Ray, 1956

He feared drowning. He fell asleep on the bus,
sleeping past his stop, and on down to Redondo Beach,
the waves breaking, hard on hearing.

He slept past the beach break at El Porto,
his head bouncing against the beach-side window,
his tools jiggling in his toolbox at his feet,
past the Manhattan Beach Pier,
the Hermosa Biltmore Hotel,
the Hermosa pier, on down to Redondo.

The bus driver would have to speak up.
The evening water was glassing off,
the Strand bars filling with surfers,
their cream yellow and orange and blue surfboards standing
against cars, walls, wet, dirty sand waxed.

He dreamed of fish, bottled beer, oysters.
He dreamed of broiled eel,
of yellowtail garnished with scallops,
dreams he did not understand.

A giant squid rose from a thick gelled water
and reached up for him, and he quick stroked
in his sleep on the bus to dog paddle away,
back to Shively, the house near the railroad tracks,
where he’d built out the basement room in knotty pine.

He awoke on the bus in Redondo Beach,
at the end of the line, foggy out now,
the sound of the surf muffled
in his ears. Flying fish eggs
surrounded his tired and dozed head,
his hair closely cropped,
his clothes dirty from the day’s work.
He’d returned the car, a ’56 Plymouth,
and salt filled his ears.


  1. Touching, gives a bus journey added dimensions.


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Long story how Ray came to be on this bus. BTW, unsure of the year of the bus ride. Might have been 1957. But always thought it was the same year the Dodgers moved from Brooklyn to LA. The poem should make some reference to baseball, I guess. Writing is almost always about what to leave behind, what to leave out. If a writer wants total freedom, like Beckett, I suppose you leave it all behind, leave it all out. Then you are where John Cage found himself when he said, “I have nothing to say, and I am saying it, and that is poetry, as I need it.” But it’s not so easy saying nothing, at least not the nothing that is something.


      1. Ha, ha the Cage quote.
        Just recall, in Scotland they have wee (tiny) things.
        Here’s a song by Robert Burns: 1792

        My Wife’s a Wanton Wee Thing.
        Chorus.-She is a winsome wee thing,
        She is a handsome wee thing,
        She is a lo’esome wee thing,
        This dear wee wife o’ mine.

        I never saw a fairer,
        I never lo’ed a dearer,
        And neist my heart I’ll wear her,
        For fear my jewel tine,
        She is a winsome, &c.

        The warld’s wrack we share o’t;
        The warstle and the care o’t;
        Wi’ her I’ll blythely bear it,
        And think my lot divine.
        She is a winsome, &c.


        1. Joe Linker says:

          …and upon this wrack I shall build my &c.


  2. Lisa Groves says:

    I love this poem. Did you change it at all?


    1. Joe Linker says:

      Hey, Lis…Yeah, changes. Still working on it. Thanks for reading.


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