
Your attic is ticking."
"But..." I say.
He smiles. "The fully documented account
of the accidents you will have
is to be published in Friday's New York Times."
The chair collapses when I stand,
light bulbs pop out of their sockets,
my shoelaces burst into flames.
"Your wife is also defective," he sneers,
climbing out the window
avoiding my dangerous doors.

Mohr is known around these parts for writing "How to Talk Minnesotan," which was turned into a long-running musical comedy. Haven't heard much from him lately.


Rob Hardy said...

Ah, you've edited your post. I thought it was the wife who was defective. Not that I have any personal knowledge of Mrs. Mohr that made me think that. It had more to do with the "f" and "d" keys being next to each other.

Jim H. said...


Thanks for reading carefully.

I suffer from fat finger syndrome. And the inability to spot my own mistakes (others' I see instantly).

I like how some lines of this poem sit there, teasing the homeowner and the reader. "Your wife is defective, too." "Your attic is ticking."