What Shall We Do With a Drunken Surfer

She bops down to the beach to dance
in the sand by the water the seaweed
brittle and he trips aback and nearly falls
like the drunken sailor in the shanty
“Ho! No! Thar she blows!”

She desires to dance politely
he wants to throw the bottle
into the waves they bouncing
round two junks in the vessel
carried away in a rash riptide

With a message for the great white
whale they glide over the stonefish
ease through a fluther of box jellies
the moon full but the night not fair
the music stops the beach empties

He awakes in the bottle rolling in the ripples
with her sound asleep soft nipples
in the warm sand above the water line
calm and sober like the walrus
angel watching over you

What shall we do with a drunken surfer
who dreams full of fishes seaweed wrack
brack Saltwort Ale and other foolishness
who never caught a fish nor wave enough
to feed his wife out combing the beach

Delete City

Welcome to Delete 
City Without a Past
Population: Zero.

Your drive thru
will be deleted
upon Exit.

But the place is bustling
with buskers and hawkers
walkers and tricksters,

Bills and Hanks,
Waynes and Millys,
Saras and Dolittles,

venues to eat, drink,
shop til you drop, but
No Accumulating. 

Tune to KDEL
for the latest news & weather
from Josh the Whisperer.

No Loitering 

You are now leaving
Delete City
Come Back Soon! 

Your visit
has been
deleted.

 

 

 

In Another Clean, Well-Lighted Place

He turns to an empty
whiskey barrel,
wondering if there is life
on the red planet,
or under the Venus cloud cover,
or inside her
granny panties.

He reaches for his watering can,
always a few drops to go,
dribbles a few words
of too late love.

They sit across the bar
from one another,
smiling back and forth.

The water runs out his mouth,
over his lips,
and down his chin,
his clear-cut neck,
a waterfall of love’s
last cleaning.

Theatrical

Older then, one more yesterday notched
into this haggard wasted belt, tight about,
turning in the widening gut, but must
be the clothes, despondent, I seem,
up the block quirky bobber says,
and I think he’s talking shit on
my writing, but no, he says, your mien,
like a traveler lost his way,
fearful forged face, luggage jowls,
over needy and under taken.

Ate too much, talking to self,
I don’t travel well, I say, when
he tells me, Go to Hell, but
let’s go for a beer sometime.
Drank to gorge, piss like a glacier
melting, violating the graces,
not a single work of mercy,
no incense in my crucible,
my feet leave a trace of beach tar
on the pavement parchment.

As the third and final act ends,
the boards weathered smooth,
the audience awakes to the smell  
of coffee and petrichor coming
down the aisles, the ushers throw open  
the great doors of the hall.
But what’s this, another act?
The players pretend nothing really
happens backstage dressing room sweat
when I present sweet flowers to the star.

This bud was for you

Across the street from the Estate Sale,
there’s talk if it’s a teardown,
while a couple of bushtits build
a hanging nest in a paperbark maple,
coming and going through the perfect
hole at the top of the sack woven
with string, spider web, tiny twigs
and grassy strands yarned around.

“Go easy,” she yearned. “Go around.”
Then came the night she won’t spring back.
Some do not come back,
even as the buds rise in the rows
heatly lubricated by the bees;
not all the plants pull through
that inscrutable winter stare.

But to turn under? Finished now.
Not to worry, the sun is the poshest one.
His light goes shallow, into the soil,
as easily as through fish water,
a clean singing glow.
The days are gone
this bud was for you.

20190402_183653

Whorlscope

Whorled weary for this world’s woes
worsened by winter’s whistling
wicked wishes as worrying
as this watch of one’s web life ebb,
and if that’s not maudlin enough,
sick of this car’s cough, too,
its needy changes and fillings,
its overheated tantrums, leaks,
stalls, and traffic jams, the orange
cones and potholes and all ways
waged in fees and duns and one’s
fief windblown like the shabby
tatty cat hunkered for the night
in the trash can gust opened.
Some correlation perhaps:
unhappiness and the automobile,
for there is nothing mobile
that is unwitting.

Accidental and aleatoric lines
alienate awareness precisely
where we desire to go
reading off the water
listening listing cant
in this sham breeze
what would an alien see?
Earthlings have wheels,
their eyes light up at night,
and there are these other
creatures that wash them,
feed them, and care for them.
There appears to be a symbiotic
relationship between the metal
boxes and the asphalt lines.
More study is needed to ascertain
how the Earth benefits.

Weary then of the keen privilege
to sound dog-tired exhausted
old hat hack comes to an end
sidetrack dismantle yard
all you need is love sang John
I’m sick of love replied Dylan
in Love Sick on Time Out
of Mind full of walking
and waiting.

Turn off, tune out, drop in
drop in sometime and say hi
live within walls if you must
but keep the doors open
the windows loosely lighted.
Get on now and move about
nothing just motion one purpose
one motion transforming
breathing energy fizz of life.
This is work, let us not
automate our own motion.





Belly List

Sucking on garlic buttery snails, after shooting a Bandersnatch on Crete, drinking a cup of French Alps chestnut-colored wine.

We had just jumped from a small airplane, freefalling in a creeping phlox sky losing petals over the hot green valley evening, landing somewhere in France or Italy – we weren’t sure our exact location. We unpacked and set up camp for the night, and a local farmer who had seen our parachutes hiked up to visit us with a bottle of his wine and a round block of mountain cheese. And Jack had about a dozen dried Mediterranean sardines, and that was dinner.

“Serpent slug sardine?” the winemaker asked, and we all laughed and enjoyed the evening sun, emerald blue behind the disappearing phlox, the air on the ground still as hot as a bull’s back.

It was only a week after we had been skin diving off Fiji where I had touched the snout of a shark.

We came home for a rest and check ups, Jack’s bucket near empty, and that was when they botched the test, and I wound up with a secret surveillance camera permanently installed in my belly.

A friend of mine, still a stranger to gadgets like cell phones and caller ID, recently told me the most exciting part of his day is answering his house phone; because no one ever calls him, he has no idea who or what it will be. He listens as if boarding a train moving in the wrong direction.

The Fiji trip was a cruise plan, the shark a rubber fake. The farmer supplemented his measly income from his grapes with work for the travel agency. He was quite the actor. The wine was good though, and the cheese, and the sky and ground were real enough, but when Jack finally had the guts to tell me about the facades, at a McDonald’s with sidewalk tables in Provence, I said next year we should parachute onto the Matterhorn at Disneyland.

Wasn’t there somewhere on Earth we could go to experience real risk, bare of marketing and sales tourist traps? Yes, of course, and people are dying or worse to escape from those places. You are at risk wherever you are. There is no sanctuary safe from the microbes in your soup.

Deep belly laugh, a bark. The bark repeats through the sleeping night.

There is only one thing, Jack says, in the morning, left for us, not a last adventure, but a true adventure at last. To be still and to relax at the same time. Finally, emerging from our middle ages, without even thinking much about it, we begin to learn to breathe.

How to Relax

no point in pointing to the past
each momentum passes upon
coming

in the space between
arriving & leaving you
learn to breathe

to breathe is
to fall
loose into mattresses
of surf
full of air
bubbles

drift to shore
with the slow tide
as light as moon go
in the sky
and on the sea.

Sitting on the wooden bench under the lilac,
while Chloe plays in the age-old schoolyard,
Papa awaits the second coming, not knowing
what to expect, unable to recall the first coming.

Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart”

What is the “relation between literature and life” in Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart”? Maybe just this, that they both might move us to tears. But moving readers to tears may not have been Flaubert’s intent. If readers want to be moved to tears, all they need do is hit the streets, where reality resides, or watch the news. They don’t need books. But is crying into a book a kind of pleasure?

“’A Simple Heart’…moved me to tears,” Russell Baker said, in “Hymns to Joy,” a New York Times article, the quote selected for the back of a New Directions “Bibelot” (NDP819, 64 pages). What was omitted in the ellipsis was Baker’s simple guess that most literary folks probably will have read Flaubert’s tale of the long life of a 19th Century French servant, Felicite, but he had not. Baker selected it as he was gathering reading material to take on a vacation. But the angle of his article wasn’t about Flaubert or reading that moves one to cry, but the suggestion that reading for pleasure has become a lost pastime. But wouldn’t a common reader going on vacation want something a bit more éclair than Flaubert? But what is pleasure?

Like Baker, I had never read Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” and I wasn’t sure I’d ever heard of Russell Baker. A cursory search found a witty, prolific journalist, and a host of Masterpiece Theatre – ah, of course. But I was sure of Harry Levin, also quoted on the back cover, having read his “Critical Introduction” to James Joyce. In Levin’s book “Gates of Horn: A Study of Five French Realists” (1963), he says his subject is “the relation between literature and life.” Can literature not true to life move a reader to tears? Should literature resemble life? But what is life? In any case, while I wasn’t moved to tears by Flaubert’s “A Simple Heart,” I was moved to put something up on the blog – but what?

A recent post over at Bristlehound’s “navelgazer” blog takes on death as its topic. It’s a good post, witty and courageous. But as I get older, I think less of death than I do of getting older. Jenny Diski recently put something up at the Guardian on the topic of aging, concluding aging might be something easier to read about than to live through. I’ve written a bit about aging in past posts, and Flaubert’s passages on Felicite’s aging and passing reminded me of Atul Gawande’s moving articles on aging. How we respond to death may simply reflect how we respond to life. If life is a bummer, so too is death. If we take grudges to the grave, or we let others pass without our making amends, life is constriction. But none of this should bring tears to any reader’s eyes. Flaubert named his heroine Felicite for a reason, and he was a master of realism. Felicite is happiness, happy, another Gawande theme. But what is happiness?

Felicite is happy in spite of her predicament. This is why Flaubert named her Felicite – she is Flaubert’s definition of happiness. Her life begins with the existential decision to leave home after a potential partner jilts her for a chance with a woman with some dough. The only dough Felicite knows is the kind made into bread. But while Felicite is dependent on her mistress, she is independent in her capabilities, her skills, her ability to read others. It all seems so random, yet the plot elements also seem to fall into place naturally, inevitably, logically. Felicite examines her life, and it is worth living. Her every day is part of the exam, a test, in the end, she passes, even as the house decays and implodes upon her, while life in the street explodes with color and ritual and motion.