I like a good story-poem, always have. “The Ballad of William Sycamore” by Stephen Vincent Benet is an old favorite. So is “Gus the Theatre Cat” from T.S. Eliot’s ‘Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats’. Confessional poetry can be tricky. There’s always a chance the poet is going to tell us a little too much. Confessional poetry especially needs an editor. But who wants to edit someone else’s confessions? I like a poem that’s comfortable. I also like poems that make me uncomfortable. Agita makes the world go round. But it’s nice to find some comfort once in awhile on this ‘mad, spinning globe’. The Buffster’s got ‘em both in “Third Cousins”, comfort and not. Got home, but also got home invasion. And a surprise ending. A reward for getting through the story? No, the reward is the story. Give a look.
-Foreword by Matthew Tannenbaum
Listen to Matt read “Third Cousins” here:
During my cancer year
Thoughts of death kept showing up
Like busloads of lugubrious third-cousins
Barging into the house uninvited
And making themselves at home.
They acted like they owned the place
Sitting down with us at meals
Interrupting our most intimate conversations
Tagging along on our evening walks
Even crowding into our bed with us
Keeping us awake half the night
With their morose mutterings.
It was difficult enough to be dealing
With the after-effects of surgery
And the implacable walloping of radiation treatment
Without having to cope
With those morbid reminders
Of my possibly imminent demise.
When I tried to ignore them
They’d sneak up behind me
And shout Boo! in my ear.
When I tried meditation to transcend them
They folded their legs
And transcended right along with me.
It wasn’t until the treatments were complete
And I learned that I was cancer-free
That the cousins decided
To get back on the bus and head out of town.
And although one of them still drops by
From time to time
Mostly I am rid of those funereal relations
And once more happily pretending
That I am never going to die.
“Third Cousins” by Buff Whitman Bradley