He knew, the minute he stepped off, that it wasn’t going to end well. He should have realized it two steps earlier, but hindsight was of little use to him now. He knew he had to keep looking up, to focus on the sky. He knew he had to hope it would be like entering a black hole, where the end is certain but time slows and almost seems to stop. And, he remembered, the laws of physics break down inside the event horizon. What he knew he could not do was look down and see the ground rushing up at him. Even when you are 11, walking off the garage roof was not a really bright thing to do, the dare by your friends notwithstanding.
My friends have often wondered aloud
why I claim to be most creative when
I am stuck on an airplane for hours.
I have told them that the solitude,
the lack of It is an interesting quirk
of the internet, that birth
and death are disconnected.
Seeking out those born today
I found a long list, the dinosaur
among which is Judy Collins.
That I still remember seeing her
reminds me at once a sense of my youth
and my ever progressing age.
But seek out those who died
on this day, and you hear the strains
of the Slavonic Dance in E minor
or the Sabre Dance from Gayane
but Popes Pius V and Marcellus II
suggest neither of them matter,
Heathens both, they claim, which
brings a deep laugh from Cleaver
and Livingstone, both of who
deny the other, and each says
that only he truly found the black
panther, and I’m thankful to be alive.to distract me,
which includes any airline approved movie,
that allows my creative self to emerge, to
express itself fully without reservation,
a status that being earthbound denies.
Many laugh, uncertain of how creativity
expresses itself, but certain, they
assure me, that my efforts have not
gone unnoticed, that my time spent,
but most importantly my results so well
reflect the surroundings of their creation.
They have a youth that you think
should make you envious, poured
into clothing that would be
a second skin, if skin were silk
and polyester, patterned tights
hair ironed straight, colored highlights
and you still recall when this
what a fascinated you, when
you would have found it alluring.
You probe the corners of your memory
knowing the trigger is there, unable
to find it in the vague images of velvet,
flowing and draping, colors more vibrant
in the acid fog, knowing it would all
crash down too soon, that the cocktails they hold
should be cheap jug wine in plastic cups
to prolong the slow descent back
into the real world from which the blotter
paper and cactus provided a welcomed escape.
She said, “you so don’t
fit in there, everyone’s going
on eighty except those
can only see it
in their rear view mirrors.”
“Perhaps,” he said, “but I’m
fairly sure I’m on the very
young side of things, and it’s nice
being the kid in the crowd once again.
And anyway, it’s a comforting thought
that when the ambulance
makes its daily appearance
I’m the least likely to be in it.”
“Unless,” she laughs, “the others
Hear you saying things like that,
crochet needles can be lethal you know.”
The problem with youth
isn’t that you misspend it,
or even don’t appreciate it
as it is happening, or even expect
it to go on forever, for those
would be the simplest hurdles
to leap even at your now advanced age.
The true problem with youth
isn’t even those around you,
grandchildren, high schoolers
that overrun the Starbucks near campus
are caught in the midst of it
while all you can do is jealously watch.
The ultimate problem with youth
is that you recall it so well,
the sights, sounds, the textures
but what you did last Thursday
you can’t recall for the life of you.
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
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
but faint memories.
First Appeared in Ellipsis Literature and Art, Issue 35, 1999.
I’ll be there soon,
so hang in there just a bit longer.
I do want to meet the beautiful young woman
you mentioned in our calls, or
is there more than one, because
while your vision is supposed to be good,
it seems almost all women younger
than a certain ever-increasing age
are now beautiful to you.
I don’t want to tell you I’m coming,
you’d forget anyway, and it could agitate you,
so I’ll just show up and hope you remember me
or can cover well, and we’ll visit.
I know the week after we see each other
you’ll ask when I’m coming to see you, and
like I have for years, I’ll say, “Soon, dad”
and I know you’ll be smiling in anticipation.
You are driving through the Florida
that once was, that is off the coast,
and out of Orlando, the Florida
of jalousie windows, run down once gas stations
and the more than occasional double wide.
Suddenly, you are in a Disney version
of a semi-tropical New England, gated villages
where cars have been supplanted by an endless
stream of golf carts, where the Disney smile
is a permanent fixture of most every face.
In the community, as you walk into
the town center, a town square imagined
by Rodeo Drive, each night at five
a wave of golf carts arrive , to plastic
lawn chairs laid out in neat array
soon to fill with those who so well remember
when the songs to be played, and they, were young.
Mrs. Weiskopf lived in a small cottage
Mrs. Weiskopf taught piano in her living room.
Mrs. Weiskopf had no first name, even
checks were to be made payable to Mrs. Weiskopf.
Mrs. Weiskopf grew suddenly old, some said,
to full fit into her name, no one could
remember her ever being young.
Mrs. Weiskopf said I must always find Middle C,
that everything starts there.
Mrs. Wieskopf was not pleased when I said
that Middle C was key number 40 on my piano
and there was no middle key, only
a gap between E4 and F4.
Mrs. Weiskopf looked at me sternly
and ended my lesson early that day.
Mrs. Weiskopf was a great teacher.
I think of her each time I sit down
and place the doumbek on my lap.
Outside Itaewon she leans
perpetually forward as though
straining against the gales of life.
Her cane beats a tattoo
on the pavement, as she
drives her bent frame to the bus.
Nearing the door a young man
bustles by, receiving her cane
across his shin for his indiscretion.
Assuming her seat, as though
a throne, she leans her scepter
between her knees, and receives
the supplication of the young man
who approaches with a limp
to honor his elders and seek
absolution from a momentary lapse.
The old man, in hanbok, smiles,
the bus begins its imperceptible crawl
toward the Han, a small raft
lost in the rush hour sea.