Battle For The Author’s Soul

Last night the Beatles and the Beach Boys battled for my eternal soul.

I was sped away in a little duce coupe, but then a giant walrus in the road took me back to the USSR until, finally, David Lee Roth appeared with his California girls, and that was that.

The chords of music were strewn about my little bitty room like corpses, beats and rhythms looked up at bedside nurses with pleading eyes.

And, in the midst of it all, a gentleman in coattails with slick black hair walked up, shook my hand, and said, “pleased to meet you, hope you’ve guessed my name…”

The Moment And The Speed

So I fell asleep with Sgt. Pepper playing

and it drifted through every song until

it reached its heart-attack crescendo:

that ending that strains, mounts, swells

against itself; it lurches,

slouches upward, rises and rises

upon its rising until it finally—

resolves.

That note, and its moment,

remind me of your name

unspoken, on the edge of my lips,

here in this haze of half-waking.

And the beginning of your name begins

the path of pure yellow light

skipping across autumn-brown bushes,

the rising green-smelling Spring grass,

or the thorny range of Winter branches…

Fields of time, slow like a rolling wave

across the brown-blue spread of ocean,

and I am the waves that crest in the air,

there’s no moon, and I am pulled

by you and you alone, with your force;

and then you pulse like a radio transmission

that sputters out into space…

My body, my breath feels warmer than before

as I have taken in your air-less heat

like a creek rock in the Summer sun.

And you are a glowing lens to the

force of desire, that crescendo:

your lips on my neck travel

faster than my thoughts,

faster than my apprehension—

superluminal.

Decades’ Serenade

Imagine my grandmother dancing…

Alice Chambers, daughter of a mother tough and so severe,

my grandmother, my mother’s mother,

born 1917—her 25 would be 1942; also imagine

“A. J. Sylvester”, the name my mom only vaguely recounts to me.

Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” straining through a vacuum tube radio…

Somehow, I think of him as Sylvester,

maybe Mr. Sylvester: I’ve never seen him;

I’ve seen his handwriting.

He died in Pearl Harbor; the Navy named a ship after him.

Imagine the swell and sway of the clarinets as he held her…

After she married—Garnel Poppleton, a nice boy from church—

Sylvester kept writing, but that mother of hers so severe

hid every letter until after he was dead,

and it was too late, and that broke Alice apart.

***

Imagine the white on a mountain, framed by a kitchen window…

I remember her from her garden’s raspberries:

frozen, fresh and crisp; I remember the bite

of sweet and ice (she’d often pour milk over);

Alice Poppleton, my co-conspirator to decadence.

Imagine my grandmother folding laundry alone in the kitchen, in

front of the fridge with only a radio playing…

I remember her from her letters;

she’d always tuck a dollar bill stiff from the bank,

and I didn’t mind when mom made me write back

because that meant yet another letter would come.

Imagine my grandmother’s face, deadpan, calling out for me as

Brian David Thedell Luke Skywalker throughout my fifth Summer…

I remember her—in the house down from the mountain

with her own private garden of berries

as she smouldered through life with that

nice boy from church, the radio, and

the pile of letters in the back of the guest closet.

***

Imagine hands, soft with Rose Milk lotion and a lifetime of work,

finally at rest on a quilt…

I can’t help but feel a kinship with Sylvester,

and I wonder what I’d call myself today

if a certain Japanese pilot had failed his mission,

had left someone alive to write back to.

Imagine “Moonlight Serenade” remastered on CD, ringing through the nursing home bedroom…

By 2001 I was 25; I called her sometimes, in spite

of all the awkward, confused pauses, the mumbling of aging.

Then I learned that the nurses read my emails aloud

for her; it hurt me less to write than to talk.

Imagine my grandmother, dancing across all those decades…

I didn’t visit my grandmother’s death bed;

I’d grown unforgiving at her for her daughter so severe.

Now, as I sit with my regret, I wonder if hers tasted as frozen and crisp

that day she changed from Alice Chambers to Alice Poppleton.

Chrome Histories

(for Zach)

I had a friend who had

a 1956 Bel Air—frame chunky, smooth;

I still feel from its soft head lamps

a hypnotic daze that suggests

every mile, every driveway

it saw since it began

twenty years before I was born…

Didn’t you tell me, once, you wanted

an El Camino: half truck, half car,

your world again swollen with indecision?

But I was always happy to just sit

and listen to you decide—

that story of yourself you wove

out of the cloth of American rust:

the specter of a glory before us both,

as you felt stranded, I guess,

on the island of twenty-one…

And look, I know, I know

how hard it is to be someone,

to find the foothold on thoughts

that you can actually call home,

that grew up beside you and

saw the same television,

roamed the same playgrounds—

thoughts that burn like the little candles

that you found in your mother’s cupboard

that lasted through the rainy November afternoon…

Soot.

Soot.

Candle or car exhaust, it cakes

my hands, burns my eyes—

our days and days chatting online, and

what I’ve left to show for it

is a mouthful of ash

and a muddy old junk yard

with your name on the sign…

Today you look handsome in your El Camino,

but remember, no matter what history you purchase,

we have no choice down which roads time will lead us.

Though, whatever our destiny, I am happy

to tell myself the story of you:

your soft eyes beaming,

your flat chest, chunky and smooth…