Friday, January 22, 2016

Go with the Floe 

A polar bear
a nurse
and a silver-haired busboy  
drift by the Reykjavik city lights tonight 
on a cold but cozy ice floe. 

"So, let's go around in a circle," says
the polar bear. "Would you care to go first?" 
he asks the nurse.

"I'm a nurse for a hip replacement surgeon
in Ghent, Belgium. So many hips every
week, it's all I do, and it gets so redundant.
I begin to feel replaceable myself. I dreamed,
as a girl, in my dreamy moonlit hopeful bed
of becoming a doctor, but I let myself get talked
out of my dream by uncles, grandfathers, professionals 
and Father. Men. No offense - you guys. So, I drink."

The polar bear thanks her; they look to the busboy. 

"My parents legally changed my name to IDIOT 
after I reached the second grade. Can you imagine?
It's hard to apply for work, or say my name anywhere.
I think this is why I still bus tables. One kind woman
decades ago hired me in pity, but I can't move up to waiter.
Think of it - 
Good evening, I'll be your server this evening, 
my name is Idiot! Care for a cocktail?
I brought this up to my mother in high school
but she only backhand-slapped me. Then father
slapped me back the other direction. My face, like
a hinge! So, I began to drink. From school days until
a couple of years ago."

"Uff, all those brain cells!" says the nurse. "Good thing 
you're so smart. And I can see that you are." 

"Thank you. And you?" says the busboy to the bear. 

"I was OK up north, I liked the overall atmosphere,
the bold blue and white tone of it all, and, of course, that," 
says the polar bear, pointing at the Northern Lights
above them. "I was alright with the lonely nature of it,
they called me the 'gregarious loner.' But then … it all melted,
and the gregarious side of my nature went south.
So, I was hurt. And I drank." 

The eyes of the nurse and the busboy look thoughtful
about the polar bear's story as they enjoy the impressionist
painting the Northern Lights and the lights of Reykjavik
have made together in the waters they're floating on.
The polar bear has impressed them, too. The nurse says,

"You are quite fluent. How did you achieve this?"

"It took time. Berlitz tapes. It was slow, getting
those tapes to our tiny, frozen post office!"

Heavy chunks of dark brown timber floating in the sea
bump into the floe, it startles everyone, but a light bulb
goes ON over the busboy's head. 

Meanwhile, the polar bear and the nurse gaze 
into the Northern Lights, the bear pointing out
various highlights, with a paw. Then, getting sleepy
they lay down on the ice, hugging themselves,
huddling in awe under the green sky. They are COLD.

While the busboy works under his light bulb.

He has hauled the timber aboard the ice, chopped
the bark off with the ice shards he's chopped
from the floe, and now again he chops
delicate yellow ruffles of wood he drops
one by one
into the ragged rough canoe he's made of the bark.
He lights the ruffles with dry matches from his decades
long employer - The Pewter Cup - and, FIRE!

The polar bear's black eyes open in white fur, he
nudges the nurse; they look down between their feet.
FIRE! Getting hotter, higher

The busboy stands behind the flames, smiling
silver hair shining. The bear and the nurse crawl
to the fire, hands and paws playing in the warmth.

"Well, I don't know how the hell we all got here,
how we met on an ice floe," says the nurse, "but
I'm awfully glad we met!"

"I am very glad," says the busboy, sitting down
by the fire.

"Where were we?" asks the polar bear. "Shall we
go on? It's a long way to dawn."

"May I say something, before we go on?" says
the busboy. He points across the water to Reykjavik.
"Over there, the University of Iceland Medical School."

The bear and the busboy smile at the nurse
sitting around the red fire on ice floating
under the shimmering green sky.

"How the hell, indeed," the polar bear roars out
(literally) loud laughter. "But who the hell cares?!" 

Sunday, January 10, 2016

The drifter, 
the cat,
and Santa Claus 

A drifter crackles through the brush
comes down from the railroad tracks 
and the wild swirling velvet blue midnight sky, down
through trees and lit yellow windows in the trees
to a red fireside, and one black cat, sitting alone
with a cup of - also black - coffee.

The drifter - seeing all these colors and
not even drunk yet, or for five years - 
has another vision: gleaming green glitters
like limes in outer space; the eyes of the cat!

"Coffee?" asks the cat, friendly, calm and
not necessarily in charge.

"Yes, I'd love a cup," says the drifter, near the fire now,
in a sort of crouch, waiting for the cat to invite him
to sit. The cat twitches her white whiskers, easy
to see across her lush black coat, and the drifter drifts
down onto the ground, stares into the fire, not sure
how to start the conversation.

"So," he says, "you're a talking cat? Like in the movies?"

"Yeah, I am. What do you want me to do? This is who
I am. Sorry, I'm being defensive. By the way, 
you seem worried about something."

"A little blue. Another Christmas over, a new year tonight,
in an hour … same thing over and over, what does it
all lead to?" asks the drifter.

"I know, I'm in my 7th life. It used to bother me, too. Then,
I got philosophic. Or is it philosophical?"

"Yeah, that sounds better. Philosophical."

"In my 5th life, I got philosophical. Before, I was worried
all the time about if there was a 10th life; what was there
after 9 lives, etc., etc. I started drinking."

The drifter's eyes get big in the firelight. "You too?"

"Yes. I got up to ten sometimes twelve bowls a day."

"Then you got philosophical."

"Yes. And moved out here. Beautiful here, isn't it?"

The drifter and the cat look up through the trees;
glowing silvery trunks around the fire, black branches
up high, clawing for the stars. They hear something.
Crackling, like the drifter, before; crunching footsteps
and then - wheels … squeaking.

The cat and the drifter look at each other with question
marks over their heads, which mingle in with campfire
smoke, then drift up, and away.

A bright red moves in the black branches and black night
getting closer; the drifter and the cat see it coming, but
as it's rolling side to side rather than advancing aggressively,
they aren't scared. But they keep their eyes on the red
moving in the trees, and as it comes near the fire
they see two gold circles, glass circles reflecting the flames,
and a white beard.

They see it's Santa Claus, and he's pulling a little red wagon
full of Two Buck Chuck.

Santa pulls the wagon of wine into the opening
and warms his hands by the fire.

"Hi Santa Claus," says the drifter.

"Oh, so you believe in Santa Claus?" asks Santa.

"I'm talking to a cat aren't I?" says the drifter. "No offense," 
he adds, making eye contact with the cat.

"None taken," says the cat.

"Just like in the movies, eh?" says Santa Claus. The cat rolls
her lime eyes like a couple of gin and tonics, which neither she
nor the drifter will drink this evening.

"That's what I said!" says the drifter.

"Coffee?" asks the cat, changing the subject. Santa Claus
squats down into a sort of lotus position, his big black boots
resting on either knee, and something rips in his red suit.

"No, thank you. I'm gonna get into some of the red wine.
Can I interest you two?" Santa reaches into the little red wagon
for a bottle, and pops a cork.

"No thanks, we both quit," says the drifter, the cat nods.

"Oh, I see," says Santa. "Were you addicted?"

"Does Santa have reindeer?" says the cat, with a
twitching in her whiskers. "Hey, since you're here
do you?"

"Yes, but not tonight. They're resting in the hay. So,
what are you two discussing?" The cat and and the drifter
look at each other, the cat answers.

"I suppose something like the meaning of life, Santa.
This drifter just joined me and said he's wondering
what New Year's Eve is supposed to mean; what
another year means except - just another year. That
kind of discussion."

"Yes, I understand," says Santa. "And I know what it is.
The meaning of life."

"Tell us, please," says the cat, her head on her paws.

"There's no meaning, so relax. Next time this comes up,
try to think of something funny, then - laugh."

Santa Claus is looking at the drifter when he says this, but
they each sense something in their peripheral night vision;
something green and sparkling - the cat's eyes. "You must 
have more to tell us, Santa!" she says. She sees he does.

"Yes, my cat, I do. Sleep deeply. Dream in color.
Eat well, eat richly, cheaply and maybe less animals.
I've been eating Japanese food for, I don't know,
about 100 years. Oh my, no - longer. Sushi was around eight
centuries before I started working, but I didn't catch on,
not right away. But eat deliciously, slowly. Then,
try to see things differently every day. Every hour even. 
Make some creative, benevolent trouble every chance you get, 
most of all
stop being so goddamn fucking unkind to yourself
and everyone else." 

Santa is done, takes a drink of Two Buck Chuck,
burps, and the cat and the drifter start laughing.

"I didn't know Santa Claus used those words," says the cat,

Red wine, red suit, red face; Santa Claus is laughing!

"Ho, ho, ho hell-yes I do, my new but permanent
friends! I mean it, and I'm trying to get your attention!"

"You did!" says the cat.

BANG, splash! The moon is out and full,
but someone's New Year's Eve fireworks
Van Gogh-sunflower the sky above the trees.

"So did that!" says the drifter.

"Let's bed down and talk more in the morning, ok?"
says Santa Claus. "Sweet dreams. And remember - color."

Sunday, January 3, 2016


I winked down at my mother in her box.

“Well, it was always the hopeless past and 
the stagnant present, but this is something new!”

She heard me but she was dead so she said
nothing. Just like the good old days.