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Flying Over Peoria: For Louis Simpson by Henry Taylor

August 20, 1989

The man beside me nudges my arm and shrugs toward the window. "Peoria," he says. I glance across him at clouds and vague patches of earth. "Where many things won't play," I say, trying to smile.

His head sinks into the seat back. "I lived there for three years," he says, "thirty years ago." He stares ahead; I don't know what to say. It's none of my business. "Funny," he goes on, "but I've forgotten it, in a way. I mean it's hard for me to believe I lived there. I Lived in Peoria-- like a concept, you know? Oh, I remember things, little scenes, like snapshots. God, I even remember the milkman's name, and I only saw him once. I had a job there, friends, a life, and I don't remember what it was like. My work took me away."

He won't say any more. He is about to cry. Does he want to, or is he trying not to?

At this point in too many poems, I, whoever that might be, would think of embracing him, but it rarely happens. A man weeps privately, another ponders odd uses of a word like concept, and below them the featureless landscape keeps slipping farther away. From "The Southern California Anthology," Volume VII, edited by Tina Michell Datsko and Ronda Spinak (Professional Writing Program/University of Southern California: $5.95, paper; 142 pp.). Henry Taylor is the author of a number of books of poetry, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning "The Flying Change." He lives in Lincoln, Va. Henry Taylor, reprinted by permission.

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