For Rod Smith
Bumper sticker on an old fridge door: Friends don't let friends drink
milk. In dream, one can rework the past at one's leisure, as if constructing
a puzzle composed of desire (I'm seducing Ms. Laura Bailey who hasn't
aged one minute in the intervening 33 years). Television replays the
crumpled Mercedes endlessly (at the Super Fresh, by the checkout line,
the Enquirer still blares, page one "Di Goes Sex-Mad:
I Can't Get Enough"). Mood swings like tides in an uncalm sea.
Old plastic jack-o-lantern sits on a shelf. A plate of funnel cake
consumed quickly in the shade of a small tree before the yellow jackets
catch wind of its sweetness (brushing confectionary sugar out of my
beard). Photo of Charles Bernstein as a boy. Waiter leans forward
to pepper my soup. If you live long enough, you'll outlast everyone
you ever loved. Sun barren in the sky. In the crook of the window,
dozens, perhaps hundreds, of daddy-long-legs cling together (pulsing
ball of yarn), hanging on the screen in the dark heat. Impossible
to tell which is the "real" Batman anymore. Saturday's shin
guards. I'm on the edge of waking as I dream one of my five-year-olds
is paddling a small air mattress out into the open bay right into
the path of some tugs, but everyone is staring into the sun glare
to the right where a line of vintage seaplanes is set to start a race
and I'm running to the pier's edge all to conscious of my own poor
swimming as I see the mattress tip and start to role in some wake
and I open my mouth to scream for help only to discover no sound.
Yellow jacket season. Nerf football with a green and orange swirl.
Hi, goofball. Disintermediation of the word (a word is worth a thousand
words). Bean mechanics. Curtain that half hides the first class cabin.
The fading light of day shimmering off the glass high rises, final
night of summer. Joggers staggering at the end of their run. Supply
chain management. Stumbling up against chairs in the dark. Dirt alert.
Net present value. In the dream we're burying a young girl with the
reddest hair, the most peaceful of smiles. Coast barely visible under
thin rim of fog, heading south (the sun to my right), trip I should
have made 33 years ago. Lone flight attendant on commuter jet. The
Eastern Shore. I step from the hotel ballroom just in time to see
two of its employees out beyond an empty bank of phones completing
the unmistakable ritual of a drug deal. Barry Cox, sent to the crematorium
in his tie-dye t-shirt. What then? Thinnest rim of land to segregate
fresh water from salt. The sky colorless but not yet dark. Hammering
on the spacebar to make it work. Till, past sunset though not yet
full dark, all that remains of the Eastern horizon is the faintest
shift in tones, grey upon gray. Tombstone at pond's edge, 32 years
after the fact, Magnolia Cemetery, Charleston, where my father rests.
Young Clint cast-net shrimpin' from the end of the dock. Sulphur butterfly,
pure yellow. An old photograph, unlabeled in an album crisp with age,
Nagasaki after the bomb. Fishin' on credit. Another photo, eight years
later, sailors in the streets of Rapallo. Grackle in the live oak.
Doberman lifts his head, ears alert. In the distance, guns of the
dove hunters poppin' in the drizzle. Another photo, older now, start
of a paunch, hairline receding, chin starting to double, then another
from the same year, wearing a baseball cap off in the distance (as
if I'm looking into a mirror). Female cardinal mixed amid the redwings.
Net fans out before it hits the water. Zit atop mosquito bite, small
mound of aggravated flesh. They took them in trains, Buddy says, just
to view the devastation. Yellow news clipping of a plane wreck in
a wheat field: "My wings were icing up and I couldn't get to
the Dalles." I sit up and a hundred grackle scatter off the deck.
I'd not expected the moss to be this tough. She-clam soup. A simple
stone set flat into the earth, wet with rain. The teenagers observe
the adults with the cool distance of scientists. Buddy lifts his head
into the rain, deep Tarzan yodel over Abbapoolah Creek. Lone female
mallard asleep in the shadows of the deck. A troop of ringtail lemurs
walking on TV with their tails erect. "Are you overwhelmed?"
Jesse's simpler refrain: "Dad, when are you coming home?"