Voices from the Past
Voices from the Past
Voices from the Past
87 poems by Peter Mladinic
Cover art by Egon Schiele
6” x 9” 118 pages
This work speaks with the authority of lived experience combined with the tenderness of the open listening heart. Whether longing to relay an epiphany to a lost love, remembering moments shared with the dead, illuminating an incident of injustice, abandonment, violence, or pain, each poem moves in collaboration with Self, Other, Spirit, and Time. Their specificity evokes the reader's own versions of such youthful wonders as dropping acid in the Frank Mobile while reminding us of the sheer miracle of human survival. To read this collection is to take an epic American road trip with a wild array of companions. Although the stories told are often difficult to hear, they invite us to celebrate our own lives and to resist despair.
— Caroline Goodwin, author of Madrigals and Old Snow, White Sun.
Early on in Voices from the Past Peter Mladinic set down some prescriptive rules for dealing with memory and loss. In the poem “If” Mladinic tells us: “If you don’t go where they are and knock / they'll go on with their lives. / Should some sight or sound remind them of you / it will be you don’t care, you never loved them. / You tell yourself approaching that shore / I love, loved and will love them. They are better / left alone, going on as they have been / since the morning I set out from the mainland. / I had to. That much was clear.” For my money, the poet is cataloguing Existence—as in the poem “Reciprocity” that assembly is a dialogue that begins: “If you help me get what I want I’ll help / you, Ethel, one of the dead, / cold in your grave, wanting everything.” The poet is saying what others are thinking, of the Spirits of the Dead: If you’ll help me, I’ll make you visible again. Which is what Mladinic does with small dogs and great boxers—he brings the world that is passing, and has passed to never return, into view with no small degree of reverence for the true-ish as well as the truth. Not to understate the whimsy of “Autobiography,” saying: “An autobiography / of a lizard should contain the lizard’s preferred / bowling team, it’s preferred soup and rainforest.” And so it should.
— Roy Bentley, author of Walking with Eve in the Loved City, and Starlight Taxi.
Peter Mladinic’s finely textured, crisply detailed poems reconstruct a past that despite or because of its individuality chimes with everyone’s past. He shows us how the dust and debris stashed in the corners of our minds, the people we loved and lost in the dark, the places we passed through and forgot, remain with us, invoked in a muscular flow of syntax and living verbs.
— William Doreski, author of The Suburbs of Atlantis and Mist in Their Eyes.
Peter Mladinic lives in Hobbs, New Mexico. He was born and raised in New Jersey and has lived in the Midwest and in the South. He enlisted in the United States Navy and served for four years. He received an MFA in Creative Writing from the University of Arkansas in 1985, and taught English for thirty years at New Mexico Junior College in Hobbs. He has edited two books: Love, Death, and the Plains; and Ethnic Lea: Southeast New Mexico Stories, which are available from the Lea County Museum Press, as are his three volumes of poetry: Lost in Lea, Dressed for Winter, and his most recent book, co-authored with Charles Behlen, Falling Awake in Lovington. He is a past board member of the Lea County Museum and a former president of the Lea County Humane Society. An animal activist, he supports numerous animal rescue groups. Two of his main concerns are to bring an end to the euthanizing of animals in shelters and to help get animals in shelters adopted into caring homes. In his spare time, he enjoys yoga, listening to music, reading, and spending time with his six dogs. Recently, his poems have been published in numerous online journals in the US, Canada, England, Ireland, and Australia.
Voices from the Past sample poems
She’s corgi. Mom had her since a puppy.
My mom, Willett, went into Cresthaven, she
couldn’t keep her. Is there a newsletter?
Oh, a webpage. If you could put up Lady’s
picture. She is a sweetie. I think Lady was
the only one Willett knew towards the end.
Cresthaven didn’t allow dogs, so Willett
couldn’t have her. We have her in a crate
in the foyer off the kitchen. Sam and I,
we have two teens, we’re out all day and
Lady’s fine. She’s seventeen. Oh, a place
in Weatherford takes seniors. That’s a drive
from Ozona. Like you, I’m out showing
properties. Sam’s on call with Texas Power.
The kids with their activities, Michelle’s
in band. Maybe your webpage. Lady’s
a sweetheart. Willett, people used to say,
she is just like your child. We had dogs
growing up in Witchita Falls. No, we can’t
keep her. That’s out of the question.
A shelter here in Ozona. I hadn’t known.
That would be better than taking her
out and dropping her in the Sandhills.
We can’t keep her. Sam has allergies.
Michelle had a hamster but she’s not much
into animals, nor is Mike, our son. Maybe
someone at the shelter — I didn’t know
there is one. It’s overcrowded? Someone
maybe will drive her to that place in
Weatherford. My uncle had a dog got lost.
The pound called and my uncle told
the pound, That dog is old. Put it to sleep.
When I was a kid, baseball all the rage,
I was lucky to have a few baseball gloves,
though one was a catcher’s mitt. Round,
thick, never called a glove, it was different
from the standard infield / outfield glove
worn by Wille Mays, the Say Hey Kid,
when he caught the Vic Wertz long fly
to center — that catch an earthly miracle
to Polo Grounds fans. Distinct from Willie’s
glove and the glove with which Yankees’
shortstop Tony Kubek scooped grounders,
the first base glove of Cleveland’s Power,
first name Vic. That glove, banana-shaped,
folded, that fold needed to catch what was
hit, and mostly thrown, to first. It folds.
In form it was my favorite of the three types.
All three, different as they were and are,
have center pockets that have to be oiled.
Yesterday at the gym a tall brunette said
her husband had pitched for Texas Tech.
I didn’t ask, did he oil his glove’s pocket, but
you can bet he had to. All players do this.
Oil softens the leather, which makes a ball
easier to catch. I couldn’t catch or pitch,
or hit. Still, I liked baseball. At one time
I had a glove with that banana shape, like
Vic Power’s, also a catcher’s mitt. Rawlings
and Spalding baseball gloves, I was lucky
to own more than one, lucky to live where
others, too, owned gloves. I never thought:
cows are killed so we can wear gloves.
I got a glove that looked like Whitey Ford’s.
I squirted oil from a dropper into a pocket,
rubbed the oil in with my fingers. Gradually
a pocket darkened. It felt and looked good.
The dark shiny soft center where a ball
was caught. I don’t own a glove now, but a
leather jacket is close by, only one. I don’t
like that cows are slaughtered. Baseball
days, I was a kid, I didn’t think of it at all.
Sonny Liston picked cotton,
endured welts from his father’s strap,
hitchhiked from Arkansas to St. Louis
to live with his mother,
dropped out of school, stole a cantaloupe
from a vender, sat in a paddy-wagon,
sparred in a ring, hit hard.
A belt with the big gold buckle signified
he was the baddest man on the planet.
Got ticketed by a cop for driving out
the entrance of a MacDonald’s,
fired a pistol at Cassius Clay who ran
out of there so fast at a press conference,
got beaten by Clay in the ring, trained
hard on the heavy bag, the speed bag
jumped rope, jogged, and in the ring
got knocked down by Muhammad Ali,
who retained the title Sonny lost
in their first fight. Had massive biceps
chest and shoulders, wore a sharkskin
suit a pork pie hat a pencil thin mustache.
Leaned down and smiled at a little white
boy who was smiling at him and shook
the boy’s hand. In a park, arrested
for loitering, cops harassed him like
they’d done all his life, even after he was
champion. Bag man for the mob
he stepped behind a counter and grabbed
a bookie hard by the collar in Las Vegas,
where his wife, having been gone two
days, came home and found him dead.
Slumped and swollen. Give him credit.
He laughed and smiled. Those who knew
him saw a man different from his public self.