Addicted to Journeys

by John Garmon

Georgia O’Keeffe was in her nineties
When I had the honor of meeting her
I said I liked her New Mexico clouds
She didn’t have much to say to me
This was once in my many travels
I have been one addicted to journeys
They turned me into a name dropper
The list of the famous I’ve met is long
I saw Elvis alive in 75 at the Vegas Hilton
Fat and sweating but he gave a great show
I met Howard Hughes in Vegas in the fifties
We talked about the panhandle of Texas
In Ann Arbor and met Joseph Brodsky
Nobel laureate banned from the Soviet Union
For his fine writing they said he was a parasite
We had the same birthday May 24 1940
I met Bob Dylan a few times after his shows
He also had the same birthday minus a year 1941
I knew Woody Guthrie before Dylan did
He often stopped at the Groom News
When he passed through on U S Route 66
He often visited his folks in Pampa
Where he got his first guitar and painted signs
I like to travel ribbons of highways
Back then I was a teenage Linotype operator
Taught by the famous editor Max Wade
Later in Guam an eighteen year old Marine
I was a foreign correspondent
For Max’s paper The Groom News
Only foreign correspondent that newspaper
Ever had and it was a joke Max and I loved
Bob Dylan wasn’t born in Gallup New Mexico
He was always good at making up things
Which is why his lyrics are so good
Even though his voice could use some help
I was president of a college in California
I taught at the Navajo Nation in Arizona
I taught English at the Dannemora Prison
In upstate New York near Plattsburgh
After he spoke to a roomful of teachers
Bill Gates said he was glad to meet me
At a crowded conference in Orlando
I shook hands with Harry Truman in KC
With Richard Nixon at Del Mar in California
I was in a Marine honor guard for JFK
I saluted him a year before Oswald killed him
I met the poets Robert Bly & Donald Hall
Poet William Stafford was my friend
Novelist Loula Grace Erdman was my teacher
Poet Howard Nemerov came to Ball State
When I was doing my doctorate there
I wrote of place in John Knoepfle’s poetry
Novelist Peggy Simpson Curry of Wyoming
Made a delicious chocolate pie for me
Which we ate in her home in Sheridan
After I read my poems at the college there
I know much more than what I think I know
My DNA has always had its way with me
Taking me places I never thought I’d go
I went to the very top of the Atlas Mountains
Up to the university where I was interviewed
For an academic vice presidency I didn’t get
My trip up from Casablanca took all day
I looked out over the blue Atlantic
I couldn’t believe I was actually there
Once I met John Nance Garner
The old whiskey drinking cigar smoking
Labor baiting vice president for FDR
I sat with him on his front porch
In his home town in southwest Texas
Uvalde where my son was born the same week
In the same hospital as Matthew McConaughey
The Texan who made it big in the movies
I lived in Oman on the Arabian Peninsula
Saw the world’s tallest man in the Dubai airport
He seemed lonely being ogled by so many
In China I walked along the Great Wall
I went down the stairs into the Ming Tombs
I loved the island of Hainan and bird’s nest soup
I also ate sharks fin soup but didn’t care for it
Up in Barrow Alaska I saw two polar bears
They looked like they were lost and lonely
Wandering around near that ragtag town
It was a cold day by the ominous grey sea
The Northwest Passage was opening
I met a kayaking couple from Sweden
They were setting out to row to the Atlantic
All the way across the top of Canada
I still don’t know if they made it
I was stationed in Guam back in the day
When Japanese soldiers still held out
They believed World War Two continued
At Guam as a green Marine from Texas
I stood at the dock and watched
As Jacques Piccard and Don Walsh
Went down in the Bathyscaphe Trieste
January 23 1960 down into the Challenger Deep
In the Mariana Trench deepest part of the ocean
35,797 feet 10,900 meters over seven miles down
I feared the deep pressure would crush them
I walked close to geysers at Yellowstone
Meditated in the middle of the Medicine Wheel
In the Bighorn Mountains of Wyoming
Wrote a poem about Old Trail Town in Cody
Where Buffalo Bill who killed so many bison
Is still celebrated for his Wild West Show
Where Black Elk went with him to Europe
I think of Buffalo Bill’s crimes against humanity
He rode on a locomotive and fired and fired
Afraid the barrel of his rifle would melt
Continued firing until thousands lay dead
A fatal blow to the Plains Indians
I traveled also in Mexico and Hawaii
Lived in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan
Broke bread with people of Bethel Alaska
They fed me raw seal meat which needed flavor
I saw the majestic mountains of Valdez Alaska
Visited the former red light district in Ketchikan
Drove the back road to Red Lodge Montana
Watched Ronald Reagan’s inaugural parade
When I sat across from a bored Elizabeth Taylor
She was married to a Virginia senator then
It was when she was fat and had wild hair
I didn’t think she’d survive the Republicans
But most of us seem to survive politicians
Somehow we continue meeting each other
Traveling around the world and back
Living to talk about it and write about it
I keep my passport current just in case

@2015 John Garmon

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