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John Casas - Poetry

John Casas - Poetry
John Casas was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York in a fairly strict Catholic home. He was unique, talented and eager to spread his wings when he arrived in Provincetown in the later 1960s. By 1968 he was trap fishing with Capt. Nonnie Fields on the trap boat, Charlotte, one of two remaining trap boats in Provincetown at the time. Other members of the crew included Neil Hogan, Peter Cope and Joe Kennedy, one of very few black men in town and perhaps the only one with a site on a fishing boat. John may have been in his early twenties although from accounts told through the years he may have been younger than he claimed and lied about his age to appear older. John met Margo Failing that summer, a young artist who worked at the town's former nursing home, the Cape End Manor. Occasionally Margo would go out on the trap boat and witnessed the men pulling up the nets. When a shark came up in the net John would have to shoot the writhing fish with a sawed off shotgun so that it wouldn't rip the net apart. Fishermen would get their pay on Friday and many would head for the bars, the Surf Club, the Old Colony or the Foc'sle, to have a few drinks with friends. John had a propensity for overindulgence and, more often than not, stumbled home rather inebriated. After moving in with John in the fall of 1968, Margo recounts the following story: "Soon after I moved down, lock, stock and barrel, and we set up sharing, a friend of his came to town, Jerry Peacock. Soon Johnny was gone off with him and I was left wondering. I think they went to Mexico. It was a very sad time for me, I heard in the bar that he had left and then found out it was true. He had a lot of Jack Kerouac in him, that whole era was a time of change, of booze and drugs and running wild, which is what he did and wanted to be. I remember hearing about him when he returned and was amazed to learn he was disappointed that I hadn't 'waited' for him! Imagine, after not even a word of goodbye, I'm going, etc. He had left all his stuff where we were living, which included a wooden chest where the poems were plus a little photo and other little stuff which I guess he didn't want. He DID sneak in one day and rolled up his carpet and ran off with it taking along with it one shoe of my friend, Cindy, who was visiting!" Another recollection of Margo's is: "I remember him looking at his hands and being upset they were getting so rough and huge like a fisherman's and he stopped fishing and then cooked at Ciro's, where I would hear stories about him, like chasing Ciro (Cozzi) out of the kitchen with a butcher knife." John eventually moved to Boston and helped Ciro when he opened a restaurant on Boylston St. After that he worked at the Parker House and trained as a chef garde manger, learning his way around the cold kitchen. He apprenticed at several hotels in New Orleans, Louisiana before returning to Salem, Massachusetts, where he opened his own restaurant some years later. Notwithstanding John's great talent for cooking and his penchant for writing heartfelt poetry, he had a wild passion for living life in the fast lane and died tragically in an alcohol-related automobile accident. The following small collection of poems, most of which are works in progress, are included here because of the Provincetown years that inspired them. For those who remember John Casas, he was a bright, funny, generous man who lived in the moment and seldom considered the consequences of his actions. Margo also notes that from 1968-2011 these (poems) moved with her from 214 Bradford St. to many other Provincetown apartments, then to three places in Florida to Minnesota to Oregon to Alexandria, Virginia to Eureka Springs, Arkansas and lastly to Rogers, Arkansas, where she currently resides. Now the poems have found their way back home to Provincetown where they began. Here is a one line poem that epitomizes how John thought of Provincetown: "I realize how much the earth is part of me as the shoreline touches the forehead of the sea." Click on the "download" link below to see original scans of John's Provincetown-inspired poems and some pictures to complete the portrait.
Atlantic Fisherman, Captains, Fish trade--Massachusetts--Provincetown, Fish trapping, Fishermen, Fishing, Fishing boats--Massachusetts--Provincetown, Poetry, Provincetown (Mass.)--History--20th century, and Weirs

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