Michael Beadle is a poet, author and touring writer-in-residence living in Raleigh, N.C. Since 1999, he’s performed poetry at schools, festivals, churches, libraries and restaurants. His poems have found homes in book stores, newspapers, CDs, a cookbook, a transit bus, and literary journals such as The Main Street Rag, Kakalak and The Southern Poetry Anthology, Vol. VII: North Carolina. In 2012, he served as a poet-in-residence at the NC Zoo in Asheboro. He also serves as the student poetry contest manager and chairperson of the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poets Series for the NC Poetry Society.
No one does nostalgia better than this big-hearted, intelligent, and oh-so-wise poet. Everywhere in this heart-breaking/heart-mending collection Michael Beadle looks life square in the face in hauntingly lyrical language. I have waited far too long for a collection of poems by this poet who never fails to move me deeply. ~Cathy Smith Bowers, former NC Poet Laureate and author of Like Shining from Shook Foil
Michael Beadle’s Primer reveals adolescence aging with a rare combination of realism and emotion. Its pages brim with education: school days, school days! Baseball, football, pranks, music, poverty, puberty – each achingly edged with Catholicism and divorce. And lines like this heartbreaking one from “A Town Too Small for Maps”: “Sharecropper shacks and tin barns lean like old men waiting to fall.” Oh – and there’s a snipe-hunt! ~Shelby Stephenson, Poet Laureate of North Carolina
With courage and a kid’s heart, Michael Beadle brings to life the rites of passage of a small-town boy inching toward the threshold of adulthood, “ready for the light to turn green.” True to the book’s title, these insightful poems provide a primer—both surprising and hauntingly familiar—on how close childhood cuts to the bone. Childhood, that seesaw kingdom of yearning, vulnerability, heartbreak, dreams, and wonder. Ultimately we, lucky readers, discover gems of wisdom lighting the poet’s return down that path—wisdom earned from such bright memory. ~Susan Laughter Meyers, author of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass
July 20, 1972.
I arrive in a heat wave,
the summer of Watergate.
8 pounds, 22 inches
into the world—
a Jew, christened Catholic,
DNA’d to crave Irish stew
and matzoball soup.
My initials: a nod
to Mom’s grandparents,
Morris and Anna.
May their yearnings
find safe passage
in the swirls of my fingertips.
At 9 months, I’m bound
for Blarney Castle,
where I kiss the hunk of stone
that turns tongues to babble.
My first word, an avant-garde homage:
Let Uncle Sam blow candles
for his bicentennial. I walk
in the city of Big Ben.
Take mum’s hand. Mind the gap.
Ride the double-decker to Trafalgar.
Salute the pigeons. Ashes to ashes,
priests and masses, wool sweaters
and galoshes. Forgive me, Father,
for I blow spit bubbles at nuns,
wear the dunce cap in the corner.
Back to the cul-de-sac in Cortland,
where Paddington Bear shares a shelf
with king-faced coins
and The Little Engine That Could.
That’s me on the end:
first grade, St. Mary’s—
dizzy hair, baby corn teeth.
Evening rides to Tastee Freez.
Lick the drips of vanilla
that run down my knuckles.
Sidewalk snowball fight.
My first urge to run away. I make it
as far as the spruce in the neighbor’s yard.
Or was it a maple? Too cold to sulk,
I trudge home for Christmas tinsel,
Snoopy stockings, Little Drummer Boy.
The record skips—
Mom drives little sister and me
south to Carolina, where
a waitress brings us
stacks of pancakes.
Sweet tea I won’t drink.
Damn Yankees, they call us,
the ones that don’t go back.
Day camp at Galaxy of Sports.
We careen around a roller rink,
slurp red slushies, save quarters
for the arcade’s flashy lights.
New home on Edwards Ave:
pink dogwoods, carport, creepy shed.
Old lady across the street
sweet-cheeks us with peppermints
and caramel cubes.
Walk to school. Pray the rosary.
Memorize and multiply. Blurt a burst
of dirty words on the playground.
Sin of omission: two front teeth
when I kneel at confession.
Sunday grin in horn-rims
and a three-piece suit,
but the Force is strong in me.
My lunchbox tells me so. I sleep
in Spiderman Underoos, time-travel
in a Tardis, sleuth the truth
with Hardy Boys and Scooby Doo,
Lego my way through latch-key days.
At Westhaven pool, I swim
breaststroke, my best stroke,
win a string of red ribbons
and a misspelled trophy.
Mom meets Miss Cindy.
We move on up like George and Weezy.
10 acres in the country—
horses, high ceilings, back-yard pool.
It’s Good Times and Happy Days,
Charlie’s Angels and CHiPs,
Little League cleats and Boy Scout tents.
Sand dune summers at Oceanana
and Emerald Isle—flip-flop, drip-castle days
that end with fishing pier sunsets
and ketchup-stained plates, a belly full
of fried shrimp, hushpuppies.
Boombox on the school bus.
Blast the breakdance beats.
Run DMC and Jam Master Jay.
Thriller on vinyl. Fat laces
for my Air Jordans. Don’t forget
the Member’s Only jacket.
Coach, I’m ready for those
fast breaks and free weights,
wind sprints and defense.
Who cares if we lose?
Let me show you my jump shot.
First kiss in the library stacks.
She turns and tilts her head,
eyes closed, lips puckered.
What else to do but lean in?
Once again, I’m in the backseat
of a red Mustang, windows down,
racing past tractors and trailers
to a Friday night football game.
ACDC’s in the tape deck.
We crank it up, strum the air,
drum the beat we know by heart,
a rock anthem we scream into the wind.