FROM THE CYCLE OF CHAPBOOKS #2
STANDING JUST OFF STAGE -
SOME SCENES FROM THE PURELAND OF THE VOLCANOES
A CHAPBOOK OF SOME SAMPLE POEMS
from the Poetry Cycle In the Floodplane of the Volcano
THE END OF THE WORLD IS ALWAYS WITH US
• What is it?
It is a toddler on daddy's lap
allowed to sip his coffee?
It is the silver thread of a bomber's curve
across the sky?
It is a girl touching her lover's nose
as he begins to snore?
It is an old man putting a pill on his tongue
when his chest hurts?
It is all these things and all things.
All things small yet infinite.
THE TABLE AND ITS TRIBE
[To be sung at the December Solstice supper]
Poets all! I salute our Human MUSE
with a song of a table made holy
by the drinking together of friends!
Like pig hide to the palm, this table is
not green like hey, nor dry like straw,
not dragged in from the market today
to scuff your sleeve with dust of dung
- its boards with age return to timber.
Between the curtain to the kitchen
and latrine alley door
to the right, this table is a welcome guest
- served prompt.
It sits the same place every night.
This table knows the ceiling beams
like an old wife knows her husband's kiss.
Each setting in this inn-house
seats well liked fellows just like this.
Your corner, my friend, has been
rounded by a wench’s hips
each time she rounds the corner
from the kitchen to finish jokes,
to swab the table with her rag
and flaunt her tits for handsome tips.
Raise some spit, then
lick your finger on the tip, then
rub the wood below your hand and
raise your finger to your lips.
Taste that salt? That is the taste
of a Captain’s table, the island route,
sailed by father, sailed by son, sailed
as that route has always been done
[all of equal station],
friend toasts friend since
THE GODS OF THE SECOND GENERATION
as were mentioned by Homer, and by
this port’s garrison sung
embracing plump rural girls
for annual rites -
the excited stamp and choof
of man and beast out in the street!
If this House is like a father, then
this table indeed is also like his Son.
Knowing all the same old prayers, the
two men falling for the same color of hair
and size of bosom!
And as well - the maids and cooks here
sing the songs as sung, the same
famous and infamous poems.
The gravy served at Winter Solstice
was was invented here.
If you mention either
Strangers on the road will know
whence you have come.
This table seats a pride
of young and graybeard lions.
They know they are a tribe
and know they here belong.
The Sabian stars and the constellation
below the horizon
both have heard the famous fame
of this table and the men who
for a while at least
sat there under the eaves
and over the stones
and at the table where
all faces warm with celebration!
Some blue white-hot days the red desert
floor of Alta California would
hum along the chopped lips of the arroyos
with an ancient and Mexican
Santa Ana wind blowing north
hard with passion.
And the tinder and kindling
of the cop beat downs of the Pachucos
lay in the background like the San Gabriel
mountains on the eastern horizon
- full of echoes and scorpions.
And the collapse of Negro hopes
for a Middle Class of black workers in Watts
in the wake of World War II
lay like a landscape of closed supermarkets
surrounded a ghost-town of suburbs
with peeling paint and dead yellow lawns
bringing to mind a circle of wagons,
pale faces shooting out into the rife-smoke
where Ghost Dancers fire arrows back at them.
It was like this in the smog filled LA Basin
all the way from Hollywood Boulevard
down Western to the ocean -
an American dream that looked like our version
of the life lived by a Post-War East German.
I grew up to inherit a white American ‘American Dream’
rattling like the front page of a crispy newspaper
caught by a tumble weed ready for conflagration.
I was a boy and I was a man
with his first car - boy, oh boy!
I was watching the señoritas wading like mermaid Madonnas
out into the ocean in black, one piece, bathing suits
wearing wet white T-shirts to restrain their mighty bosoms.
I was standing barefoot in the spray off the pier.
I was watching bronze skinned white girls in orange bikinis
hopping barefoot through the scalding sand
from the Surf-shop and the beach-walk
to huge beach blankets with picnic baskets.
And I smiled with my brave young body
at the old gray ladies in twos and threes
retired from Ohio and New Jersey
with their hair bleached blue, up in curlers, and
lugging handbags the size dragged by middle European refugees.
And I smiled at young mothers, so pregnant they scared me,
leading small bands of young 'uns
tramping after Mommy devouring hotdogs and cotton-candy.
I stood smiling, facing an ocean
Pacific and as endless as the sky.
I stood, both a boy and a man, in 1967
in Southern California, in a young man's Eden.
And I knew at 17 I was standing
on the beach, at the end of the road
of the great Western migration.
And I knew all those there with me
knew the restlessness of my soul in their soul too…
…the retired cops fishing off the pier,
the winos drinking out of paper bags
who had the thousand-yard stare of a Veteran,
the Japs who had their homesteads taken from them,
the blooming girls in their twos and threes, in their
windblown dresses, who knew they were blossoms,
who knew they were pretty,
all of us knew this same restlessness,
this uneasiness with life's brief beauty.
My heart swelled like the mushroom cloud
over a Pacific atoll over all of them
showering them with the radioactive ashes
of my futile love for them.
For those who dwelled along the 7 and 11
from San Gabriel down to Long Beach,
from El Toro up to Malibu,
I spread the wings
I knew life would
tear from my shoulders.
And as I smiled
I felt like an angel, just knowing them,
all my fellow orphans.
I was a boy, I was a man, I was standing both
at the end of the road and the beginning of freedom.
My eyes opened, aching to have wings enough
to reach out to touch that blue and far horizon.
Most of us have hence flown there.
I know I soon will join them.
Seeing Heaven (for Mark Twain)
the first thing I noticed
was there was a
very few white people in Heaven,
and most of them
were either trimming the hedges
or serving the other folks
the next thing I noticed
was that there were more trees than people in Heaven,
and no one
wore shoes as they wandered about
but shoes would have looked silly
on the naked.
The next thing I noticed
was that no animal lowered its eyes to man
and every man
stepped aside to let the deer pass by
just as fast as he would have
And the last thing I noticed
was as I stepped in
an Angel apologized and explained
part of my Damnation
was to see the Reward of Persecuted Innocents
before joining the kings and rich