Marine Layer

Loveliest of evenings long passed
close kissed in dark dwelling alley
irate tenants hissing us go away
and we felt the marine layer coming.

Felt with our youthful tongues day
and night passing slowly into the mix
of salt and hair and wet sandpaper
rubbing away our persistent presents.

And while yesterday we had sun
today we have none though they say
the globe is warming you wear your
flannel nightgown winter and summer.

Postcard

You awake to find yourself in a room the size of a postcard. There is a photo of a pier, people out walking, a boardwalk, a sunny day, blue sky. A bit of a breeze apparently, the women holding their hats, summer dresses flapping, legs akimbo like listing masts, offshore sand flurries. In the distance, atop a shoreline cliff, an ivory tower climbs into the sky like a long slender neck. At the top of the tower, a balcony necklace affords rich views of the ocean, a woman in a blue dress at the wrought iron rail studying a sailboat, a small dinghy, its jib open and full of the onshore breeze, coming in.

Summer of Love

Mid-June we sat out exposed to one another’s musical ups
and downers, refusals, kissing eye dews until the moon
falls down, waves turned around, and the air like steam
foam swept in drafts up the beach and over the hot strand.

We walk down 42nd to the water rolling papers, smoking,
and you toss back a couple of star-crossed pills, peace
a far-fetched potion. You look for signs. I read a few poor
poems by Hanshan on ways of being beyond need and want,

the beach our Cold Mountain. Make-ready teens for war
learn early love is not free, our children’s prayers said
on red plastic rosary yo-yo beads, putty explosives,
headbands turned into tourniquets, floral wreaths

into olive drab steel pots. It takes courage to work out
the hackneyed stereotypes future fighters might come
to know. What is written is artificial intelligence.
We might still be surfing were we better swimmers.

We would be one were we better lovers, more open to fall
and quail, but Summer of Love, a stone wall
around my heart built, inscribed with three names:
Kevin Mulhern, Gary Grubbs, Robert Shea – mistaken.

Dear Diary,

Sylvie suggested I keep a diary, to care for my days, to reel in my foul funny feelings, to reflect, contemplate, light a candle in the dark corner of the mind’s attic. She even bought me a little pocket notebook, with which I now wobbled down to the beach, wondering what to write, when, how, where. I had laughed, because my days were so full of nothing, nothing sure to write about. At first I thought she was kidding. But she said I missed the point, which was to interrogate oneself, one’s actions and inactions, hits and misses. At that I balked. Keep track of your seven deadly sins, she said, giving me some ideas to write about. Those were, she reminded me, in alphabetical order: anger, envy, gluttony, greed, lust, pride, and sloth. Notice how commonplace the words are, Sylvie said. It’s almost impossible to pass a day without experiencing one of them. If you fast, for example, are you not being a glutton of denial. I wasn’t likely to go on a fast, I said, but again, I apparently missed the mark. We fast from things other than food, Sylvie said. We all the time fast from what is good for us, and that’s a deadly sin. But to complicate matters even more, I had forgotten to pack a pen with me down to the beach with my little notebook. It was also a beautiful morning, full of graceful offshore breezes as the Santa Ana devil winds had abated. I wanted to run down the tide berm run into the water high stepping the expelling waves and dive under a thin lipped curl held up by a breeze, waiting for me. The water was cold and the cold bees stung the skin and I sprinted and dove and swam out past the break, all seven deadly sins flying off from the cold and sudden exercise. Outside the break I stopped and treaded water and turned to watch the beach from the water and suddenly remembered the little notebook Sylvie had given me, which was in the pocket of my swim trunks, soaking wet. Uh, oh, I said to myself and any fishes nearby, an eighth deadly sin.

“Dear Diary,” is episode 64 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

A Demon Wind

Up early, Sylvie off with quick cup to her conference, and I down to the sea in flip flops and swim trunks, beach towel tied around my waist, sweatshirt and an offshore breeze on my back, the beginning of a seasonal Santa Ana wind, air hot and dry and devilish flowing down hills and through canyons, the desert and basin air we’d just driven through now following us, blowing through the beach cities and across the beaches and out over the waters. Superstitious, noir ideas whirled around in these winds, some often true, said to increase anxieties, stoke wild fears and wildfires, redress phobias, reduce inhibitions, pull the Hyde out of the Jekyll. So I was not surprised when I spotted what appeared to be Cagetan’s van parked aside the beach frontage road. I walked up to the van: it was his, the curtains drawn, he was probably in there sleeping, and I banged on the side door. Nothing stirred. I walked on, beachcombing down at the tide line, circled around at Dog Beach and walked up to Smiley Lagoon, heading back now toward the bungalow. When I came near Cagetan’s van again, there he was, climbing out and stretching in the wind, his long hair blowing like beach grass. I stopped and watched him watching a few California brown pelicans diving into the water just outside the surf break. And still I was not surprised when I saw Sot now climb out of Cagetan’s van, followed by a squall of Santa Ana wind shaking the van, and I spread my legs to anchor against the gust, Beelzebub himself now spitting dryly, and I turned sharply down an alley and hurried into the wind away from the beach, deciding all at once against a Cagetan and Sot reunion.

“A Demon Wind” is episode 63 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

The Yachts

Before not long at all, Cajetan got caught in the capture spiral of the fancy riggings of yacht harbor life, seduced by marine varnish and well groomed boats, afternoon Long Island iced teas sipped on a securely docked deck, and untouchable ship’s daughters yearning, not to mention, to hear him tell it, a few ship’s mothers in the bounty. That some best man would certainly unceremoniously cut him adrift should his sycophant stowaway piracies be discovered only seemed to quicken his thirst to drink straight from the yacht hoses – the blower, the bilge, the drain line. He quickly promoted from cleaning boats to supervising the cleaning of boats, and with barely a month’s experience casting about the harbor for starlight opportunities, he started up his own hull cleaning diving company, a one man show, a startup enterprise he was keen to offer me a partnership in as he planned the floating of an initial public offering. All he needed was a bit more capital. I rushed to assure him he had no idea how moody a harbor could be, how skillfully the owners could cast him from dockside to a dirty ocean while they continued to hop yacht to yacht rarely if ever testing their prows against the same seas he grew up in. I told him his two weeks before the mast seemed to have netted him little more than more want, and he’d end up walking some endless plank of broken dreams if he did not soon “heel to his own keel.”

“The Yachts” is episode 39 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

Postcard from Sylvie

I wandered over to the post office at Fort MacArthur to check General Delivery and found I had a postcard from Sylvie: Hi, G! With team in Japan 3rd day of 9 day whirlwind tour with 3 game series at the Hiroshima Stadium vs the Carp. Visited the Peace Memorial yesterday. Very sober. Team in good shape, but lost first game to Carp, 5 to 3. Got 6 ok innings out of starter Bell, who gave up 3 runs on 2 walks and a double in the third then a solo homer in the 5th, then bunt, stolen base, and walk off double off reliever Potts by Carp in bottom of 9th. Heading out to ballpark now for some publicity interviews, pics, etc. Hope all’s well w you! Love, Sylvie. Continued walk and from the views around Fort MacArthur I took in the ocean, thinking of the possibility of a neutrino like trip through the waves and I’d instantly be able to join Sylvie at the ballpark and take in the game in Japan with some salty peanuts and a couple of beers and maybe a sushi and rice bento. Instead, I found my way over to the harbor and walked down a ramp to check out the yachts, and there I found Cajetan who had found a job cleaning boats. We agreed to meet up for a beer later on the Rooftop. I walked back to Hotel Julian and pinned Sylvie’s postcard to the wall by the side of my bed, with the pic of the Peace Memorial facing out, and fell asleep and dreamed of meetings and presentations and trips up and down the West Coast thwarted by failed connections, ticketing issues, floods, and train wrecks, roads rising and falling like waves.

“Postcard from Sylvie” is episode 38 of Inventories
a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.
(Click link for continuous, one page view of all episodes.)

Note: With episode 30, the title of the novel was changed
from the original working title of “Ball Lightning” to Inventories.

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

Ocean Crag

“Ocean Crag” pictured in stages. Oil on canvas, 16″ by 20.”

“Loomings”

“Loomings” is the title given this now completed painting, shown below in various work in progress stages. The piece is 24″ x 36″ x 1&1/2″. For the first time, I used Lukas BerlinWater Mixable Oil Colour” paints. I did not mix in any water. Though I have wall-hung the painting, the paint is still wet, but not dripping wet. It will take up to a year to completely dry, as discussed in the info. pdf linked above. I like the paints. Will experiment with mixing with water next time. The canvas stretched on wood frame was purchased used for $5 at a garage sale last summer. The black showing through, mostly around the edges, is from the original painting, which I mostly covered over, beginning with a squeegee wash of titanium white acrylic. “Loomings” is the title of Chapter One of Melville’s “Moby Dick.” An alternate title I had considered was “Sailboat with Umbrella.” But that seemed too specific. One wishes not to disambiguate one’s paintings no more than one’s poetry.

“end tatters” 1st Review, and a Cover Revision

The first review of “end tatters” is in, received via cell phone text:

“Finished End Tatters; especially liked About Confusion, Bells, and To Surf, which I hope to do this morning. Milk made me very sad. Waiting for your next novel. Alma and Penina my favorites.”

To drive down, stop, and check out surf spots at the end of a beach town road is part of surfing. A second text from our first reviewer came in that evening, with a couple of pics and a note that he had made it into some waves:

Meantime, still not entirely satisfied with the “end tatters” cover (having already made several changes pre-publication), I made a post-publication cover revision. Copies sold with the blue back cover are now considered to have some increased value for collectors. New cover photos below:

Original back cover shown below:

Go here to order your copy. Write a review and send it to thecomingofthetoads @ gmail dot com, and I’ll post it to the blog.