The Shark and the Remora

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					The Shark and the Remora




 By Christopher Monaco



           1
      I

Life-guarding




      2
Clams on the Causeway
in Essex, Massachusetts


These are the artists
of fried seafood.
Like a curbside jazz band
playing a rendition
of history at sunset.

There’s that lead guitar
played by no human,
because bubbles of oil
improvise the notes, scolding
that fret bar of fried excitement.

A fryer on bass,
sifting seafood in a flour bin,
hands keeping rhythm, a low
tone of knuckles hitting metal.

A brush of the snare
as baskets shake their grease.
And a crash cymbal echoes,
while lobster tails drop
into a fryolator.

The tune sounds no different
than its 1914 original
performed by a Woodman duet.

Deep in that green-headed summer
another morsel of Americana
conceived, consumed.




                                     3
Laps


Stroke, stroke, breath, stroke.
Stroke, stroke, breath, stroke.

It gets boring in all that blue-green chlorine
so I count, recite songs, and remember—
my father before each race as I stood
with grade-school fear for the other, larger swimmers.

Your opponent is time;
don’t worry about anyone else in the pool.
But to me it was simple:
clocks don’t receive first place ribbons.

Sound advice sixteen years later, counting—
stroke, stroke, breath, stroke.
I am my sternest timekeeper, harshest critic.
The pool now immense; millions racing.




                                     4
Dry-cleaning


I carry irony in my arms
because my grandfather’s pea coat
has lost some of its liner.
It is inside the Navy’s wool
decorated with metallic
anchor-engraved buttons
since the U.S.S. Massachusetts
left San Francisco
during the second half
of the Great War.

After a quick nod and broken
hello,
she swallows her maki while smiling.
Her smile raises her cheeks
until they meet her eyes. I wonder
if she can even see me.
So adorable, facial wrinkles and all,
I put her about 65.

My grandfather dead
long as I’ve been alive.
His pea coat, my property,
until now never fit.
Her fingers open
the jacket he wore
with careful touch and soft
tracing.

Finding the sewn-in name and year
she looks up at me then down,
writes $40 on a return slip
and hands the paper over.
She receipts
an awkward moment,
into the racks on tracks of un-repaired
jackets, unasked questions,
and a war so foreign to me,
I left that drycleaner
feeling I had accepted
the final treaty.




                                     5
The Red Sox on Patriots Day


A baseball thrown, a baseball hit
foul into the hands of a father,
son or daughter.
                  Rowdy
clans with cups of beer
cheer as the visiting batter
fans at a blistering delivery.
The bodies wave up and down
around the field, with dreams
of another championship season.

There’s a patriotic smell
of hot dogs, popcorn, Bostonian air,
as the walk-off homerun clears
the green monster and the Sox
of losing in the ninth. And when

the master sergeant, back
from Iraq, sings God Bless America,
the crowd sings too, holding
their hats and notes high in the sky
so the fighting and dying might hear.




                                       6
Lifeguards


You may question
their purpose,
until you find yourself
reaching for the surface
to find a way out of the vast blue
that weakens your body,
holding
your last
breath hostage
till they arrive.

Never again
question why their eyes
constantly gaze out
behind sunglasses
over the ocean’s surface
as if they know her like
a sister or mother.
Those eyes

walk on water
for the sole purpose
of making sure you live
to understand just what it is
that they do. Thank them
for being just
who they are.




                                     7
Eighty-six


My grandmother isn’t trying
to kill herself,
she’s trying to live, breathe, and smile
without tired wet eyes,
because she’s felt dead for years,
like the world she will soon leave.
Taking the rest of us with her
soon after.

Mother said she
never had any hobbies,
and that’s why bottles of wine
appeal to her mind,
like they did when
her husband worked overnight
at the Wyoma Square firehouse,
coming home distraught
about finding his wife
once again hung-over.

Alcoholics don’t need a reason,
they just need alcohol
mother still says.
But what if grandmother
is telling the truth?
That she has little happiness
with relatives, friends,
and husband dead too young.
Life doesn’t take hold of her
as it did in her youth—
as alcohol does now.
Conjuring up sparse yet vivid
memories as the brain
slowly gives way to dementia,
she is able to tolerate her last days,
last conversations,
and last times watching Odd Couple reruns.




                                      8
To Those Feathered Kamikazes
of Singing Beach, Manchester, Massachusetts


With his bowling-ball body
and outstretched wings,
a male cries dominantly from the seawall
as unassuming patrons
crowd onto the ten-in-the-morning sand.

The sun hurts eyes,
and the heavy, sweaty, and
smelling-of-aloe air forecasts
another ninety-degree day,
and another dozen lunches
lost, to the well-seasoned rats with wings.

The air assaults begin by noon,
and not even the shrieks
of little children
heard across the beach,
are enough for them to understand:
they’re under attack.

A potato chip bag is hurried
out to sea, as a screaming teen
in her bikini throws sand
at the culprit. Just another
embarrassed sunbather,
asserting anger as though seagulls
have feelings.

A little boy almost loses
his fingers to a fly-by
peanut butter and jelly
thief. The mother, outraged
and utterly confused,
asks for help from a patron
as four more commandos
risk a sandal to the beak,
as they destroy and consume
the rest of the boxed lunches.

Entertained, with a
turkey wrap under tight guard,
I can only smile and salute


                                     9
the bravery and small brains
of those white and gray
scavengers, patrolling
the shoreline for another
victim, another veggie on rye.




                                 10
          II

The Way Life Should Be




          11
A Guest in the Portland, Maine Bus Terminal


His jeans were torn,
and spots of paint
camouflaged the mess.
His splattered beard
disguised his face.
He wore a broken-in baseball cap,
logo gone,
an unfaded oval remained.
Trays of old cigarettes odorized the room,
as vending machines hummed
waiting for a buyer
to pick up the tune.
He told me a story,
a girl with two guys.
He was one.
He waited for a bus
for her funeral in Boston,
then to New York
as a guest on Ricki Lake.
The topic: sexual fantasies
gone bad the next day.
Just another anecdote
without an audience
besides my own,
letter keys that clap all night,
Old Crow at the microphone.




                                    12
Cutting Focaccia


One hand hurting the other,
right wounding left,
the thought of an accident
turned malicious considered.

Its serrated edge diving forward,
back and
then down through the focaccia bread
and Styrofoam plate.

Surely if this happens between
two extremities,
a nightmare would be what
they could accomplish
acting together, as one fluid motion
to make the day stop, the world freeze
and time not matter
for one fucking moment
to watch the blood,

And nothing but the blood,
as it is all that matters for
once, for now--the drops falling
onto a counter, grains without
an hourglass, displaced
when a hand draws
a knife from a drawer.




                                    13
A Farmington, Maine
Midnight Special


The double yellow of Main St.
is his sidewalk.

His shirtless body laden
in tattoos, screams out
the number of years
this grand marshal
of the downtown one-man parade,
has led this lonely procession.

Of course I cannot
refrain from thinking
alcohol or drugs are his
Wednesday night dessert.
Maybe even for the other six as well.
A vodka or cocaine induced
stroll down no more memories lane
is perhaps what we are all missing--
a clearing of body cells,
with the help of a twelve pack and joint
to make one-way conversation feel like two.

Yet before my imagination
solves this midnight mystery,
he inspects a curbside cigarette
for foul play,
rescues the nicotine holding lost soul,
and strolls back toward his home.

Not just a drunken clown pageant
for those sober stiffs to enjoy,
but a search for a smoke mission
that makes the spectator admire
the simple walks in life:
the desperately needed hit,
and an empty, but lit, small-town
street, with no one but the
sashaying skunk to impress.




                                     14
A Return to the Reason


The woodstoves, burning
furiously into September
with their oak, spruce, and birch
drifting up
do not alarm my sense.

Not even the cigarette
on Ann’s front porch,
with the air temperature
diving below fifty
wakes me.

It also seems
this town with its townies
and out of state students
with attitude and northeastern stares
isn’t the invader of my sleep.

It is my being
held under the lake
waters of the foothills
in Maine.

The rude awakening,
the messenger,
the devil’s advocate
is me.




                                        15
                     Carrabassett Valley, Maine
              From here on your life will never be the same
                            (Town Motto)

1. Treasures of the Valley


In the valley’s transfer station,
a recycling building
stores old ski boots, wooden snowshoes,
computers and refrigerators,
awaiting a second or third designation.

Carefully stacked plates and glassware
line the outside wall’s shelves.
A family of six could sit
down to a well appointed
Thanksgiving Day table,
if only the worn-out loveseat
stinking of dog fur and beer
wasn’t sharing center floor
with an end table supporting
an electronic glass cleaner.

Inspiring enough to catch
these meandering eyes
before spotting
the valley’s secret annex.
Metal bookcases hold
print unaffected by genre:

Clive Cussler’s complete works
are a step
to the right of periodicals
and the largest non-cataloged collection
of National Geographic
northwest of Augusta.
Shakespeare’s sonnets
share space with Superfudge,
Sport Illustrated’s
swimsuits a shelf above.

The Carrabassett Town Library,
some tongue-in-cheek regard it, this
hideaway of words, or purgatory.




                                       16
2. Cloud Machine


Beyond the valley,
at the base
of the logged Bigalows,
a steam stack
for the paper mill
billows, a cloud machine.
At night
when the monolithic
lights keep Cessnas from gliding
into it, August produces
orange glow,
across the evaporating sky,
I’d swear: an asteroid
once crashed beyond the pine tops.
Guys in pickups sipping
American beer
arrived and watched it
burn to the earth, slower
than wet logs in a fire pit.




                                     17
3. Daisy a Day


There is an airport
behind the chamber
of commerce building
for local pilots
and well-endowed
visitors.
A place where you
can pay a charge
from April to
October
and climb high
above the Bigelows
for a chance
to watch Route 27
wiggle through
the valley
beside its dance
partner, the
Carrabassett River.
Sometimes during
the late spring ski season,
a daredevil pilot will buzz
Sugarloaf’s summit skiers,
putting some in awe
and others, cardiac arrest.

Jud Strunk wasn’t buzzing
anything, except pavement
during a routine take-off
on a seasonal blue-sky day.
His plane’s wheels departing
up and away from the tarmac…

The valley’s
singing star folk hero
crashed into the forest floor.
Gone were those
smoky, alcohol—
motivated sing along
songs of the 1970s
down at the Red Stallion Inn:
where debauchery
redefined itself


                                 18
as nightly as the Stallion’s
barely tired patrons
took to its floors
and dark corners.
Gone too,
those northern Buffet lyrics,
the guest appearances on Carson,
Montgomery’s Bewitched,
and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In.
Broadway’s Beautiful Dreamer
and Top Twenty hits
became eulogy highlights:
a musician’s gifts.

I’ll give you a daisy a day dear,
I’ll give you a daisy a day.
I’ll love you until the rivers run still
and the four winds we know blow away.




                                    19
4. Bigelows


I.

The Bigelow ranges
sit on either side of the valley.
Their craggy summits,
sculpted by the glacial
recession, reach equally
into a winter’s blue sky
like a stout child with stout arms,

Neither majestic nor privileged,
they look able and standard,
the slopes on their next growth
having been logged down to soil
after decades, too old and infertile
for evergreens and virgin forest floors,
no undergrowth to block my skis’
first tracks, slaloming
between pine and birch.




                                      20
II.

Burnt Mountain is half maintained
by locals who desire
their own glade runs
without the hassle
of lift-lines and $65 tickets.
The other half
is off limits--
the property of natives
who’ll shoot anyone
trespassing on foot
or more commonly,
snowmobile:
the apparent outcome
of town meetings
and a tribe’s
last stand.




                                    21
5. Gepetto’s Bar


Twelve o’clock,
and the local skiers and snowboarders
sit down in their well-
worn and very warm
outdoor clothes.
As the beer taps work out,
conversations about ice,
injuries, and immortality on ski trails
flow quickly as the barley and hops
between sentences.
A tourist sits across from two guys
on their liquid lunch-break
from cold hoses and air-compressed snow.
Alone and wearing the season’s
new ski jacket, the tourist
pipes up about the sketchy trail conditions.
Poor guy, not biting his tongue.
Where are you from stranger?
Massachusetts, he replies
more timidly.
The two snowmakers smile,
Gulp down their beers,
pay with wrinkled bills,
and walk out mumbling
words to each other.
The tourist eats his lunch,
alone and silent, then leaves
for a likely afternoon in the Jacuzzi
at the health club.




                                     22
6. Special Olympics


In January Sugarloaf hangs
a giant banner over the access road:
Welcome Athletes. Families pull
their cars onto the gravel shoulder
for the mothers to take a picture.
Sometimes sons and daughters
jump out screaming, as if nothing,
not even being normal, means more.
If they knew what normal’s like.

In the village the Olympic anthem
plays for every athlete in skiing, skating,
snowshoeing. It doesn’t matter to them
this winter hasn’t snowed more
than a few feet. Every day
the resort loses money I lose money.

But like the valley weather
altering my day when I believe
I’m wearing the proper shoes,
the guy looking up at me—
asking for iced coffee to go
in thirty degrees, gold medal
around his neck, ketchup on his chin—
doesn’t care, and shouldn’t care.




                                      23
7. A Weekend at Bernie’s


And who even knows
what that experience is like,
as the Buffett lover lives by himself
in the valley during winter,
with his mother on the coast come May.

When a green 90s Pontiac Bonneville
sails up the access road
over frost heaves like breakers,
its enormous worn hull swaying
on shocks like a bad keel,
you can bet that's Bernie blowing
cigarette smoke out his window.
Just in time to be last one
late for work.

And, for Bernie, work at Gepetto’s
means anything besides flipping
burgers and tossing salads.
He’s a host, waiter, bartender,
and expedites food on weekends.
His role depends on what day
you eat, or drink Michelob Light

with Bernie after work,
listening to his Buffet encounters,
burger spots in the Virgins,
or an explanation of curling,
that sport no one understands.
He is a balding and red skinned
encyclopedia who finishes
crossword puzzles during
fifteen minute breaks.

He will cover your shift,
after working twelve straight.
Bernie at work is a Jimmy Buffet concert:
tales of oceans and islands,
barflies and bartenders, songs
by a man that reveal very little
of what he sings while off stage.




                                      24
8. Leaving the Valley


My truck’s windows’ cracked open,
and the soft sun shower drips
into my car, wetting my arm.
I’m ready for July.
I drive beyond the gas station,
food market, and airport.
Spotting a deer crossing
the road, I brake,
and smell pine, leaves, mud,
and burning wood, after which
I pass the “So Long!” sign.
Indeed it was. Goodbye to everything:
Christmas in a snow storm,
January rains, Tequila
for no reason at all,
and the faces of locals
who smell these smells every spring.




                                  25
  III

Western




  26
The Hummers Roll By


Tan as the sand
their black wheels
churn through.
Their free-world paint job,
smooth, glaring, dominating
the Garden congested State Parkway.

A Volvo wagon’s bumper
reading No Blood for Oil,
makes Don’t Tread on Me
look comfortable
tattooed on the arm
of a stockbroker.




                                  27
       Westbound on Interstate 90, July, 2006


                                     $3.05 a Gallon

Emerson wrote, “Traveling is a fool’s paradise,” and

mend my life!,

       echoes farther across the Mississippi
       than a semi’s j-brakes,
       screeching,
       harassing,
       creating nightmares
       spawn from the humid silent stalks
       in a cornfield near Blue Earth, Minnesota.

       What keeps those stagnant relationships
       worth the stalemates,
       the useless beer-mates;
       fights over
       the cell phone that only end
       resolved,
       because lovers never hang-up
       irate at each other?
       The I love you
       before attempted sleep,
       right after sex
       when I wonder
       if that’s all it takes to fix this world.

Mend my life!

       The feeling furthest from isolation,
       where everything materialistic
       —Bahamian timeshares, Italian cars, French clothes, a German vacuum—
       is extraneous,
       and Anna’s dough soft cool breasts
       look more forgiving and inviting
       than any rest stop in Belvidere, South Dakota,
       after nine hours of counting mile markers
       and cows.




                                            28
                              $3.20 a Gallon

The voices of far and gone friends
stay behind in the figurative fog, the old neighborhood,
rallying bikes and pissing in community pools.
From inside the forest
of each of our childhoods
laughter is forced to reveal itself to the real world,
where filthy hands and knees don’t
amount to hard work without the scars.

Drinking companions’ and relatives’ words
carry over the Badlands’
eroded and erratic shale landscape:
sedimentary-layered mountains
carrying fossils from when
the Midwestern sea waved salt water not grain.

They reverberate through the Black Hills,
clapping off dynamite-carved faces
of Roosevelt, Lincoln, Washington, and Jefferson.
I stare sitting
in a granite amphitheater back-dropped
by museums, a café, gift shop,
and column of states’ flags.

In the valley
Keystone lies dry
with tour-driven mine shacks,
a general liquor store,
chipped and potholed roads,
and a lone black man
in torn jeans and a John Deere t-shirt
pedaling a rusted cruiser
down the middle of Route 40.

Tourists never
see his journey,
because road signs
and chamber of commerce stations
conduct the Airstreams, Winnebagos and Holiday Ramblers
along Highway 16:
an inauthentic wild-west
of Holiday Inns, Best Westerns,
Custer shops with flashing casino lights,
and over-priced steakhouses


                                     29
       with overly friendly and developed
       farmhouse waitresses.

What you don’t know
can’t hurt you!

       The virginity and respect I lost,
       during evenings of beer games
       and social independence
       from my conscience.

No! Not that specific!

       Then dusk like any
       in Buffalo-parched Wyoming,
       with a blue jay crying,
       a starved stray dog
       stumbling,
       across the dust-layered gravel parking lot
       of Traveler’s Lady Lounge: Truckers Welcome.
       Framed by a wild fire charring acres,
       hills, mountains, ranges,
       a county…a country!

       Maybe the moon was full
       or not,
       or…

It doesn’t have to be all or nothing America!

       a sliver of lunar light,
       only one reality show on T.V. tonight.
       Christian values
       where they belong,
       out of the Texas schools
       with the highest pregnancy rates.

That Rebel Without A Cause talk
is for Hollywood,
for the birds,
when they just might have
the last word—or blood-curdled chirp,
over infected bodies burning
in closed supermarket parking lots.




                                            30
                                        $3.33 a Gallon

         “I affect to be intoxicated with sights
         and suggestions, but I am not intoxicated.”1

         Everyone is on a journey,
         some are just more apparent
         more discussed or debated than others.

         My brother’s quietly working
         toward a heart attack
         for his daughter’s “best possible” life.

         Pollock paint this: the deterioration
         of a man, brilliant and brave,
         so his daughter might enroll
         in Topsfield township’s public school,
         and summer arts program,
         rather than waste with those
         second tier college students in Beverly.

Is that romance?
I’m not a Hallmark customer
and never watch Oprah.

         What do Americans believe in
         anymore? If emotion is not read to them
         during a breaking news broadcast,
         then it rots with the paintings, sculptures,
         writings and symphonies never composed.

         Artists! Quickly throw down your instruments,
         and abandon your muse,
         your enigma,
         your value.

         Talent is a conspiracy
         of supermarket rack
         rumor magazines,
         and elevated artist seminars
         in summer.
         Adapt to ineptness,
         or exist to yourselves and those
         no longer alive.

1
    Emerson’s Self-Reliance

                                               31
         Let your viewers,
         readers and students,
         feel accepted without exception.
         Your audience of cable-prodded cattle…

Fuck us with all our useless brains,
naming Al Qaeda operatives
because their pictures are on the screen.

         My brother’s demise
         crosses Wyoming’s continental divide.
         He’ll never see this barren
         landscape,
         scrub brush for miles, before the Bighorn range
         vaults the horizon up into late day sorbet
         orange clouds.

         My brother will never stand here
         as he wants,
         calling twice today, asking
         to email him pictures,
         squinting out into the hot setting sun,
         choking up while grasping
         the second when I know
         I’m a weak eulogy in a half-filled church.


                                       $3.37 a Gallon

         “How does it become a man to behave
         toward this American government to-day?”2

         Not by coddling
         rather than transcending.
         The divinity of this terrestrial moment
         would be improbable, impossible,
         without nature or humanity,
         or lack thereof in this world.

Bitch, bitch, bitch,
but have you flown into Indonesia, New Orleans,
or the den of lions resurrected from ancient scripture?

What scripture? Torah, Bible, Koran?

2
    Thoreau’s Resistance to Civil Government

                                             32
Irrelevant, they all mention lions out of power and fear.

       Fear? Like watching those state flags
       roll along with the Rushmore breeze,
       dead presidents breathe,
       reincarnated and insulted
       as another roadside bomb is distorted and disguised
       by waving dyed nylon
       above engraved granite declaration.

Our way of life?
Fuck no, not mine.
So discard that anti-patriot message.

       Want to really fight for freedom?
       A 29-year-old man named Peter
       dives from a beach
       he ran and dug for clams on
       when multiplication appeared denser
       than an L.A. morning skyline.

       The cracking of his vertebrae
       paralyzed all on the sand:
       the spectators and a lone victim.

       He wheels himself now,
       needs steak cut in small morsels,
       his mother to help him into bed.

I love skiing,
and he can’t hold his own penis to pee.

       Will he ever again be loved
       by a woman?
       Honestly, sexually, spiritually
       so that he can watch the neighbor
       jog his daily course without clenching tears
       or grinding teeth…

Mend his spinal cord!!




                                            33
                                         $3.45 a Gallon

         Once a beautiful girl in high school,
         star athlete, and honors student,
         Sandra sits in Salt Lake City,
         watching Fear Factor and eating pizza.
         She grows heavier by the month.
         At night she sleeps
         with a dog she found
         in the woods of West Virginia,
         while leading a hike of troubled teens.

         Striving to make a difference
         in the lives of those
         who barely have one…

But instead the difference
changes her.
Lying on the couch
thousands of miles from her home:
rain-soaked Maine.

         She looks at me,
         talks of leaving and loathing America,
         for Italy alone
         in her own hillside villa.

         “I dream that at Naples, at Rome,
         I can be intoxicated with beauty,
         and lose my sadness.”3

         Wondering where her life went,
         she is now the emotional sponge
         of doubt and discouragement
         for every single suicidal teen
         she “counsels.”

         We all need counseling.
         Where is the salsa dancing
         and always laughing girl
         I loved and swore to protect?
         Her eyes are now sunk,
         spent, unmotivated.


3
    Emerson’s Self-Reliance

                                              34
Cries Goddamnit!! I hear more crying…

         in her hug. Arms wrapping around
         my raincoat, tighter then tighter,
         like so many I leave.

         Waving with the Belgium Terrier
         from a window, any window, any day.
         I see her in solitude till its over,
         her journey: a distancing
         from nothing but a sensation,
         fueled by innocently pure memories
         and the media’s promise of a horrible future.

         “My giant goes with me wherever I go.”4


                                        $3.56 a Gallon

         “He cannot be happy and strong
         until he too lives with nature in the present,
         above time”5

         I hear another friend, Adam,
         berating his mother
         for her memory of an ex-husband—his British father—
         reappearing in Adam’s youthful and handsome face.

         She hates him
         and will break him,
         from aging like the alcoholic executive
         who moved back to England.

         Adam now gardens
         her ocean-view property,
         walking to White Hen for Camels during lunch,
         because his childhood seizures
         helped void his license and Boston employment once again.

         Who knows if the brain of a 24-year-old philosophy major
         is too tired to let Kant argue Plato
         about metaphysics
         and the reality of experience and reason anymore?

4
    Emerson’s Self-Reliance
5
    Emerson’s Self-Reliance

                                               35
Maybe it was all the vodka and cocaine from college
that finally burned out the neurons and squeezed too many cells.

Or he couldn’t let go from the tetherball life
his selfish mother constructed.

       Yet he stayed in Massachusetts
       instead of standing on Burns Basin Overlook,
       with the Buffalo Gap Grassland sprawled out,
       tempting him to climb down and run away.

       The way the Sioux once did
       before the buffalo fell as fast
       as their fellow native inhabitants,
       to the cavalry that reclaimed
       this nation from the indigenous geography
       once rich with respect not reservation,
       like Pine Ridge today.

       Adam’s containment isn’t so
       extraneous.
       As his mother’s anger
       and resentment,
       burrows deep into the memory
       of a child who wanted a mother,
       not a condemner.

       His body leans west at tether length
       but his voice, raspy and phlegm-filled
       still bellows through a cell phone.

       And at dusk,
       when I catch earth’s darkness
       in my car’s rear mirror,
       I swear the growing shadow
       immense and black,
       is Adam’s mind unable
       to hold hostage his sadness and madness any longer.


                                      $3.60 a Gallon

       Lewis and Clark,
       anxious in the hunt for the “Pacific Passage”
       realized the vulnerability


                                             36
       of their Lilliputian size,
       when the Bitterroots
       dared them to pass-over,
       and grizzlies glared,
       examining every fear-exhibiting step.

       Sacagawea,
       a friend and guide
       carrying the future and imagination
       of an entire Protestant nation,
       would have cried
       at the Columbia’s basalt cliffs
       knowing her face,
       only her face survived
       on the coinage of a treasury
       that raped its gold
       from her heritage’s frontier.

Forgive me if the 4th of July gives me joy
to drink too much with friends and nothing more.

       We salute our freedom,
       but never gather to mourn
       the Cherokee’s march,
       and Charleston’s slave trade.
       America we didn’t
       fight in 1776,
       so stop the fireworks,
       cause they’re embarrassing us,
       looking like the young punks
       on earth’s beyond Cambrian street corner.


                                    $3.69 a Gallon

       My phone rings: mother,
       and another conversation
       about how she hopes
       things will workout,
       and I always have a home
       in New England.

Where? My brother’s basement?
You and dad live in Florida;
the Darwin award-winning state
of the bronzed Botox generation


                                             37
that brought America the 60s
and a botched half drugged
no—fully drugged—social revolution
with a soundtrack of psychedelic
rock and roll hits.

         She thinks I’m mad,
         “very strangely they say,”6
         and I forget my values
         when I speak poorly of Boston
         and its ox-cart path old
         intellectual debates.
         The only winners are those tunnels
         buried in the soil
         still absorbing the first blood
         spilt for America.
         They are cracking two problems
         all by their concrete selves: corporate corruption
         and population control.

         A Boston Herald headline:
         Subterranean Structure
         Built for Larger Population,
         Instead Reduces It.

That reads about right,
with an editorial on irony
complete with some reference
about gay marriage and turnpike tolls.

         I just can’t listen
         to an asshole in Armani,
         talk about Daddy’s new house
         on Nantucket.
         His Bass-drinking grin
         looks as perfect as his chin
         after ass-smooching the boss
         so fuck-it.


                                        $3.80 a Gallon

         An invitation: a journey for America
         and not just another Pulitzer Prize winning poet;

6
    Shakespeare’s Hamlet

                                              38
write what you know, don’t be vague,
form and function, line breaks,
rhyme, voice…

       all go into the carbon stuffed atmosphere
       when designing a poem for today’s hi-def
       and digitally enhanced minds and eyes.

       Pack your bags, America,
       cause I’ve got a head
       full of voices
       and a car jammed
       with inspiration-starved souls;
       we’re journeying
       toward our deaths,
       on our own miserable terms.

       Better hurry before gas hits $4.00 a gallon,
       or North Korea launches a nuke,
       or Evian earns billions from Avian,
       or Mexicans steal all the entry-level jobs,
       or all the volcanoes in the Western Hemisphere explode,
       or an asteroid………

       Channel fuzz…

       Channel fuzz…

       Channel fuzz…




                                          39
        IV

Crafted Discoveries




        40
At the Beach, August 2005


I lifeguard swimmers.
They laugh in it,
play in it
kick in it
splash in it
cool their bodies in it,
and take work absences
just to be near it…

New Orleans: A boiling
pot of anything but Creole.

Taking a sip of my
fresh Poland Spring,
while the bayou waits
for more armed soldiers.
And then their thirst
may be quenched.

I stare at the ocean’s
flashing message:
Morse code for love
but fear me.

Some are not feeling
emotions anymore, just bloated
bodies floating.
Others feel everything
from a disease-filled
mouth, to the ruptures
of a city being returned
to the sea it was built on,
as a nation passes
judgment on those who
take what’s left, what’s not yet
been swallowed by the brown
cloudy bottom.




                                   41
Augusta


Shamrock green,
precisely manicured fairways
guided by Georgia Pines
unfold for thousands of yards
on the “first nine,”
“second nine.”
Holes named Chinese Fir,
Nandina, and Flowering Crab Apple,
invite Phil’s artistry,
Fred’s form, like
past players now gray
haired or no haired.
Their white skins
tanned from long hours
on the links.

Augusta is for gentlemen,
by gentlemen: masters.
Of green jackets
and a wedge
from the fabled rough.
Blue sky,
robin’s song,
and a Sunday afternoon
on the Ben Hogan bridge,

detail this sanctuary
with a clubhouse.
An escape from the cruel
galleries of the world
lurking just beyond
those rod iron gates
with golden trim.




                                 42
Ann Helen


As with every event before,
she is dug in a trench—my memory.
Oh why can’t I forget,
put aside or move on?
Catullus would rise with joy
to only be free of Lesbia,
though his imagination wouldn’t.
Lesbia knew she was passion not love,
physical not emotional.
How beautiful that is!

Instead my modern day Greek myth
closes empty.
No love was made as perfection
and bitterness sat the higher throne.
Now I am tired,
my body worn and emotions washed
—hands stained red—
every rose contributed, returned.




                                    43
Sermon for Liberals


Been in a church,
synagogue, mosque, or any
house of worship?

Religion isn’t the crisis.
All who are so pious,
in the narrow approach
of values should question
redemption.

Open minds don’t alienate
open mouths or beliefs.

Nancy Pelosi is the speaker,
the madness behind the trigger
of secular responses
to today’s bigger picture.

Christmas is a holiday
not Holiday, just like
Chanukah and Kwanza….

The generalization
of tradition,
is an abomination
for a nation founded
on such ideals.

Let’s grant marriages
between humans and animals,
maybe then everything
will feel included.

If the gospel is Darwin’s Origin,
and evolution is priority,
then the minority
will adapt or cease.

Social benefits for the lazy,
is a concept as hazy
as protesting a fight
for the right


                                    44
to spread propaganda.
Don’t support fences.
Yet sitting on them
is safer than picking a side?




                                45
The Shark and the Remora


Six years of friendship have to be swallowed. Anyway:
the shark (big concept) and the remora (small dog
that otherwise would not have a speaker)—the remora
exposes the shark, enveloped by or living
within immediate contact; the remora
is voice and purpose, closer to the shark without
having to make statements to tackle it. The shark,
common and larger, catches attention, but soon
the remora is front and center.

Shelley, Hugo, Frost,
and one other famous poet, have gone straight
after the shark. Crane's Atlantis might be so over-
   the-top it’s too much. This shark (and remora)
   involve only elements, almost metaphor-free.
   Their relationship, very peculiar, is a solid case
   of mutualism. The remora gets protection and food;
   the shark is cleaned of parasites and other micro
   and harmful matter. There are debates whether
   it is true mutualism; many believe this to be true.
   If the shark received no benefit from the remora,
   then it would surely rid itself of the nuisance.

It's incredibly difficult to grasp. The remora
gives the shark the poem it needs. I'm sick
of inaccessible, lofty analysis. We are not dropped
from the womb with a pencil in one hand and a copy
of Blake in the other. I do not want a one-use concept.
Why this whole idea? I kicked myself over everything,
and finally, it completely sucked the marrow out of life.




                                     46
Springing Forward:
For Andrew’s Twenty-fifth Birthday


Born in Conway, NH,
and for what seemed
like forever you were a native,
of winters with snow measured
in feet and below zero wind-chills,
lumberjack clubs in high school
where you pressed cider,
and boasted about cut hands
after a day splitting
and burning wood.

You owned a pig. Drove
a rusted-out jeep
with the license plate
in the back window
because your bumper
fell off while rallying
through logging trails.
Dated ski racing blonds
with big thighs and blue eyes.

Soon after your keg and ecology
filled years at Colby,
you drove a Subaru west
beyond the Mississippi river,
Ogallala Aquifer and Rocky
Mountain range.
You pushed on, determined
to discover a life few
expected,
in a city always warm
with sun and skinny
girls’ smiles.
You may never leave
your surfboard, and long
Saturdays in the Pacific’s
orchestra of waves
to return to where you
dreamed your dreams,
and embraced first friends
like family: always and no matter.


                                      47
         I-70 Abridged in November, 2006


         “I have decided never again to run: it is enough for me
         if I can drag myself along.”7

         Foliage envelops Pennsylvania’s forgotten turnpike.
         Harvest colors: deciduous fireworks
         exploding from oaks,
         birches, and maples.

         In passing through glacial clawed ridges,
         and across moraine valley floors,
         the car climbs and coasts successfully;
         there are 3500 miles of pavement left to roll its tires over.

         Or maybe it’s just me, becoming the car at this point,
         this second crossing of a continent, a nation,
         ready to vote for change, or just a few changes.
         Only the residents of farmhouses tucked in their Bob Ross
         paintings know the answer.

         Landscapes with towns so inviting
         you can smell the pumpkin pie already,
         one month before Thanksgiving,
         and with each tunnel entered—Allegheny, Kittatinny,
         Tuscarora, and Blue Mountain—I long for the scent.


A family gathering in Western Pennsylvania or Virginia,
a conversation with dad—a coal worker, brother
—a county deputy, and the coarse texture of their palms:
topography like the Rockies, but with the weathering and age
of the Appalachians.

They grasp mine for a shake before I leave,
off to build my own spiritual arc, and endure the storm.


         Where are the risings, the rallies, and the solidified aspirations
         of Midwestern cities like Columbus, Indianapolis,
         and violence-choked St. Louis?
         Driving through an eerie black nothingness in Kansas,

7
    Michel De Montaigne’s On Experience

                                               48
with the massive trailers lighting the pathway west,
I shutter and constantly calm my hands, heart, and feet.
Restraining them from gripping
the reality of our nation too tightly,
accelerating the car straight off an Oregonian bluff,
and into the Pacific to migrate with blue whales:

surely not unlike the terrestrial Peterbuilts and Freightliners
slugging up the Front Range, departing from Denver.
Their journey is one of schedule and repetition,
to fill their aluminum bellies on one coast,
and empty them on the other. Why? Survival.

A blue whale nurses her calf for the swim,
as driver cashes his check to keep dinner
smelling like hot turkey beside mashed potatoes,
with the gravy bowl ready for full assault.
A deluge of gluttonous goodness for salivating buds.

July burned, October cools.
Summer scared and fall haunts.
I’m tired of twelve-hour days and Subway Clubs,
the lane changes, work zones, and state police perched on overpasses.

This time in Salt Lake, I still think of Sandra,
but not without the knowledge that only she moved
her life into the Wasatch-walled Mormon city,
growing too rapidly for its cluttered interstate.

I can only raise the flag, whether white or Old and Glorified,
but Sandra and Adam, and the millions of voices I hear
from sea to shining sea, must be evoked by it.
And what if I should fall?

Revolutionaries are staying home,
longing for one last meal with at least the spirit of their kin,
their fatigued crusaders
Iraq held or rehab bound.




                                      49
In the Year of the Bitch


Humiliated and mauled around every corner,
targeted in the morning, evening, during sleep.
You’re the neighborhood friendly to everyone,
vicious to me.

I sprint sometimes: naive.
You still find me on my back steps,
jackknifed and heaving;
you smile with compassion, then lunge.

I’ve thought about a gun—pellet
since I’m soft.
Alas, you’ll be victim, martyr, and victor
while your entourage escorts you home.

A selfish campaign of preying;
I attempt to abandon. Rapidly exiting left
around your block toward the next,
but no matter my strides, your teeth puncture my skin.




                                     50
Television at Three in the Morning


I’ve watched the psychological
seminar on the physiological
construction of liberals and conservatives
on C-SPAN,
flipped by some Spanish sitcom
on my way beyond 80s porn,
to find out how $19.95
will give me Jesus
if I just pick up that phone—
because who the hell is up taking
Christian propaganda orders
at this hour anyway?
Someone who watches
a documentary on the great 1872 Boston fire
during commercials for The Odd Couple
and wonders,
what the hell would Erasmus
think of his Praise of Folly now?




                                  51
You Found Me Singing with Sam Cooke


Let’s dance yes?

And swing, swing, swing
for a song like our lives.

Can’t you just see, smiling me?
I’m white as yogurt
in the Harlem Square Club, not caring;

still swinging, these hips
for Clifton’s, but male.

Bringing this rhythm on home
to you.




                                   52

				
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