The Hottest Day

Looking about for something cool to read,
for today is scheduled to be the hottest day,
and I recalled Hermann Hesse’s “Siddhartha,”
its beginning lines:

“In the shade of the house, in the sunshine of the riverbank near the boats, in the shade of the Sal-wood forest, in the shade of the fig tree is where Siddhartha grew up, the handsome son of the Brahman, the young falcon, together with his friend Govinda, son of a Brahman. The sun tanned his light shoulders by the banks of the river when bathing, performing the sacred ablutions, the sacred offerings. In the mango grove, shade poured into his black eyes, when playing as a boy, when his mother sang, when the sacred offerings were made, when his father, the scholar, taught him, when the wise men talked.”

Siddhartha, Hermann Hesse, 1922

Sounds cool, but Siddhartha,
as we now know,
had a long row to hoe
before attaining coolness.

Siddhartha might have been a member
of what Gertrude Stein named
“a lost generation”:

“One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh; but the earth abideth forever… The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to the place where he arose… The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits…. All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.”

Ecclesiastes, King James Version

The wise men in my youth
would have near
a cool drinking beer
to go with the flow.

Honeydew beach
and rollicking surf
in the morning
chores in the afternoon
sit out with the family
in the evening
when the sun goes down
in the shade of the olive
tree, the Chinese Elm
and the three carob trees.

Meanwhile, waiting for rain,
Walt Whitman:

And who art thou? said I to the soft-falling shower,
Which, strange to tell, gave me an answer, as here translated:
I am the Poem of Earth, said the voice of the rain,
Eternal I rise impalpable out of the land and the bottomless sea,
Upward to heaven, whence, vaguely form’d, altogether changed,
and yet the same,
I descend to lave the drouths, atomies, dust-layers of the globe,
And all that in them without me were seeds only, latent, unborn;
And forever, by day and night, I give back life to my own
origin, and make pure and beautify it;
(For song, issuing from its birth-place, after fulfilment, wandering,
Reck’d or unreck’d. duly with love returns.)

The Voice of the Rain, “Sands at Seventy,” Walt Whitman

Of course, “the voice of the rain” in places today
is not so quiet and “soft-falling,”
but seems on the attack;
something absurd
has been disturbed.

Likewise, the blue sky
and this week’s yellow period
we for months awaited
comes down today
like a cast iron lid
where we sit
like a cake
rising
in an oven.

It’s Only a Paper Moon

The astronauts cardboard cutouts suspended
by gossamer string theory, the Space Station
an elaborate Tinkertoy. Night comes when
you turn their backs to the sun, day when
they face the solar wind, wait for a swell,
come about, and paddle into a soft shoulder
breaking away from a night full of mind
fulness, full of white paper plates skipping
across the space of the waters, rising
with the trough, riding the crest
parallel to the edge of the universe
so going nowhere in time or space
(for the time being)
and paddle back out to the firmament
of no land, no waters, no herb or grass
of any kind, only a dead moon
giving light to the night below,
a lesser light, in which the humans
hold hands, dance in circles, sing songs,
and paint shadows on their walls.

Now I Out Walking

Somewhere between my time travel stay at Tin Can Beach and being abandoned by Tilde in the Venice canals, I’d lost my cell phone. I had not missed it because no one ever calls me, nor did I ever call them. Occasionally I got a text from Sylvie giving me the score of some obscure baseball game. And I also sometimes spaced out playing any number of chess puzzles in an app I’d downloaded. But my use of the cell phone was sporadic, and most of the time I didn’t bother leaving the phone on. Walking away from Tilde’s folks’ place on the canal I thought of calling Wormy, but I couldn’t find my phone. I figured he was probably off time travelling on the Vespa anyway, and wouldn’t pick up. I crossed Speedway, continued north on Ocean Front, and cut over to the Boardwalk at Muscle Beach. North of the Venice Breakwater, where the beach is wider, deeper, I walked down to the water. I dropped my kit just above the water line and stripped down to my swimming trunks and walked out into the surf, close enough to keep an eye on my stuff up on the beach, far enough out to get a good washing. I slipped off my trunks and scrubbed them in the sandy salty foam, keeping just my head and shoulders out of the water. The trunks nearly got away from me in the surf. The beach was not crowded. I got the trunks back on and dove under a few small waves and swam out just beyond the break, turning and treading water, looking back at the beach, up and down the coast, out to sea, thinking about my trophic level in the food chains, walking about, in the water, up on the beach, in the Walter Group, in the Army, in the Church, in the library, in schools, on the streets, walking through the Los Angeles Basin with the hobos tramps and bums, with the blue pink and white collar workers, rich and poor sick and skaters bikers surfers and hodads, police preachers thieves detectives buskers, moms dads and kids, dogs cats coyotes racoons rats mice pigeons and opossums, work shifts, job gigs, sleeping on the beach, hiking up through the canyons, onto the Santa Monica Mountain trails, hiking through downtown, sleeping under an overpass, the traffic sound ongoing like the surf, day and night, night and day.

“Now I Out Walking” is episode 55 of Inventories, a Novel in Progress in Serial Format at The Coming of the Toads.

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