Sunday, December 23, 2012

Los Oxidados

Shooting pool in a dirt floor cantina
“Mucho calor”             yeah, weather’s hot, amigo
Dogs wandering in & out of the place
          (they have a little Baja all their own)
Back in the car we take off with the windows rolled down
so that the heat off the blacktop can blast through us
Are those band-aids on the crushed bumper of that ’84
Chevy compact?
It rattles & spews dark clouds of smoke
                              into the deep blue Mexican air
Mariachis taking a break at the Tecate Six in Pescadero
Federales hanging out at the corner
Turn left off the highway onto a dirt road
bounce along through agricultural land
peppers, avocados                palm trees
                                    veer right at the thrashed VW van
& roll on out to the beach . . .
Standing in the shorebreak                intense undertow but
                                                               the waves are clean
We are as the haze
              ignited by the setting sun

Shelley must have lived like this on the Mediterranean
only the waves weren’t as good

This was one of many poems written during
a trip to Baja in 2006.  I think I should change
my name to Kevin Oxidados.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Thursday, December 20, 2012

Juan Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest

The birth of oceans exposed by winter
   breathing the tropical ambience on Beach Street
A day of hollow music & indecision
   inside the windy ruins of our
once & future resolve (Mexico)
   although the swaying palm trees up the ante
with their preconceived notion of fate
   Our dreams hanging like heretics
from the high-tension wires
   & a not-so-simple walk to the liquor store
sets the skate wheels in my head to spinning
   It’s dark in there but I’m feeling like a flashlight
on a moonless night
   the power gone & the rain
sweeping in from the south

Friday, December 14, 2012

Universal Remote

I swung around past the breakwater
but I lost my footing
as one rush bled into another
& I was sure I’d reach you
            the way the vanity of storms at sunset
                                    reach for the pulse of the tide
                        when the pavement dives
                                                beneath the sand
& all I can offer you is the blurry neon
outside the taqueria
                                    the evening mist
                        settling in for the long haul
your errant passion my autographed copy
of the sky over El Segundo
            & palm trees anchored in the fog
                                    like shadows that scratch your name into
                        smoked glass rippling just beyond the point
the feathered breeze falling over damp colors
            the strings tuned according to some obscure
theory of harmony as your eyelids cultivate
a moonlit emotion
                                    like the sound of waves
in a eucalyptus grove
20 miles from here

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

365-Day Weekend

One flawless wave
One seagull carving into the wind
One name to sign along the
dotted line of the horizon
already obscured by haze & silver mist
a forgery exacting a price that must be paid
for what I have become
then as now the instant & eventual distance
to dissolve like silk or iron in the fists of dark eyed children
the moist pavement breathing
& 400 miles later a black tar reckoning
on the pier at high noon
with Our Lady of Fatima
& the last stone plugged into the altar
sealed with postage stamps painted with pilot whales
to commemorate the surgical precision of waves
My heart is an underwater bowling alley
spraypainted with Paleozoic graffiti
to explain why the ocean is wet
because “mourning becomes electrum”
& the future can be read in the compression dings
on my surfboard
even when it isn’t raining
The seaweed blossoms
            woven into the green hair of sea nymphs
                        who dream of one-way tickets to
                        Hollywood or Tupelo
are like ransom notes
that got lost in the mail

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Blood Alcohol

A jagged piece of broken glass
left on the beach for the sky to find
like music piped into a hall of mirrors
The watery gate swinging wide open
the rainy bonsai palm trees
the light the air as yet unbruised
was silver sometimes was emerald
but from torn canvas spilling rust
revealed to us the numbers of the heart
arranged as if by chance & so we strike
another match & pour the amber slow
because it is the only dance that you
& I will ever know

Friday, December 7, 2012

One Gun is All You Need

The slow petals of the blood lily
inside the sound of gears grinding
a block from the beach
This is winter time on the coast
I remember walking into a brick wall of rain
in the living room
& she was there with her darkwater pearls
& Mexican silver
her eyes like shattered glass
folded into sand swept by foam
Iron pipes breaking across the reef signaled
that the wind had shifted & I realized
that the veins
on the backs of my hands
resembled a road map of Los Angeles
so I knew then that I’d never be lost

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Return of the Creature

Amazing Grace, where is thy sting
I wasn’t talking to her
I was talking to the
avenging angel
tattooed on her ankle
I said I’d prefer a milkfed steel
tidewater canto
at sunset
& an unobstructed view
It was more like snorting meth
w/Jacques Cousteau
than reciting Sailing to Byzantium
The Tibetan monk you resembled
in profile only
had a crowbar up his sleeve
which is just the thing when your
eyes snap like a rubber band
& the shadow of your heart
wrapped in tinfoil
discovers a new use for gravity
Los Lavalamps
Reinventing the light as it would
seaward reflect
the walls of a tidepool clock
Explanations are
almost always a disappointment
You occupy a shadow
the rain gathering above the beach
That you were there at all
should have been enough
Dreamed of Joanne & Donald
walking in Oaxaca
beneath a sky scorched by
turquoise flames
The light is endless but it doesn’t have anything
to do with us
wherever we walk
holding up our end of Eternity
“Not to be sold east of the San Andreas Fault”
Walking back across the sand
leaving no footprints or trace
that I’d ever been there at all 
Sultans of Swing
Whatever drowned indulgence resigns
the threat of remembering
obvious intentions
the beach road humming like a wire
exhausted all lingering regret
I can only return to the
wavy depths that I never
left in the first place
while those I used to know
& whose company I carried
concede the rhyme
in some other world
too far from mine
with words I might have heard
some other time

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Escape Velocity

The phases of the moon as interpreted
by the tides & the bodies of women
Tonight a luminous blade reflected in your
eyes like the sound of waves
convicted by salt mist as the tide draws back
like a slab of concrete lifted by the shifting sand
I’ve thrown the dice there
certain that the numbers will add up
& the light split by a glance back over your shoulder
just in time to catch Superman swooping down
to snatch Jesus from the cross
You see I’ve timed it perfectly
the way shadows eclipse reflected light
grinding their teeth
& you bend like a spoon to the flame
with kisses as smooth & cool as polished stones

Monday, November 26, 2012

Bring Me the Head of Eddie Vedder

Winter late & early it’s close enough
Pacific rattles against the slanted light
blue turquoise green & tinsel
raw beach concrete
A drowsy numbness pains my sense
these dull opiates I swear they’re getting sharper every day
A little blood after
but more the shade of a rusted sunset
mere human sediment
The girl with the crucified seagull
tattooed on her back
said she knew something I didn’t
She told me where it was but I had to find it myself
My skull packed with wet sand
pure as the driven foam

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Be My Guest

Somewhere walking we’re thinking the same thing
so there’s no need to mention it
The Calypso of Eucalyptus the ocean in her hair
all nickels & dimes raining down          purely an observation
& a sound lifted from a decidedly more green-colored
silver rescued from an underwater train wreck

The title (in paraphrase) should read:
To the Revolutionary Cadres of Big Sur, Morro Bay,
Gaviota, and Oxnard Shores (or, Sometimes a Great Ocean)

Long shadows falling across the tone arm we’ll just have to 
haul it all back the next day 
the parts you remember & the parts you forgot
The butterfly valve is a little sticky tap the pedal turn the key

She said The Odyssey is just the story of
Odysseus’ night out with the boys

How many times does it take to get that act down right?

The westward advance of European Civilization stopped at the
San Andrea Fault & so we have had to learn to roll our own here
in pages torn from the tide book soaked in gasoline

Friday, November 23, 2012


The process of dreams without language
to bridge them from the reef to the shore
reflecting stones like clouds etched in glass
& something generic like a rainy day
the phone lines down, the wet pavement
too much like the sky
Waves groom the sand the rocks precisely placed
by tides & time
untouched by human hands
palm trees sliding into view, with bells or
harmonicas scratching deep inside expoding lungs
the snap & shuffle of an ordinary deck of cards
These are the sounds that hold the morning together
bending in the wind against the light
like funhouse mirrors under water

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Some Might Say

“The Buddha’s Dharma is not to be given up
to mere human sentiments”
stagelit streets descending
as in Tangier, or Todos Santos,
or an Albuquerque by the sea
with Jesus Christ riding across the beach
on a crocodile
although he looked more like Keith Richards to me
Meanwhile a sky littered with clouds
at sunset
with vinyl upholstery & tinted windows
transports me to Ryoan-ji
via iambic pentameter
& the Tijuana Sloughs
One step in any direction & everything is changed
(a pattern of damp footprints
suggesting the diagram of
some kind of suicide mambo
but without the music it’s hard to tell

Monday, November 19, 2012

The String Section

I am the servant of a past that
has yet to catch up with me
A thousand books & the sand gravel combed into
wave patterns between stones
Something I heard about Japanese grammar?
the spacing itself is persuasive enough
anybody’s problem

(iron fish.  whalebone hammer.
Thomas Pynchon.  a kind of bird.)

Reading by the light of the plasma screen
doesn’t rule out candles
Some Words For Joanne Elizabeth Kyger:
feathers         clench            torrential
baleen            shreds            encumber
crepuscular Vermeer albacore bottlecaps
antediluvian puddles                     
flesh on the bone
water on the brain
                                         Nov. 19, 2012
                                         JEK’s birthday

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Sand in the Vaseline

I think it was a Tuesday, I had to buy some bread
            that is I had to buy a plastic bag with air & bread inside
Ocean to Broadway up Front Street & back

            Sky the color of a sea-stone
            drawn with blue-green T’ang Dynasty crayons

Water beneath the ocean
for the sea urchin, for the abalone,
for the suicide’s bath
not to mention the remorseless passion I’m attempting to
skate through
SUFFERING                         because I want to?
There’s no other reasonable explanation
Cobbled stones, tangled seaweed, tortured beach cypress, wherever
summon the tides & the flames together
& I’m still right here
            I can feel the concrete beneath my sneakers
            as I watch my shadow skipping
                                                to keep in step

the sky & the streets                like me
slanting down into the sea

Friday, November 16, 2012

Radio Remix

The dripping fog greets another morning here in
Santa Cruz
                        although it could just as well be Papua, New Guinea
for all I know
                        The sun a pale neon memory submerged
in surging green-dark water
                                                I’ve seen flames the very same color
burning up out of the wet sand
            cormorants in their feathered robes huddled on the rocks
above tidepools edged in rust & Mexican turquoise

The clawhammer guitar curving against the wind
plays the tune you thought only you knew

            the music & commentary piped in through
speakers nailed to the graywhite sky

I may have been reaching out to you with two or more hands
at that very moment
                                    like a riddle that can only be told in Sanskrit
as 3, no check that, 4
                                    pelicans flying in formation
glide in low over the surf
                                                & disappear into the fog

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Later, Voyager

The kelp grove
                        just this side of the reef
            is swaying between tides

                        & deeper sometimes
            I can hear their leaves
                                    rattling beneath the waves

            & late at night

                        shaking off bubbles that
            sink to the ocean floor
                                    like a formal invitation
                        to death by drowning

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Against the Current

You were balancing a bubble
on the edge of a feather
& I was re-enacting the
history of every ocean
as inscribed on a blade of sand
yet I could never understand the footwork
nor the Telluric currents thrown
against the tumbling mist
offering you this half empty cup
just so you’ll have something to think about
At dawn we contemplate the smoked glass
& the seagulls
            slicing through the air as we stare out
at the ocean
                        China is out there
                                    on the other side
with red tassles dancing in the wind

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Reaction Time

She never speaks his name
afraid of what it might mean

The haze of smog that lingers in her veins
makes her feel as though she is dragging a wing
through a sky of crushed glass

& so she receeds into degrees of
silence that are humming
like a tuning fork

held against her spine

Friday, November 2, 2012

Slipping the Glimpse

I’d rather be lying in the sand
on an empty beach in Baja right now
as you do your best Ava Gardner imitation
(Night of the Iguana) beneath a sky
neither of us recognize
but I’m here
listening to dry leaves rattle like empty beer cans
a sound similar to the waves rushing in like a herd of silver ponies
sounds… in advance of a cold breeze off the water
that has knives in it
& a heart-shaped moment later you
lift your head & ask “What did you just say?”
You see I’ve made these careful drawings of your tattoos
I can’t show them to you because they are mine now
& this is how I will love you
True romance is like torching the pier
while half-dressed women painted the color of water
lick their lips
sealing our fate

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Whatever You Say

I could swim thru all that you spill
and still not make it there in time
yr eyes changing color with the sky
“a seduction of light”
Later in the morning the rocks at the
north of the cove will be underwater
& a clean right-break will peel in around the point
You hand me a string of pearls
& a Buddhist road map
“I prefer the scenic route”
seaweed cigarettes at dawn
Bela Lugosi in Island of Lost Souls
Morphine Like Swimming
& the cracked pavement of my native land
I dreamed of a nun weeping at the ticket window
(these things need to be sorted out in the morning)
a light seduction, black and blonde sand, the wet sidewalk
reflectng all of this & neither of us have come this far
to turn back now
At this angle, & in this light, it looks as though there are
sparks flying off the edge of the waves
the sun just rising, the sky still dark

Sunday, October 28, 2012

FALL FOR YOU by Todd McCarty

This is poet Todd McCarty’s first published collection, & it is a blast.  The poems are very tight, tough, and somehow transcendent.  Deftly negotiating unexpected hairpin turns as they skid from humor to tenderness to simple awestruck wonder, these lyrics confidently claim that rare place between language & thought, as poetry should.  Dig the music & the measure, as the strange, the familiar, & the inevitable collide, bouncing off each other in ways you never thought possible.
Do yourself a favor & get a copy from Blue Press today.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Shipped by Mule from Slovakia

Too late to change languages.
That look in your eye
never so near as when you’re far away.
Something quieter, perhaps darker, turns inward
& dissolves in the pale light leaking from a sky of
tarnished silver. 
But I can wait.
Sometimes the wind in the eucalyptus
is the way the dead talk to us.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Just About Time

The Way the Story Goes
I planted nasturtiums everywhere I ever lived
over the years so that I’ve left
a trail of nasturtiums
behind me
in case I ever want to find my way back
Lost & Found
You will always find whatever you’re looking for
although it won’t always be what you thought it would
It took me over 20 years to figure out that the chord changes of
Art Pepper’s signature bop tune “Straight Life” are based upon
“After You’ve Gone”.  I suppose I could have asked someone but
discovering it on my own after so much time was
a magic mainline shot of adrenaline
& you get addicted to those kinds of moments
After You’ve Gone
Watching wet foot
prints evaporate
on the sun
bleached pavement

Friday, October 19, 2012

Wet sand from here to forever

It’s morning & it’s kind of raining outside
& x-number of gulls like
hours, moments, dreams, are picking up speed
& putting it down again (you
know & I know) the tempo of the dharma
is not always so easy to dance to
The Temple of the Drama used to be up at
Stinson Beach, it was made out of drift-
wood & sand & rusty pieces of metal if I remember right
let the molecules work it out among themselves
I used to think it was all about the journey
but right now I don’t seem to be going anywhere
I had bent my soul with empty waves, water density,
intervals, satellite photos, weather charts,
the tides, “The Poems” & you
& I still couldn’t tell you where I’ve been or what I saw
feels like I’ve spent the past few years underwater
Fall thru the mirror
slick back my eyes
nod out
listen to the Songs of the Whales
in stereo
as played by Iggy & the Stooges
write a 900 line suicide note in heroic couplets
watch a Johnny Weissmuller Tarzan movie
check to see how much time is left
wonder what happened to all of my Sub-Mariner comic books
recite the Lankavatara Sutra
count the bubbles
roll the dice

Thursday, October 18, 2012

We Must Be Halfway There By Now

in the middle of the night
in the middle of a day
in the middle of the afternoon
in the middle of breakfast
in the middle of a wave
in the middle of the ocean
in the middle of a movie
in the middle of a poem
in the middle of fucking
on a bed of nails
in the middle of a dream
in the middle of the street
in the middle of a walk on the beach
in the middle of telling you something
I never told anyone else before
in the middle of the next-to-last beer
in the middle of nowhere

Monday, October 15, 2012


A chunk of concrete streaked with rust
rotting on the beach                   the other side        among the dancers
white knuckles & black leaves & waves breaking
sounds through us       & back
taking its time
                              THIS is a dark place full of sunlight
carbonated eyes & the stolen taco wagon
         I thought that when you said  “mass consumption”
         you were talking about an epidemic of tuberculosis
more sleek less transparent
boiling ocean poppies
the name of the morning sky