I feel like my actual analysis of poems has slipped a little bit
recently, and I cannot remedy that situation now. What I can do is
print this piece that was sent to me by intrepid reader Rachel Jarosik
of Arlington Heights, IL. This “poem” is spoken over a rhythmic,
driving riff on the Velvet Underground‘s 1968 “White Light/White Heat”
album. And though Dylan is always called the rock and roll poet, I
think there’s an argument that Lou Reed is more of his time (Dylan
belonging to more of a troubador aesthetic; Lou Reed the inheritor of
Delmore Schwartz and the American Modernists–I know, both writers are
multifarious, so that argument only goes so far).
Anyway this story is worth a read for humor, but also because like a
lot of poems it illuminates the intersection of everyday life and
Waldo Jeffers had reached his limit.
It was now mid-August which meant that he had been separated from
Marsha for more than two months.
Two months, and all he had to show were three dog-eared letters and
two very expensive long-distance phone calls.
True, when school had ended and she’d returned to Wisconsin and he to
Locust, Pennsylvania she had sworn to maintain a certain fidelity.
She would date occasionally, but merely as amusement.
She would remain faithful. But lately Waldo had begun to worry.
He had trouble sleeping at night and when he did, he had horrible dreams.
He lay awake at night, tossing and turning underneath his printed
quilt protector, tears welling in his eyes,
As he pictured Marsha, her sworn vows overcome by liquor and the
smooth soothings of some Neanderthal,
Finally submitting to the final caresses of sexual oblivion. It was
more than the human mind could bear.
Visions of Marsha’s faithlessness haunted him.
Daytime fantasies of sexual abandon permeated his thoughts.
And the thing was, they wouldn’t understand who she really was.
He, Waldo, alone, understood this.
He had intuitively grasped every nook and cranny of her psyche.
He had made her smile, and she needed him, and he wasn’t there. (Awww.)
The idea came to him on the Thursday before the Mummers Parade was
scheduled to appear.
He had just finished mowing and edging the Edelsons lawn for a dollar-fifty
And had checked the mailbox to see if there was at least a word from Marsha.
There was nothing more than a circular form the Amalgamated Aluminum
Company of America inquiring into his awning needs.
At least they cared enough to write.
It was a New York company. You could go anywhere in
the mails. Then it struck him: he didn’t have enough
money to go to Wisconsin in the accepted fashion,
true, but why not mail himself? It was absurdly
simple. He would ship himself parcel post special
delivery. The next day Waldo went to the supermarket
to purchase the necessary equipment. He bought
masking tape, a staple gun and a medium sized
cardboard box, just right for a person of his build.
He judged that with a minimum of jostling he could
ride quite comfortably. A few airholes, some water, a
selection of midnight snacks, and it would probably be
as good as going tourist.
By Friday afternoon, Waldo was set. He was thoroughly
packed and the post office had agreed to pick him up
at three o’clock. He’d marked the package “FRAGILE”
and as he sat curled up inside, resting in the foam
rubber cushioning he’d thoughtfully included, he tried
to picture the look of awe and happiness on Marsha’s
face as she opened the door, saw the package, tipped
the deliverer, and then opened it to see her Waldo
finally there in person. She would kiss him, and then
maybe they could see a movie. If he’d only thought of
this before. Suddenly rough hands gripped his package
and he felt himself borne up. He landed with a thud
in a truck and then he was off.
Marsha Bronson had just finished setting her hair. It
had been a very rough weekend. She had to remember
not to drink like that. Bill had been nice about it
though. After it was over he’d said that he still
respected her and, after all, it was certainly the way
of nature and even though no, he didn’t love her, he
did feel an affection for her. And after all, they
were grown adults. Oh, what Bill could teach Waldo —
but that seemed many years ago. Sheila Klein, her
very, very best friend walked in through the porch
screen door into the kitchen. “Oh God, it’s
absolutely maudlin outside.”
“Ugh, I know what you mean, I feel all icky.” Marsha
tightened the belt on her cotton robe with the silk
outer edge. Sheila ran her finger over some salt
grains on the kitchen table, licked her finger and
made a face.
“I’m supposed to be taking these salt pills, but,” she
wrinkled her nose, “they make me feel like throwing
Marsha started to pat herself under the chin, an
exercise she’d seen on television. “God, don’t even
talk about that.” She got up from the table and went
to the sink where she picked up a bottle of pink and
blue vitamins. “Want one? Supposed to be better than
steak.” And attempted to touch her knees. “I don’t
think I’ll ever touch a daiquiri again.” She gave up
and sat down, this time nearer the small table that
supported the telephone. “Maybe Bill’ll call,” she
said to Sheila’s glance.
Sheila nibbled on a cuticle. “After last night, I
thought maybe you’d be through with him.”
“I know what you mean. My God, he was like an
octopus. Hands all over the place.” She gestured,
raising her arms upward in defense. “The thing is
after a while, you get tired of fighting with him, you
know, and after all he didn’t really do anything
Friday and Saturday so I kind of owed it to him, you
know what I mean.” She started to scratch. Sheila
was giggling with her hand over her mouth. “I’ll tell
you, I felt the same way, and even after a while,” she
bent forward in a whisper, “I wanted to,” and now she
was laughing very loudly.
It was at this point that Mr. Jameson of the Clarence
Darrow Post Office rang the door bell of the large
stucco colored frame house. When Marsha Bronson
opened the door, he helped her carry the package in.
He had his yellow and his green slips of paper signed
and left with a fifteen-cent tip that Marsha had
gotten out of her mothers small beige pocket book in
the den. “What do you think it is?” Sheila asked.
Marsha stood with her arms folded behind her back.
She stared at the brown cardboard carton that sat in
the middle of the living room. “I don’t know.”
Inside the package Waldo quivered with excitement as
he listened to the muffled voices. Sheila ran her
fingernail over the masking tape that ran down the
center of the carton. “Why don’t you look at the
return address and see who it is from?” Waldo felt
his heart beating. He could feel the vibrating
footsteps. It would be soon.
Marsha walked around the carton and read the
ink-scratched label. “Ugh, God, it’s from Waldo!”
“That schmuck,” said Sheila. Waldo trembled with
expectation. “Well, you might as well open it,” said
Sheila. Both of them tried to lift the stapled flap.
“Ahh, shit,” said Marsha groaning. “He must have
nailed it shut.” They tugged at the flap again. “My
God, you need a power drill to get this thing opened.”
They pulled again. “You can’t get a grip!” They
both stood still, breathing heavily.
“Why don’t you get the scissors,” said Sheila. Marsha
ran into the kitchen, but all she could find was a
little sewing scissor. Then she remembered that her
father kept a collection of tools in the basement.
She ran downstairs and when she came back, she had a
large sheet-metal cutter in her hand.
“This is the best I could find.” She was very out of
breath.. “Here, you do it. I’m gonna die.” She sank
into a large fluffy couch and exhaled noisily.
Sheila tried to make a slit between the masking tape
and the end of the cardboard, but the blade was too
big and there wasn’t enough room. “Godamn this
thing!” she said feeling very exasperated. Then,
smiling, “I got an idea.”
“What?” said Marsha.
“Just watch,” said Sheila touching her finger to her
Inside the package, Waldo was so transfixed with
excitement that he could barely breathe. His skin
felt prickly from the heat and he could feel his heart
beating in his throat. It would be soon. Sheila
stood quite upright and walked around to the other
side of the package. Then she sank down to her knees,
grasped the cutter by both handles, took a deep breath
and plunged the long blade through the middle of the
package, through the middle of the masking tape,
through the cardboard, through the cushioning and
(thud) right through the center of Waldo Jeffers’ head,
which split slightly and caused little rhythmic arcs
of red to pulsate gently in the morning sun.