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Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Remembering Mike Tuggle

Mike Tuggle was a poet of the first caliber, and a marvelous, wonderful human being. He will be greatly missed. I had the honor of publishing Mike’s poem, “Dance of the Blind Pig” in the 2011 anthology, Continent of Light. Sadly, perhaps Mike’s poem is more relevant now than when it was written.

Dance of the Blind Pig

No thank you, Mr. Bomb,
we don’t need your help.
Our blind, headlong fecundity
has engineered it on its own—
      we’ll soon be gone.
And what of it?
Who do we think we are?
So many kinds have left
this earth before.
Who said we were entitled
to forevermore?

Ah, but we blind pigs can dance!
Ah, but we blind pigs can sing!
Ah, but we blind pigs can think!
     We blind pigs do everything!

For a little while.

If you haven’t purchased and read The Motioning In: New and Selected Poems by Mike Tuggle (Bodega, CA: Petaluma River Press, 2014), I can’t recommend it highly enough. It doesn’t get more real than this. Poems about getting old, and what you had and what you lost. Poems about getting sick, and getting better, and poems about dying. Poems about love, about dreams and memories of love. Poems about loneliness, and the occasional transcendent joys, like a child’s smile, that make life bearable, after all. True, there was nothing better than hearing Mike read his own poems, but, at the same time, there’s perhaps nothing better than being able to read them in a good book like this now that he’s gone.

One of the new and previously unpublished poems in The Motioning In is “For the Waitress Who Served Me Breakfast This Morning.” It was always a crowd favorite when Mike read it at the poetry readings where he frequently featured. It was for this reason that when I discovered that I, too, had written a poem about a waitress I thought I’d dedicate it to Mike. Sadly, Mike died before I had a chance to share it with him. To complete the circle, as it were, the restaurant in my poem went out of business and the waitress in question has long since disappeared. So all that remains of the restaurant, its static-electricity conducting waitress and the poem’s dedicatee is the poem itself. Somewhere in there, there’s a moral, I guess. Maybe it’s that we need to put together an anthology of poems to and about the waitresses of Sonoma County? Anyway, I share the poem I wrote for Mike (moreso than for the waitress) with you now:

La brisa del mar
(for Mike Tuggle)

He drove to the coast
and he walked along the beach
and among the rocks
and over the cliffs
and he looked out across the flat sea…

Later, he went to the restaurant
                down at the marina.
She was there, waited on him,
            as he wished she might.
Their conversation was limited to
his order--he communicated
            his wishes clearly and succinctly.
            Her service was brisk and efficient.
The food was good; the view of the bay exquisite.
            As she handed him the bill,
            their hands touched, and he felt the jolt.
            He tipped her the fifteen percent
(something he rarely did)
and as he drove home, night swallowed the sea.

However, my favorite tribute to Mike Tuggle, at least among those I’ve seen so far is by Mark Eckert:

The West Texan Poet Who Never Liked Rodeo
(On occasion of bronc riding in Duncan’s Mills)

The corrals have been hammered
together and bleachers erected.
The heatwave will have cool fog
in retreat, the Blue Heron’s beer
kegs big as the bulls themselves,
Duncan’s Mills is bunting draped.
Cazadero’s resident West Texan
never once a hog or goat roped,
grazing instead his adult share in
the grassy hollow of Austin Creek,
their Nubian maws, saliva drooled.
Forget the rodeo, more likely Tuggle
could be found chatting up Cape Fear
waitresses and expounding King Lear,
then trudging back up to Caz, buzzards
upbraiding him for the over-large tip left
for Heather, muse of the Tulsa aubade,
written on bacon greased table napkin,
nary a mention of any damn rodeos.

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