Gulliver Soles Not the suns of your son Welford pistons in the night off the spat, tobacco river Flees La Quebrada to the son of seas And Howard says that for a can of peas into a vortex of spit, vegetable decline He’d give his right eye, And bumbles off to the pub. A legacy of feeling-doing of sideways/upsides quay.
Notes by Tark Mackintosh
‘Gulliver Soles’ Penned by Gulliver S. Gulliver on his fourteenth birthday in the alleyway between warehouses 12 and 13 on the Gulliver Soles shoe factory grounds, this ‘anti-sonnet’ of 11 lines is the earliest surviving poem by the great modernist, and has proved invaluable to historians attempting to recreate the poet’s bitter, rich early years.
suns…son Like so many of GSG’s later works, it is a difficult poem to read out loud due to the preponderance of homonyms.
pistons…night It is night, yet the steam pistons of the elder Gulliver’s shoe factory plunge on. Experts agree there is no symbolism in the line.
tobacco Chewing tobacco or chaw, a lifelong abhorrence of GSG’s, was favored by many Gulliver Soles factory workers.
La Quebrada Neighborhood settled mainly by the landed U.S. overseers in Cuba in the early years of the 20th century, where GSG would first make the acquaintance with the Afro-Latino working class and see revolution up close during the fighting in Oriente Province, from the hacienda porch of his great-aunt Mildred through a telescope.
son of seas Yes, GSG himself. Though all true poets should end their own lives by walking (alternatively diving, plunging, falling, cycling) into the sea, GSG’s own fiery end came in Cincinnati, far from the dulcet shores of La Quebrada.
Howard GSG’s paternal uncle, brother of his father Harold Clarence Sampson Gulliver and overseer of Warehouse 13, about which Howard bitched long and hard in a series of letters to Harold. ‘You want to bring bad luck and misfortune upon your own brother’s head,’ he wrote in 1912, ‘and I must accept it because of Mary and the wee ones,’ not to mention a slew of cockeyed, dockyard whores (see Ralaka, 1956).
can of peas Rhymes with son of seas.
bumbles That is, to trip, supporting oneself on an exterior wall whilst belting showtunes.
right eye…pub Howard was a degenerate and given to imbibe. He would often leave young Gulliver alone to oversee the production in Warehouse 13, slipping off along the docks to one of the less-than-salubrious watering holes that pocked its towering brow. On this birthday, however, GSG would have nothing to do with shoes.
legacy of feeling-doing Was Uncle Howard the touchy-feely type, or more the saying-doing type? We may never know.
sideway/upsides / quay The world goes round and round both for Uncle Howard and young Gulliver, as they each seek their own remedy for being quite well-off and loved by family, friends, and all the world. Unlike the traditional sonnet, the poem ends where it began, pistons revolving in the night.