BENTLEY SHLUNDER TELLS HIS STORY- In a letter to Worzel

The summer of poetic infamy, it came to be known over the years, as his legend was formed. Godfrey never set out to “Create A Nuisance”, it was the summer before I met him, he had landed in Canada after a long sea voyage, and wanted to sit in the shade and talk..so he did. Mr Bentley Shlunder surprised me with his account of the events.

We knew each other briefly, and so long ago, but I never forgot him. I will not glorify the memory, or say in some large way it changed my life, was an inspiring or profound experience. I am thankful for the wisdom though, I carried home end of that long ,hot summer to Paducah, from Godfrey I learned to see life lived from both sides of the fence.

I recall that he disliked beets, set up a table neath a tree in a park, with a sign inviting anyone to sit and talk for free. My Auntie Harriet Bridges-Shlunder was owner of the tree that so much talking took place under.

Down beyond the yard across the fence, she complained that “The poetry I hear all day is utter nonsense” They have a table in the shade, and oh the music they have made!! There’s a kettle boiling on the fire, there is laughter, there is Scrabble being played.

I was only twelve that year, to Worzel wrote Bentley the nephew, I had just discovered music and was forming my own world view. I’d be packed home to Paducah in a heartbeat if Auntie only knew, that there was poetry inside me and I disliked beets to.

It was never a large group, never rowdy or loud. All ages I recall, Aunt Harriet considered them an “Unsavory Crowd”..A grizzeled Wino sat beneath the tree, and a girl not much older than me sprawled on the grass creating art. A hippie couple dispensed free hugs, a public display of affection muttered Auntie, there was a shabby old woman, her belongings in a cart..there was the odd young man, Godfrey.

He sat playing Scrabble, chin in hand, sun bleached hair long, tied back with a plaid band. He plays intently with “The Free Advice Wino”, Larry, focused on the word he has just spelled- BEEFLY- “use it in a sentence I hear Larry laugh. “Beefly, the cow paused in thought on the zig of her cow path”. Proudly read Godfrey.

Nobody missed me when I climbed over the fence, and crossed the cool, wet grass on bare feet to talk with the vagabond Godfrey…Aunt Harriet left a strip of pure white down one side of her acutely dyed red hair, she could, if she wished to, appear quite tall, not truly mean, she did have a pinched tight, when annoyed, Persian Cat glare.

Godfrey called over the fence to her, the tree is rooted your side of a fence, but on the shady side we have music and dance. “Will you join us for talk and tea? I am cooking Haggis tonight, my old Ma”s recipe. I stayed late at the table, they shared dinner with me, was at dawn the cops came, they took Godfrey away, ending the summer of poetry and song.

Beyond the smoke that rose and swirled, the last song that I heard was one of hope and courage for a tattered world. Yes I was very young, and was packed home to Paducah, I remember the big old house though, two blocks from the sea, recall the sweetness of the homemade popcicles Aunty made for me. And I remember to an odd young man, he disliked beets, sitting at his table neath the shade tree.