Benjamin Carl Cary

We can still sit at Carl’s table,
that table with great stout legs
beautifully turned meeting
heavy planking—
floorboards from a cannery
in Craig, Alaska.
Michael Strong built the table
33″ x 73″
with gentle curves gracing the ends.
You could dance upon this table
a cancan or a Tango.
Smooth to touch, the honeyed wood
draws you to it.

We can still sit at Carl’s table,
this is where
he wrote: poetry
letters to friends
worked crossword puzzles
paid his bills
mesmerized guests as he would
stride about in heavy boots
a drink cupped in his hand
curled in close to his chest.
He might sing an aria
recite lines of poetry
or plays he performed in,
animated, telling stories
the timbre of his voice
like him.

The table always had a vase
of fresh cut flowers, candles too,
books and papers in drifts.
I remember small black and white
photographs spread out there one day,
images of his youth,
those early years on San Juan Island.
The table supported all that and more:
his hand slapping down on it
punctuating his raucous laugh.

Seated there he ordered the seeds
and bulbs and shrubs for his gardens:
the tulips, gladiolus, iris and daffodils,
the azaleas, rhododendrons,
the calendula he loved
celebrated in one of his poems:
Impromptu #8,
“I fill the jars with orange calendula.”

We can still sit at Carl’s table
and until it is carried away
by strangers, it will always be
Carl’s table
one of a kind
his leit motif.

In remembrance of Carl, March 22, 1929 – May 1, 1992. We were in the play “The Dining Room” together, and Carl was always entertaining on stage or off.  He had an amazing art collection of Northwest greats, and a collection of Native American baskets.  He also loved his gardens, and I will never forget his 21st Street house in Bellingham when all of his tulips were in bloom.  This poem was published in “Talk” many years back.




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