Friday, February 28, 2014
Knights in White Satin
Four divorces later and one week sober I go on a first date.
Driving her down Memorial Drive along the Charles River in Boston with her car.
It was an early romance, 48 hours only, I was naturally nervous
with a nascent tingling (!) in my hands, right up my arms
the full moon coming up yellow from behind the silver Prudential Building
everything just right, so I turned on the radio hoping for romantic music.
Fanny turned it off and said let’s get better acquainted; ok, I said, let’s do.
She was beautiful; her freckles matched her hair and her skin and her
painted nails - all red-honey colored, creamy warm.
I wanted to write this description on the spot, but there wasn't time, then. So, this is it.
“What are your interests, or hobbies if that’s not too pedestrian a question,” she asked.
“No, not at all, I’m trying to remember. Also I’m trying to get some new ones. Or find out what they could be.”
Fanny pointed into Boston, downtown, way below the shiny Pru.
“I saw the President down there, after he’d just got elected. What an electric moment, wow, man - the first black president!”
“Who? You mean Jesse Jackson? Or was it Shirley Chisholm? Wow, yeah - the first black and first female president!” I said. “And high goddam time, on both counts!”
Fanny pointed out that we were across the center line and asked
about my last divorce.
“Well, it was a very applicable split really. She’s still out in Casper, Wyoming. Or Thunder Bay, Canada - one or the other. Or maybe Austria.”
Fanny touched my arm.
“Roscoe, it doesn’t seem romantic to talk about recovery on the first date, but do you need to?”
I kissed her hand.
“Don’t worry about me, Fanny, I am ready for romance!”
“Well, alright then mister, pull over there by the river; I’ve been wanting to kiss you since Starbucks the other night!”
This was said so suddenly and romantically I did it, eager beaver-style,
and almost drove into the river!
Fanny turned the radio on, and there - that song - that puzzling
yet ultra-romantic, highly comic song. By the Moody Blues.
Fanny was getting ready for the kiss but the song stopped her.
“Oh Roscoe, I love this one ... it’s so ethereal. I have a strong association with it. ”
“Yeah,” I laughed, “but knights? ... in white satin? What the hell?”
“What’s wrong with that? Don’t you have certain longings, memories ... loss?”
“Well yes, but knights? I mean, are they at the Round Table in their white satin?”
Fanny looked at me.
“And I have to say that I can’t see them mounted and charging into battle in ... white satin. I would imagine that satin tears easily in combat. I do like the Arthurian atmosphere of the piece but ...WHAT?”
Fanny was still looking at me. “Are you kidding?” she asked.
“Of course not. I mean, I admit I’ve never read the lyrics, it kind of goes on and on, but the tonal dynamic of the song reminds me of a Renaissance Festival I went to once in Bonner Springs, Kansas. That sort of ethereal majestic sweep ... you know, Fanny? Why are you looking at me like that? I mean it!”
Fanny choked on her coffee and spat it out in a steamy stream across
[They are both drinking hot lattes from Starbucks]
“How long did you drink?” she asked, still choking a little.
“From junior high school to last Halloween. You?”
“From grad school to Thanksgiving; Thanksgiving, ten years ago. Do you, uh - live anywhere, Roscoe?”
“Sure. On the Common, the Long Wharf. I live in Boston; I'm sort of a man about town!”
“Ok, well, you better come on home with me tonight, back to my place, in the North End. Stay the night tonight, we’ll talk tomorrow about what we’ll do tomorrow night. I like you, and you’re kind of cute, but I think you’ll need help. Like I did, and do.”
“Well, if I need help, and I think I do, and if you do too, the North End must be the perfect place to be,” I said.
“Why do you say that?” asked Fanny.
“You know - one if by land, two if by sea!”
“I don’t know exactly what you mean by that, but it sounds optimistic. Drive on, Sir Roscoe!”
“I will, Faire Fanny!”
I drove along the Charles and Fanny kissed me deeply as we crossed
the Longfellow Bridge, almost driving me into the river again
(that red-honey colored skin!)on our way to home in the North End.
Fanny stopped the kissing for a moment.
“Turn up the radio, Roscoe. Find us some romantic music.”
Monday, February 24, 2014
Friday, February 21, 2014
The meet at midnight under the Arc de Triomphe with a bottle of wine, a claw hammer, a ball-peen hammer, a sledge hammer, an oyster knife, baling wire, a back issue of The New York Review of Books and a freshly oiled and gassed-up chainsaw.
It has rained all day into tonight down on the Champs-Elysees and the street shines greasy like the back of a killer shark, going under.
They wait, grinning in the flash of headlights.
“What did he say to you,” the one in black leather asks the other one, who is wearing a blue beret and bright red lipstick.
“He said that I was derivative but that I had made an acceptable though banal first attempt. He didn’t even look at me when he said that. What about you, what happened?” the blue beret and red lipstick asks, pulling on skin-tight black leather driving gloves, checking her lipstick in a gold compact mirror.
“He asked if I thought I was Celine or Cendrars or Stein to write the way I do. I was about to say maybe better when he told me that I was
He said it just like that, like the words were on three different lines.
Then he said: ‘maybe someday, maybe - but I’d be artistically disingenuous to falsely encourage you.’ How do like them apples?”
The woman takes a long swig out of the bottle, tests the tightness of the chain on the saw, says:
“He told me my work is off-putting. Can you believe that shit? What does it mean? Then he started talking about the shape and potential of my oeuvre. I think he was probably flirting with me, at that point.”
The man in black leather, eyeing the sharp point on the oyster knife, nods, says:
“He had the gaul to ask me,” he says,“ ‘do you think you’re Papa Hemingway with your tough little sentences?’ He asked me that in front of the entire class.”
“Are you saying that spelled g a u l l e? That’s wrong, you know.”
“Gaulle, gaul, de-gall - I don’t care, because then he went on to say that my work is puerile. But that it’s good work... of it’s kind. Come to think of it, when he said that he wasn’t looking at me, either.”
“Of course not. Well look, he asked me where I’m from, and when I told him Oklahoma, he completely stopped talking to me, and left the room, though he came back later and called me a regional women's writer, which didn’t hurt much, though he wanted it to, I could tell.”
“Oh I know. He asked me if I'd been to New York, that the real writers are from there, or at least they’d better get packed and go there.”
“That’s stupid. Hasn’t he heard of Tennessee Williams? Obviously, he’s from out of town!”
Footsteps coming in the rain, a shadow getting larger; they begin to whisper.
“Hey, by the way - why The New York Review of Books? I’ve never seen you carry that around, not until tonight.”
“For wrapping, you know, the smaller parts, and I have The New Yorker here, to wipe it all up with.”
“Oh, yeah. Good thinking.”
“Now listen: you have the chainsaw, so make sure he gets that through-line he’s always going on about,” says the man in black leather.
“Oh yeah, don’t worry. When I get through with him more than his participle will be dangling,” says the woman in the blue beret.
The hissing rain gently increases, the shark’s back shines greasy,
but their footing is sure.
The woman in the blue beret pulls it low across her eyes then
pulls the cord on the chainsaw.
There is smoke and the smell of gasoline in the rain.
“Here he comes. Let’s get him.”
(translated from the French)
Monday, February 17, 2014
Spray paint Disney
Me and the adjacent bum were looking across the empty street,
empty Grand Avenue, Christmas morning,
when I looked up and saw that word on a sign.
The rest of the sign said: Limitless.The L.A. Philharmonic.
I was smiling; here I am a bum, and I know the word adjacent.
Well, that could be true, couldn’t it?
Anyway, that morning...
The other bum was fumbling under his gray blanket puffing
white clouds of breath out across the empty street - so COLD here!
- though the sun was up and setting silver gleaming fire to
the Walt Disney Concert Hall.
As it used to be called.
I yelled down to him Good Morning!
It was just us two this holiday morning,
tinsel waving like silver seaweed from the street lights
the sky and snowy mountains blue and white and windy cold, up the hill.
Two bums on the empty Grand, everyone else home in pajamas
and all the family there too, maybe.
I called down to the other bum.
“Hey, you want to walk with me to Home Depot tomorrow? They’ll
be open in the morning.”
“What, you got a job?”
“What’s your name?” I asked him.
“Tiger,” he said.
“Tiger, you said?”
“Well, Tony really. Tiger for short.”
“Yeah, I do. Have a job. But not at Home Depot.” I pointed
across the street at the concert hall. “A job of work for
Mr. Frank Gehry.”
“Who?” asked the adjacent bum.
“He’s an architect, a great architect; dreamed up and built that building.”
Tiger looked at the building.
“I thought Walt Disney did. I mean, look what it says over there.”
“No, Frank did, and I don’t want him overshadowed.”
We looked across the empty street at the Walt Disney Concert Hall. There
had been a special Christmas Eve show the night before; we'd watched them come
and then we watched them go on home.
“That feels bad doesn’t it? Tiger said. “That overshadowed feeling.”
“I need spray paint from Home Depot, and an assistant.
You ever paint, Tiger?”
“Oh I can spray, no problem. When do you wanna meet, and where?”
I looked at my watch, then at Tiger.
“About this time. And here. Ok?”
“Sure. Oh, Merry Christmas.”
We looked around; there weren’t ANY cars out, none coming.
“Merry Christmas, Tiger,” I said.
Then we went back to what we were doing.
I’d been seeing those words in my head.
Like a sign.In blue spray paint.
It was midnight, the day after Christmas, with the cans of spray paint
and the so-called Walt Disney Concert Hall laid out before us.
Someone had fingered a drawing of Santa Claus
in one of the frosty windows of the hall and he was waving at us.
“Now, why are we doing this again?” asked Tiger. “Is it because we’re lonely?
Or broke? Is there something wrong with us wanting to spray paint
the Disney Hall? Is it something inside us needs working out?”
He’d told me earlier that he was two weeks into his downtown
discounted therapy sessions with psychological students in training.
“No, we’re just giving credit where it’s due - to Frank! Why should Walt
Disney get his name on this building he couldn’t have made
in a million years of his imagination?”
“Ok, well - let’s go!” said Tiger.
“Ok! Tiger, listen: you paint the starboard side of the entrance, I’ll spray port side.”
“Which is which?”
“Oh, yeah - I have a new system for remembering - not that "nautical events"
come up too much lately -
but when I go to Starbucks for morning coffee,
I’m right-handed, so I pick up the cup with my right.
Get it? Starbucks, starboard.”
“When was the last time you went to Starbucks?” asked Tiger, laughing,
rubbing his hands, getting ready to paint.
“Well, you got me there, Tiger! But I know the last time I had port, ha ha!”
“So that’s the other hand, then?” We laughed, then walked across Grand Street.
Tiger was very ready for this; he was marching across the street, but
then he stopped, looked at the former Disney Concert Hall, down the street,
then up the other way toward First Street, finally at me.
“What if the police come?” he whispered, in the middle of the street.
“Oh, they’ll see what we’re doing and then they’ll be on our side!”
We started shaking the spray paint cans and the little balls inside
sounded for all the world like sleigh bells!
Saturday, February 15, 2014
He said he wouldn’t rise for the national anthem.
“Hey, I got a lap full of beer and hot dogs!
Besides, I really don’t wanna … ”
he said to the shirt and tie guys.
This can happen anywhere.
Fascism, that word,
is a big, strong, overdressed and nowhere to go word;
it’s not as if he’s going off to Siberia or
even the Ozarks now, but he won’t get a raise and the girl,
or the boy, either.
They can see him from the skyboxes.
(Even they know how good he looks)
Friday, February 14, 2014
Used Man One Owner
Two men talk on a darkened jet
in the middle of the night;
the older man looks much like the younger one
but they haven’t talked since
one of them was a baby.
old: So listen sonny, do you think that because
of your hard childhood the world owes you something?
young: No, I just want the world to get out of my way.
And when I say world, I don’t mean you. Or any of my friends
or all the other people I love. Or the stewardess here. Or
that crying baby behind us. I just mean this other thing
they call The World. Which nobody really has to care about
or pay attention to. You know?
old: Wow. Yeah I do. That’s pretty good, Mister Man.
Buy you a drink?
A little later the jet banks
dips a wing in the window
the ice moves a little in their plastic glasses,
and the men see shimmering golden lights
in the dark below,
not a one of those lights -
Everybody out of the Pool
I woke up today in a panic about the end.
First, there was my lonesome childhood, nobody around
no parents zero blank.
And now here I wake up with no kids
not gonna be any,
no father for me or for me to be
Am I gonna die nobody around no children?
Is it gonna be a semi-private room in the middle
of the afternoon with the sound of a vacuum cleaner
in the hall and a sitcom laugh track in the room,
then dead, even out of toilet paper?
I might not go like this, I have friends, I confess
but still no kids now, no parents before.
Did anything really happen between
not being a son and not being a father?
I think so
but how do you deal with this feeling?
You just do, son.
Wednesday, February 12, 2014
Shouts Drowning Murmurs
Two bums perch on the lobster
red-rusted supports under
the Williamsburg Bridge admiring,
really romantically dreaming
on the yellow and white lights
of Manhattan upstream and
read The New Yorker.
One of them YELLS:
I don’t understand why people don’t
take the time to be kind to each other.
To praise each other - it’s so easy to do.
We’re all gonna die!
The other bum's eyes pop big and he HOLLERS:
You ain’t gonna find it in THAT magazine,
throw it in the river!
The magazine drops, the pages fluttering free
down to the water
back to where they started,
back to life.