Modest Aspirations ~ Poems & Stories

Title: Modest Aspirations ~ Poems by Gerald Locklin & Stories by Beth Wilson
y: Gerald Locklin & Beth Wilson
Genre: Poetry & Short Fiction, Trade Paper
Publisher: Lummox Press (PO Box 5301 San Pedro, CA 90733-5301)
Pages: 144

Publishing Date: April 2010

Retail: $15 + shipping

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See the Modest Aspirations Promotional Video

Gerald Locklin is now a Professor Emeritus of English at California State University, Long Beach, where he taught from 1965 through 2007, and continues as an occasional part-time lecturer there and in the Master of Professional Program at the University of Southern California.  He is the author of over 125 books, chapbooks, and broadsides of poetry, fiction, and criticism, with over 3000 poems, stories, articles, reviews, and interviews published in periodicals. 

Beth Wilson was born and raised in Oklahoma.  She got a Bachelor’s degree in English from the University of Central Oklahoma, and a Library Science degree from the University of Oklahoma.  It was while she was studying creative writing at UCO that she met the poet and author Gerald Locklin.  As a full-time reference librarian and mother of two small children, Beth writes short stories and poetry whenever she can find a few minutes strung together.  She uses her own observations and experiences from the “heartland” as well as stories she gathers from her husband and friends to fuel her writing.  Her chapbook, School of Sky, was nominated for a Pushcart Prize.  She prefers to write near a window so she can look outside and see what the weather is doing.

Here are a few poems and an excerpt from the book...

The Versatility of Claude Monet



You think of the Garden of Giverny,

But not of a Poppy Field near it.


You think of "Hollows" as Appalachian.

You think of artists painting peaks and plains

And seas and skies.


But maybe not of gullies we pass by and over.


And yet I've seen,

Through my wife's photographic eye,

The miniature beauties of an Alpine valley,

High in the Rockies or Yosemite,

Inhaling the rarified oxygen

Of Tuolumne or Independence Pass.



The thirty paintings of Rouen Cathedral

At different hours of the light

Remind us why we must yet return

To buildings built as Prayers

Where all that remains of God

Is our nostalgia and His silence.



A tour de force: La Japonais, 1876.

They say there is no competition in the arts,

But the Master of Landscapes here tosses off

This random masterpiece

Of textures, folds, and hues,

Coy commentary on itself,

As if to say, "If I so chose,

I could beat every trend at its own game:

In fact, I've just crafted a parody of

An entire cultural obsession

On this single canvas,

And, while I was at it,

Exceeded the skills

Of those that I was poking fun at."


Modest Aspirations


A mistake I've made

At all stages of my life

Is going for the pretty girl

Instead of the Drop-Dead Gorgeous One.


Even when both seem to be

Expressing an interest,

I seem to assume the merely comely one

Will need me more,

Appreciate me more.


Of course this results in the beautiful ones

Being so shocked and downright offended

That they not only write me off forever

But hate my guts eternally as well.


And the merely attractive ones,

Lacking the self-assurance of the beautiful,

Turn out to be insecure, neurotic, jealous,

In need of constant reassurance: what we currently

Refer to as "High Maintenance."


And since, like most writers,

I am, to put it mildly, Insecure, neurotic, jealous,

In need of constant reassurance,

And High Maintenance myself,


I either lose these pretty girls

Or end up sorry that

I didn't.


From EAST OF ENID by Beth Wilson

WHEN MICHAEL TURNED SIXTEEN, his dad let him pick his first car from the collection of junkers in the backyard. He chose a rusty, forest green Jeep Willys with wood-grained side panels and no seats in the back. It took a lot of work to keep it running, but it was great for getting around Enid. Enid was the biggest town in North Central Oklahoma, but it still wasn’t a very big town.
He needed a car for transportation to and from his job at TG&Y in the electronics department. It paid $3.35 an hour, which was minimum wage that year, but the discounts he gave himself and his friends on merchandise made it well worth his time.

He also needed a car because his girlfriend of eighteen months, Tina, felt that it was time to consummate their relationship. Tina ’s parents never left them alone for a second at their house. Michael ’s parents didn’t care what he did as long as he didn ’t bother them, but there were too damn many people in his house. And so,
the Jeep became both vehicle and location in the fulfillment of that goal, specially over the summer months.

Transportation was freedom to work and to pursue his relationship, but it was also freedom from his family. Michael was the youngest, and nobody ’s favorite. He was just an accident they couldn’t really afford, and he knew that because his mom had told him so plenty of times.

One evening – it was several months later, during Christmas break – when Tina was supposed to be in bed already, her dad caught her sneaking out the window and saw Michael ’s Jeep at the curb. There wasn’t another rusty, forest green Jeep Willys with wood-grained side panels in Enid, so it was no good pretending it
was someone else. He ’d never felt like Michael was good enough for Tina, but this gave him a reason to actively dislike him. Tina was forbidden to go out with Michael again.
Naturally, this didn’t stop them from being together at school, and any time outside of school that Tina could come up with an alibi. That wasn’t enough for Michael and Tina, though, and it only took about a month of sneaking around before she came up with a solution...