About the Writer
George Bilgere’s sixth book of poems is Imperial, from the University of Pittsburgh Press. He has won the Cleveland Arts Prize, a Pushcart Prize, the Midland Authors Award, and the May Swenson Poetry Award. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Billy Collins has called Bilgere’s work “a welcome breath of fresh, American air in the house of contemporary poetry.” He has given readings at the Library of Congress, the 92nd Street Y in New York, and has received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Ohio Arts Council, the Fulbright Foundation, and the Cleveland Partnership for Arts and Culture. His poems are often featured on Garrison Keillor’s The Writer’s Almanac, and he was recently a guest on A Prairie Home Companion. Bilgere teaches at John Carroll University in Cleveland, Ohio.
As I stand in line at the bank
an armored car pulls up and the guard comes in.
He’s wearing his guard uniform, and he has a gun
which he’s wearing like it’s no big deal.
The two other men standing with me
seem shriveled and diminished by his presence.
Even though they are wearing business suits
and are possibly important and successful,
they seem of little consequence next to the armed guard.
I too had an armored car.
Battery powered, with a flashing red light.
But I put it aside and became a teacher.
And these guys in line with me
put aside their Lone Ranger six-shooters,
their ray guns and Superman costumes,
and became attorneys or middle managers.
O Life! You frightened us
into our bland successes (I have tenure).
We will never carry pistols like it was no big deal.
We will never receive the teller’s flashing smile
as she hands him green chunks of cash
we are too afraid to take from him.
What did the townspeople make of him,
strange hermit living out there alone
while they were paying taxes, raising their kids,
looking forward to the weekend?
A grown man, down on this knees all day
studying ants, watching the pond freeze,
trying not to think about women.
It was the nineteenth century.
Nature had been shot and stuffed.
My father would take off his jacket and tie
after work and fire up the back yard grill.
Scotch and a lawn chair was his idea
of nature, watching the sky turn medium rare
in a west he had never visited.
You can’t spend your whole life out there
studying ants. Even Thoreau
only lasted a couple of years.