James Valvis- Where were you?

I Was There

I was there when poor old Santiago caught the big fish, started rowing toward shore, the sharks on his ass.

I was there when Chekov’s Ivanovich or Ryanovich or Illynovich kissed his horse in St. Petersburg.

I was there when Celine bitched.

I was there.

I was there when Plath ate men like air and it just turned out to be gas.

I was there, C. S. Lewis.

I was there when Kesey’s Indian hid in the closet, when McMurphy laid down his bets, when the Indian snuffed him out with a pillow.

I was there when Socrates drank the hemlock.

I was there when Ginsberg howled and when Bukowski scowled.

I was there, brother, sister.

I wanted to sleep with Annie Dillard and Anne Sexton and Joan Didion. I wanted to sleep with Loiuse Gluck and Joyce Carol Oates. I didn’t want to sleep with Gertrude Stein, but I was there, in Paris, like Hem was, listening to Gertrude and Alice fuck.

I was there when we beat the Martians back with bacteria.

I was there when Johnny got his gun and didn’t get his wish.

I was there when Williams ate the plums you were saving for breakfast. I was there.

I was there when Carver waited for Tess, I was there when he fished, I was there when he fell in love with the blind man.

I was there, Flannery. I was there.

I was even there when Lady Macbeth got hers, when Hamlet acted too late, when Juliet screwed up the works.

I never got to sit in a cafe in Paris and brood about my condition, but I got to Anderson’s Winesburg Ohio and met all the people there. I got to Spoon River and met the dead. I got to hang out with the Beats in Denver.

I was there when Alice met the Mad Hatter and I was there when Judas met the Jewish council.

I was there when Jack was shot and when Robert was shot and when Senator Ted went into the river. I couldn’t do a damn thing about it but I was there.

I was there Li Po. I couldn’t afford your book but I was there. I was in a book store and my friends were all tired of being there, they wanted to go get something to eat. But I was there with you, floating down the river on a raft, drinking wine, and laughing, so my friends left me, and I didn’t care.

I was there Ring Lardner. I was there Emily Dickenson. I was there, you guys. I was there Fitzgerald. I was there Edward Field. I was there William Faulkner. I was there Richard Brautigan.

I was there, James Joyce, though you made no sense.

I was there TS Eliot. I labored through with you. I didn’t like you, but I was there.

I was there every night for years, and I was there during the days too. I was there at work, staving off termination, and I was there in my time off, staving off starvation. I was there on Christmas Eve and I was there on the fifth of May. I was there when I was six and I was there last night. I was there. There was no place else for me to go, so I went there. I’m glad I did.

I’m glad.

I really am.

I’m glad I was there, that they let me go with them, that they left a seat for me.

I’m glad this is not the only life I’ve lived.

James Valvis lives in Issaquah, Washington with his wife and daughter.




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