Like the Anasazi’s sudden departure from his cliff dwelling I too snuck away, with hardly any trace from a life no longer in clear recollection, only faint images survive, of hours in the City Lights Bookstore reading Corso, Ferlinghetti and Ginsberg, then buying the slim volume “Gasoline” not because it was my greatest desire, but its price. Now the worn volume sits nestled between Wilbur and Amichai, a fond memory, like an afternoon in the park in Salt Lake City the tarot spread out before me whispering their secrets for the slip of blotter, the small blue stain bringing an evening of color and touch and that momentary fear that nothing would again be as I knew it to be. The Anasazi knew the arrow of time had flown, had passed the four corners where I lay in the street another senseless victim of a senseless war, while Karl held the placard demanding peace, until the police urged us to move along, and offered the assistance we were sworn to reject. Now the corners seem older, more tired of the life that treads on them daily, on my path to the Federal Courthouse to argue a motion where once we spilled the red paint the blood of our generation. Now there is a wall with their names, a permanent monument while we, like our Anasazi brethren, are but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
It was a Tuesday in October or a Wednesday in March, hard to say which, but evening. We had taken a cab from the Hyatt Embarcadero or the Fairmont, it didn’t much matter, and sat in the Chinese restaurant on the edge of Chinatown, or a pasta and seafood joint in North Beach, and you said it was a small earthquake, while I was certain it was the waiter who drained the half empty wine glasses en route to the kitchen. We walked slowly along the street past the “World Famous Condor” in all its tacky glory, and I said it was the birthplace of silicon, we had Carol Doda to thank for that and you said I was perverted and suggested we go across the street to the club featuring nude dancers, but I balked when I saw they were men. Finally we compromised and walked around the corner to the City Lights. You wandered impatiently around while I stood transfixed in the poetry section, a warren of shelves, a ladder on wheels and corners, and held, almost fondled a fresh copy of Coney Island of the Mind. I read it slowly, a man stood behind me shifting his weight from foot to foot, “It’s not all that good, adequate, but there’s Bukowski and Ginsberg.” Without looking back, I reached for Gasoline. “At least that’s a good choice,” he said and in growing anger I turned and sneered into the nose of Lawrence Ferlinghetti.
First Published in Creative Juices, December 1998.
When my back was turned, Corso slipped away somewhere in Wisconsin silently, without protest carried off by Charon across a gasoline river. There was no bomb to announce his departure, no Queens orphanage stopped frozen in a silent moment. In the small park at the north end of Salt Lake City no one lifted a jug of bad wine to toast him, the magic bus just rolled by. In the City Lights bookstore Ferlinghetti shed a tear that dried on the old wood floor and from above a brief howl pierced the morning calm. Outside the small temple on a back street in Tokyo a Buddhist monk bowed before the statue, read the wooden prayer card and whispered Toodle-oo.
My muse drowned in a torrent of words. I buried her on page 243 of War and Peace. Kafka read the eulogy, while Ferlinghetti dozed in the third pew. I sat Shiva for a week and the guests brought endless casseroles of Westlake, Cornwell and Kellerman. I waited for Ondaatje to sooth my grief, but he was lost in his own desert. Her ghost visits me late at night, in dreams, when my pen is always out of reach.