Upstairs springs are squeaking. I have been listening for some time here below, while the overhead affair reflects another kind of windows, moon, and snow. Their springs go so rapidly, the bed must be made of iron, pounding, pounding, pounding my overhead floor, her gentle moanings embarrassing my silence. Finally, their springs stop, and immediately afterwards, heavy feet and light feet move across the upstairs floor, toward the moonlit windows, these windows here below, my unavoidable listening, two moons quite confused. Faucets are running now. Something drops like soap. She gently blows her nose. There's the sound of boots. A door is opening. The light feet are not the ones leaving. They are still near, waiting as they will be forever, caught, barely changing their bewildered positions. Perhaps she glances toward the moon, perhaps she knows, standing there, about infinite aloneness, about loss and final goodbyes. Perhaps she will someday soon descend those winding stairs and ask some gentle question, about this awful weather, when will Spring be coming or will the lilacs bloom this year? I know the way of her hair, the color it turns and rolls over her shoulders, the warm markings across the glass, her eyes watching a desolate moon.
Flea On a Towel
He doesn’t seem angry, only overwhelmed with the vastness of the white, the spacious place, as he crawls back and forth, no doubt trying to find the edge so as to escape the creases in the cloth, maybe to find food or other fleas, companionship in a world for which he didn’t ask.
He probably doesn’t even sense how he got in such a place, even if other towels exist, even if other fleas have been where he is. No doubt he would welcome another flea, even for a moment to communicate his predicament, privately, a sort of flea to flea. It would no doubt be too much to think he senses the futility of his journey, the infinity of it, that life for him is so very brief ….
He probably doesn’t have even the slightest inclination someone is watching him, letting him try to find his way, not smashing him, however … rather indifferently. But he’s not about to quit or rest, until he takes his last breath ….
The white cloth must be daunting, though, an endless barrier of white, the white towel of his small world, on which he crawls for his life, searching for what can’t be found, an exit moving always further and further away, an invisible door, with not even a crumb of hope, and worse, he probably doesn’t have a clue how little he matters ….
FromTheTybee Island Lighthouse
At the top the light goes round and round. At the bottom, there is no light at all. I can never go back down, but I wish the stairs were not spiraled so. They go round and round, and the night becomes a few dim consolations, scattered over glass. Each time the light goes past, it turns my face and other people and places into a circle of thin constellations.
After the white light there’s the blue light, and after that, there’s nothing. The pavilion and the ocean liner go on just as they did before, waiting for someone else to discover them. The slim girl, thinking about nothing, keeps on swimming out to sea, my son curled about her heart. The light, the light that searches for the bottom, does not replace the dark.
It almost puts one to sleep, the turning and turning. I never REALLY see anything except the ocean liner moving slowly across the horizon, the slim girl swimming and swimming. I hear the sounds, the indecipherable sounds inside, down the stairwell, and I listen. I listen to the dark, where the center always breaks, and nothing ever really keeps.
I thought there would be others at the top. I thought the slim girl could come along too. I do not know what I sought up here, the lights having scattered so, and all my pages turned to glass. And the old folks along the shore, who have never seen the ruined castles in Spain, think everything would change if their only son would only come down to shore again.
Long ago this was Indian hallowed ground, when the air was clean and water was free. This is a place few are brave enough to go. At times not even the mind or wind moves, disturbingly opaque, like ice across lakes, hard against the sky, curious tourists come to casinos and to view hurricane remains. Toys and linens still hang from broken oaks, houses rest on top of cars, cemented slabs replaced, cracked sidewalks, weeds creep. Yet, one man, one-armed, completely alone, ascends a telephone pole and rain to mend my wires, as some turn their backs or burn my flag, while some accept the sunless sky.
II No secret passages, discreet messages here. It’s bleak as the internal sounds that keep a warrior awake, when nearby twigs break. True Americans come with food and love, and some meet their tailors, as their jets set. There is a death without hope here abouts, a kind only the few have courage to face. Some may be laughing purely from the grave, or say history sways like scotch on the rocks, maybe so simple as seeing life in blue rain. Rain like blue ice… the police are ruthless, as scavengers sell gifts to starving men. There is a time and place no one should miss, saints crave, when one’s soul braves the dark.
III After all, it’s how we react to life’s tragedies that matters, as alone in windblown orchards word musicians fashion their arid splendors. Among the waste some are firm and overcome the beast, when soup lines appear to be feasts. Even scenic drive is a long, silent desolation, not one marker, save that vast, worn ocean, where wood and debris, like wayward women, raise their heads, unphased to their extinction. This is a place where bodies are still found, where broken limbs, deserted streets confirm the courage of despair, a city’s lifelessness. Many pilgrims come here, some leave in fear they too one day may be without food or home.
IV For months it has been a forsaken sanctum, not even a sound from those nearby trees, just mortuaries of faded, ragged greens. The owl is gone, the doe, the bluebirds too, as if nothing were out and nothing within. Yet, one candle lights a room of darkness. Nothing’s worse… to be alone in darkness. Someone says the bodies trembled at death, others welcome the tides of catastrophes, while one continues to cultivate his vineyard, another dances, welcomes a second chance. This is where highways and gutters meet, as the moon hides behind clouds and blue rain. We move around ourselves to another’s pain.
V Our native Indians had it right, earth and light, and Bayou de Portage still flows from the sea, where dolphins and pelicans make their runs, each in magnificent flight, ways to survive, like fish that swim deep to find their own niche. Neither youth nor age is great for every wine, but lies to ourselves defy our peace every time. This blue phenomenon over the razor’s edge and the shotgun blast into the twilight zone leave a mess, like flying through hotel windows, the glass, wondering where gentle pigeons go, as if there ever was an end to self-inflicted pain. Our native Indians with their valor are still here. We hear drums as we plant corn and plums.
VI To blend into the landscape, that’s it … at dusk with blistered hands from planting in fertile fields, back to the green fuse and the swaying of palms, man has never been right since he made machines. The comforts of conveniences clutter his mind, and paradise sprawls with suntans, August heat, and yachters sell romance, one million per dance. Once there was a seaman who cursed his God, then became the ghost for restless discontents. So when Bayou de Portage ends way down stream, and all my clever schemes have led to the grave,
say prayers, my name, and burn my rags for an urn.
When that sea rises, blasts Pass Christian again, throw my ashes at sea so I sail the oceans eternally.
After The Storm
The postman says he will discontinue the mail if the tree limbs are not cut.
After the storm, gladiolas and morning glories cling to a dying oak.
Sparrows and seagulls feed on crumbs leftover by drunken seamen.
The ocean liner is still moving slowly across the bleak horizon.
Without saying goodbye, the slim girl is still swimming and swimming.
Pages of old books turn with their marginal marks, searching for answers.
Here on Tybee Island tangled grape vines strangle maples and willows.
The channel markers and beacons are all gone, but this salty seawall remains.
The broken screens of these beach house windows survive the malcontent sea.
Lean white hounds wait near old railroad tracks for the lights beyond the darks.
Fog horns sound up and down the Savannah River through the damp, dark nights.
If you ever come back, don’t try to revive the willows. We could … plant a few small palms.
(The roses are still there, the candle we did not burn, the bed we did not remake, the rivers we did not run.)
This –- is a broken shell in a sea of weeds, and there’s our walkway in the dark. I search the streets nights wondering where you are or watch planes coming in, remembering Chicago’s Lake and vendors on Wells Street. So, what if we didn’t cross the bridge El Conquistador? (Does man really have his own strings to pull?) We stood at the entrance of fireplace and water, calculating what we had to lose, mine a domestic dilemma, yours a bit of comfort, friends and respectabilities. If we had not met, the world would blame ME for dying. We’ll not see the windows become white, you and I, together against the night. You’ll slumber into other arms, I’ll go off to make another sunset, clouds, and discover another city, another street. The most difficult thing to remove won’t be the roses. I knew They would perish, but where you sat and turned, the way you removed your shoes will not be so easy. Well…, everybody deserves at least … one … disaster.
The Duck Girl Of New Orleans*
(for Giulietta Masina, Fellini’s Gelsomina)
She was never part of the script, from side streets
as in La Strada, wearing an old hat, evening dress
entirely too long, in high heels that didn’t quite fit,
pink ribbons around her wrists and waist, singing
or mumbling to herself, dwarfish and inexplicable,
though not so unlike the young girl in La Dolce Vita.
From Pat O’Brian’s and La Casa’s, we toasted her,
we toasted Roland, Eben Flood, Prufrock’s burdens,
as if our raison d’êtreswere to sing ghostly streets,
menageries of loss in mirrors of Le Moulin Rouge,
always slightly inebriated, in the neon wilderness,
whispering lovable lies no less than Fra Lippo Lippi.
The ducks followed her in a marvelous procession,
her quacking choir, entourage of Orleanian indigoes.
Not once did she ever glance aside toward us, our
poetic proposals, serenades in blue, even when we
stopped traffic and followed her down Royal Street,
as now después tener en cada puerto un amor.
We come after nuptial plumages, thirty years later
back from the dark abyss, hole that has no bottom,
searching for her, with our fortuitous lives, dressed
in tuxedoes, smoking our cigars, inhaling our rings
of regrets, but La Casa del Marinero, Gunga Din
have gone, and Pat O’Brian’s fountain is not the same.
We toast the evening at dusk, as the dark comes on,
discuss old men and the sea, the causalities of flesh
near The House of Ursuline, then notice a small figure
from the North, Dauphine Street, white and angelic,
graceful as if she were on ice, gliding with the ease
of Olympian goddesses, with lovely lilacs in her hair.
We are still the princes of allusions, imaginary airs,
but we manage to approach and ask about her ducks.
Her eyes wander off, then back to mine, as if she sees
two of me, as if she almost remembers, or perhaps
to touch Earth one final time. “One day,” she says,
her eyes fixed in mine, “they just stopped following.”
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