O Paradise

$25.95 cloth / $16.95 paper

University of Arkansas Press, January 1995

978-1-55728-341-2 (cloth)

 978-1-55728-342-9 (paper)

William Trowbridge can talk tough, in the tradition of fiction’s best hard-boiled private-eye wisenheimers. And like those steely-jawed gumshoes, he can look at the tough sights unflinchingly: as, for instance, the “brimstone stinking forests of World War II’s atrocities, and at the dark side of of our domestic confusions, where “everything . . . goes kerflooy.” But, like the best of those detectives, he has a warm center, and the daily pleasures of small town life, of youthful romance, of family bonds, elicit a poignant wonderment. We have a lot of weird mysteries to solve, we human beings — and I’m glad William Trowbridge is on the case.”

Albert Goldbarth

Trowbridge loves vaudeville, the old comedy, but don’t let yourself be sucker-punched. As compassionate as he is skillful, he casts his wry eye on many different facets of American life, not excluding the tragic.

Patricia Goedeke

This volume goes far beyond comedy. It is about comedy as a mode of survival. Jonathan Holden

I read O Paradise, last year, during my junior year of college, trying to escape the boredom of survey literature courses. I fell in love! Trowbridge is Mark Twain meets Sylvia Plath.

Jackie (Orlando, FL)

Amazon.com reader review

My weakness for reader-friendly poetry is something I refuse to apologize for. By all means, read this friendly book.

Fred Eckman

Minneapolis Star Tribune

Living With Solar Keratosis

I do not think they will sing to me.

While I watch my son flail out beyond my call
on the boogie board we rented, everything
goes California — big blue swells cresting white,
beach blankets, beach games, beach sun,
beach flies — and here I stand, like a scarecrow
blown in from some prairie. dressed for fall
in hat and jacket, a red towel draped
over my head, nose painted white,
arms waving at the world’s largest ocean.

I’m everybody’s parent, who’s always there
to haggle down delight: slurp that Coke
before you wipe its mouth off and, bang,
it’s herpes-A; swim right after snacking
and you sleep with the fish, play too long
in sunshine, and you’re the poster child
for Dermatology Week. That man of Fourth Street?
Remember him? The one with half an ear,
who pulls the little wagon? I’ll count to three!

The boys are spiking volley balls; girls in strings
juggle by. I need a drink in the darkness
of that dive across the street, but my son
needs me here. Everybody needs me here,
dour ant to chaperone the giddy hoppers,
memento mori on the tube of Coppertone,
a blinking light among the pleasure craft,
sometimes tittered at, though underneath
a surprisingly fun guy, a Beach Boys fan.

from O Paradise

Saint’s Life

Before Joe and Myra were halfway up the stairs, their son
sailing high over the trees and houses, too amazed to be
then coasting down a slow-relaxing ramp of air to land
the very center of an empty block.
—Rudi Blesh, Keaton

Let’s face it, classmates, faith’s a gift
for being too amazed, too curious
to be afraid when a pasture full of shit
hits the fan, when the huge blind finger
on the horizon finds your house and flicks you out
an upstairs window. Think of little Buster,
windborne, descending like a kite four blocks
away, bemused by Joe and Myra’s cries.

Now, when his life flickers miraculously before us,
we fly with him, reel to reel, in a dream of ourselves:
blessed survivors in a world where nothing works,
where everything, sooner or later, breaks, clogs,
goes kerflooey. We show the immortal deadpan,
all staring and cheekbones, as the house falls,
the boat sinks, the Lizzie dies on the tracks,
sure we’ll think of something before time runs out
or discover the whole thing’s a bluff we can call
by simply standing still: the wall crashes
harmlessly around us, the boat rises on a submarine,
the train switches tracks and blusters off.

Dressed in solemn oaths, our faults and stewings
chase us through the streets, waving their billys,
too fat, too dumb, too choked with rage to ever
beat us to the next corner, the next unreeling,
where the anarchist’s bomb serves only to light
our cigarette. The secret is not to break
the face’s holy silence, not to laugh,
not even to lift an eyebrow: it gives us away,
spoils the gag, wakes us in midair.

from O Paradise