This week’s Deep Water poem is by beloved Portland poet Peter Manuel, who passed away on the last day of 2020, after a long illness. In “Saturday, in the Park,” Manuel addresses the mental health struggles he contended with, as so many people do, and he writes with irrepressible humor and candor. Despite the troubles of the poem’s speaker through much of the poem, in the last stanza, he turns things around – and suddenly finds himself reveling in the abundance of being alive.

Peter Manuel, a longtime member of the Portland poetry scene, taught writing at Southern Maine Community College and Portland Adult Ed, and also wrote libretti and book reviews. Manuel was a graduate of the Stonecoast MFA Program, and his chapbook “(!!)exclamations(!!)” was published by Sheltering Pines Press in 2005. A deeply spiritual person with an abiding interest in Judaism and Buddhist studies, he will be missed for his irreverent wit and his generous laughter.

Saturday, in the Park
By Peter Jay Manuel

This Librium-sodden soul stumbles through the park.
The fountain pools there, its vortex dark….
I envision my doped carcass mugged
And wonder if my thoughts are bugged.

To Becky’s for omelettes, the java’s task;
The caffeine lifts my mood, but will it last?
Should I gorge on hope and pray to Mary?
Or is that relief just temporary?

Now Apollo’s bloody robe’s unfurled.
Roseate gulls hover, to survey my world.
God! Why re-bind wounds in bloody patches?
When I dangle string, my Bobcat scratches….

I back-track Lincoln Park – homeward – emoting
Tomorrow the cops might find me floating.
Some disembody says, “Thy ‘stay or go’ conflict:
It’s like a nasty burn your pet has licked.”

But Sunday . . . I‘m aware – the fountain’s brimming,
I’m not face-down at East End Beach; I’m swimming!
Why not chose to align, with this fine
Alt-emotional-angst design?

Megan Grumbling is a poet and writer who lives in Portland. Deep Water: Maine Poems is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. “Saturday, in the Park,” copyright © 2017 by Peter Jay Manuel, appeared in The Café Review.

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