A Long Time To Learn

for myself

Waterloo, Iowa, 1962 through ’65,
Hummell’s 24-hour cafe, janitor
for two bucks a day. Damp basement

under it all, began writing appren-
ticeship there: early ’30s typer
owned by cafe, first crack at seeing
words beyond pencil.

Only light, dangling, raw
75-watt bulb directly above
ketchup cases typer and I
sat on. Sap songs of Bobby
Vinton, Connie Francis from
blaring juke box above,
constant companions.

Pounded away, determined to make
Large name in poetry. Truly believed
quality of poems would do it.

Was going to be first American poet
to win Nobel. Since, been published
little, never won any prize, always
believing I would.

Accepted, August ’83, not to expect
anything from formidable organizations
decide what is published, make awards.
Now free to write without illusions.

from In Tribute To Survivors. Copyright © James Humphrey Trust


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