Spring 2020, Volume 28

Poetry by Christopher Buckley

Philosophers Needed?

                                          Gary DeVito 1947-2007

How many times did I want to grab
Neitzche by the collars of his coat and say
“OK wise guy, where do all the big ideas get us?”
still seeing poor DeVito’s face, the chiseled jaw,
the spitting image of Hollywood star Gilbert Roland,
that face that got him out of a hundred jams
in school, that let him think he could get away
with anything until the draft notice came. 

I was struggling in philosophy class
while Gary’s brain was happily running loose
as rain water in the highlands of Pleiku—
living in a loin cloth with the Montagnards,
smoking that resin-soaked weed, miles beyond
good and evil, believing most everything
Nietzsche wrote, having never read a word.
Gary who was existential without speaking
one sentence in French, who never fell in line
with middle class materialism, who was taken
back at gun point by force-recon guys who,
dark as ghosts, humped it umpteen klicks
up river to haul him out without his pipe
and the Chief’s daughter whom he’d married
with no second thoughts.
                                 Gary heard the music
of Nietzsche’s friend, Wagner, one time only,
in Coppola’s film blasting from the helicopters
that swooped down like Valkyries on the VC,
the way it never happened. He wasn’t coming
back to the world by a long shot, not after 30 years
in the Post Office and 5 DUIs. 
was right about the eternal torment of desire,
and he didn’t surf . . . tug on Spinoza’s sleeve
and he’d never come up with anything
in Jesus’ name to save Gary from his last trouble,
forgetting he was 60 and chasing skirt
into the Motel 6—a little chemical boost
for the blood despite all the tipsy electricity
of the heart ready to short out—zap, muy pronto
bad luck, free radicals, karma, or recessive genes . . .
pick one.
           Ralph Waldo Emerson would have
advised Gary to stay put in the jungle as long 
as someone was bringing in the lunch and
                       And Gary never realized
he was no superman, that his faculties could
collapse alongside the freeway in Carpinteria
as easily as in Turin, in the Piazza Carlo Alberto,
the way Nietzsche’s grip on the nature of being
slipped away one afternoon as he threw
his arms around the neck of a horse being whipped,
looked into its eyes, and asked, My God,
why are we so unhappy?




BIO: Christopher Buckley's past publications have won numerous awards, and his poems have been included in many anthologies and journals. His book The Far Republics won the 2017 Vern Rutsala Book Prize. Cloud Memoir: Selected Longer Poems 1987-2017 was published in 2019.