Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Among the Windchimes

I was thinking that I would call you
around 4 o’clock but you died between 1 and 2
that same afternoon.
Sandra called me with the news.
Both of us unable to choke back the tears.
A light ocean breeze came in through the screen
door & I thought I heard windchimes, but
they were out on the patio at 2319 Louella Ave in Venice
in 1971. Dad was having a
smoke & you were laughing at my Don Ho imitation.

I had just seen you 3 weeks earlier,
a Christmas visit. You were so frail, had been sick since Thanksgiving.
I told Pamela I thought that this may be the last
Christmas with you as we drove past Rincon the
sunlight glittering on the water.

Talked to you on the phone shortly thereafter,
your voice weak. I told you to get better, because
I was going to take you out dancing on your 87th birthday.
We were going to “cut a rug”.

The hummingbird visited the feeder in your backyard
but it was empty. The house was full of family–
my brother & my sisters, nieces & nephews,
your grandchildren & great-grandchildren.
My heart fell flat as I entered. It was the first time I ever
visited your house without you there to greet me.

I kept my sunglasses on in St. Mark’s Church, the way you
often did when you went grocery shopping. With the shades, the
black suit jacket & skinny black tie I thought I
looked like one of the Reservoir Dogs but Alan said I looked
more like one of the Blues Brothers.

They have new stained glass windows in St. Mark’s.
The plaques representing the stations of the cross are
also new I think. Shadows danced across the altar all
during the service.

You told me once that you used to
talk to me when you were carrying me in utero
before I was born. So now I talk to you
after you’ve died.

I talk to you the way I did that aftrenoon,
out on the patio, among the windchimes,
& we heard a mockingbird singing in the avocado tree,

for Maxine Dorothy Opstedal, 1928-2015

Monday, January 12, 2015

Fringe Elements

The seabreeze played clawhammer banjo in the rain.
I was hoping you hadn’t noticed. Seagulls. Clawhammer. Wind.
Banjos in the rain.

Maybe you know what I mean. Maybe you’ve been there.
Playing Parmenides to my Heraclitus.  A not quite harmonic

Secrets buried beneath the waves.  From Point Dume to Rincon.
Seagulls cutting through the early morning mist.  Sand
scratching the bottom of the bowl.

I saw lights on the water like neon trembling that night
in Chapultepec.  I didn’t want to know what it meant.
Octavio Paz vs. Fu Manchu.

The tide comes in & swamps out the surf.  Drinks were served
out on the veranda.  I preferred the rainpuddles
in the parking lot.

Chinese checkers.  Correspondence.  Empty mind meets empty sky.
The source code of a generation.

Tuesday, January 6, 2015

Three Days Out

Magic fire wheel dragons in the seafoam
like votive candles flickering on the steps
of a Mexican church
the sky all decked out in turquoise & silver
I was feeling as responsible as a Hawaiian cocktail
spilled on the sidewalk at the foot of the pier
“Bone chance” as the Frenchman said
Salt mist leaning against the seawall like
a water damaged copy of the Manchurian Surf Almanac
Seashells in the sand, maybe diamonds
& writswatches…
It was Tuesday morning but felt like Sunday afternoon
Every card in the deck was the Jack of Hearts
& every blade of sand spoke Latin
w/a Japanese accent

Thursday, January 1, 2015

The Way You Look Tonight

We were drinking sparking water
S. Pellegrino
“What’s the ‘S’ stand for?” she asked
“Steve,” I said

& the fog was rolling in
it rose from the beach like Godzilla
& slowly lumbered up Ocean
Street very deliberate

purposeful I thought yet mysterious
& damp I needed a shave
my sneakers were full of sand
the palm trees threw down shadows

the color of Guatemalan jade
We were called here to judge the pageant
although we know nothing of these things
of the two I suppose I’d choose the darker

more obscure version as it provides the
imagination with ample room for error
as if one were to read only the footnotes in
Ovid’s Metamorphoses

cross-referenced w/the way you look tonight

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Motive & Opportunity

Tidal swamp brocade
a tangle of nasturtiums
green leaves chrome yellow
light & stones & trembling
            rushing seafoam whispers
Light swamps brocade
a tangle of whispers
chrome yellow & trembling
            green leaves blossoms
            & stones
Light in the seafoam
tangled chrome
yellow brocade
swamp stones trembling
                         to be sure
          whispering green leaves
          rusted nasturtium blossoms
who knows why petals
tidal wash sand swept beach pavement
now you see it
& now you don’t

Monday, December 15, 2014

Moe Howard in the Underworld

The winter sun tells its own story

The beach sliding beneath the foam & variegated
sparkle of the winter sea tells another

the sound of waves crashing in a bottlecap
for example
         flickering neon behind scarred glass
                  a nun weeping at the ticket window…

Souls out of Erebus or Bakersfield
or any given night on Hollywood Blvd
stagger into the spotlight
led by one who is little more than a shadow
sketched in a mirror
armed with a seltzer bottle, a lead pipe,
& a Beatles haircut

Those sledgehammer eyes glaring beneath
         thunderous eyebrows in that dark place
                  & the spiked kool-aid reflecting all of this
                           like wet sand at low tide
carefully folded like a piece of concrete
& kept close to your heart
that we may learn the steps & the consequence 

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Some Might Say

A rain heavy sky
dark, mid-morning, winter
preempted by Bela Lugosi in Island of Lost Souls
Morphine Like Swimming
& a black stocking mask that reveals more than it hides

A sky heavy w/rain
I heard someone say it could have been the time of day
or maybe it was just the terza rima that everyone seems to speak
in my dreams

Heavy rain sky
I’d like some magic at this point
nothing special just the everyday run-of-the-mill type magic
& a safe dry place to put it when its done

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Chinese Take-Out

It was like leaded glass out there
when I got back I couldn’t hear out of my right ear
         & yet I was so captivated by your
         hesitation & the way the wind dropped to its knees
                  in how shall I say it “awe”

I did my Dude the Obscure routine & she lit another cigarette
dueling saxophones & a big Chevy V8
providing the soundtrack
dark notes & the remedy “on the cuff” they say
         but they never mean it that way
                  shuffled in as it is with all of the other small
sufferings of the heart & such
         only tends to make one feel stupid & why not

We’ll sit out on the pier pretending we don’t
know each other & we’ll count the stars
There aren’t as many as there once were so it won’t take long

Friday, December 5, 2014

Channel Nine

Dragons in the clouds
I know how they got there but I can’t tell you

To sink or to swim
it’s an interesting question but I’d just as soon sit back
& see what happens

Nine seagulls in a loose formation flying back to the beach
means the rain will be stopping soon
The sun
light slips
in be-                                      What time is it?
neath the
On, out, & over,
over the edge, & back,
under, I’m just asking, & caving in like the Upanishads on a
Tuesday morning after, not necessarily tangled in seaweed,
the deep white blue haze fades into snake games on the side-
walk, which was to be expected, given the way you said it, I’ll
say, & saying it over again just to make sure I got it right, I
wrote it all down, backwards…
Helicopters were called in to
investigate reports of a floater
out near the end of the jetty