Tag Archives: vacations

A Sense of Place

Six years, the longest I have ever been
in one spot without moving out and on,
and still this place does not possess my bones
the way it would if I had come of age,
or taken my first steps, read my first book,
lost my virginity or first paycheck,
under these spreading, great magnolia trees,
through hurricanes and floods and summer’s heat.
My ties are severed to those memories;
there is no real connection back to where
the formative in me began to set,
to where grandparent’s porch-swings gently rocked,
or drifted snow blew up against the house
so high it blocked the window of my second story room.
There is no chain between me and the land;
what sacred space I ever found is gone.
And even when I visit, after years and miles away,
only their ghosts, if that, remain as shadows.
As always, disconnected from my peers,
whose constant habitations in one sphere
I wished to share, but never had the chance,
the sense of place in me is hollowed out.
At home, but homeless, my spirit abides
in pieces cast among my former selves;
How long before I call this city “mine”,
and recognize its rhythm as my own?

2 AUG 2005

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The Ride Home

Scattered like jewels tossed out
across a black crushed velvet plush
electric fueled stars winking
against an endless backdrop of night
their pulsing engines cycling
with an urgent rasp
their transmissions settled
into high ratio sedation
controls set to automatic pilot
as the guidelines flash by
like homing beacons
on an endless runway
glow from gauges green and orange
illuminating chins set firm
eyes forced to the open
against the lull of airsteamed whine
fighting the urge to sleep, to drift,
and follow the flow of the road
as it rolls itself under the lights.

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Pleasure City

Canto I:

Next stop, the driver said, smiling through cracked wicked lips,
Pleasure City – we huddled, prenatal, wondering –
even in the suburbs the legends grew,
spread by the Party Planners,
the malcontent underbelly of the American Experience,
bastard step-children of the rotted family tree,
planted by righteous Puritan hands,
unsoiled by the burst and bloody entrails they tilled into the New Land.

A mystic angel sang guitar, played his words,
inspired by the big wheels (big wheels),
the bus across the wilderness of naked earth.
No flies on my shit, he sang,
no vultures preparing for the feast,
vomiting cold logic on the corpse of the American Dream.
Pleasure City – last stop on the long, hot road,
sun-drenched with memories long forgotten,
hands that played their songs of construction,
the leather blood-letters,
as buried in the sand as siblings of Antigone.

Ah, but Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Old lady in the back, azure-domed, triumphant,
proclaims that she has seen its better days,
the frontier of the experience.
The driver calls her forward,
gives her the crown preserved for Christian martyrs,
kicks her in the teeth and laughs.
He is not amused, for we laugh with him,
unknowingly blind and mute,
another shipment of Other-Worlders seeking to feel again,
to walk the streets of Paradise.

Samerica, we smiled and stepped from the bus platform.

Canto II:

It was another long hot world away, our nesting places –
lofty crags for eagles perched on tenement windows –
waiting longing for something anything sweet release from boredom,
enemy of life itself.
The television man appeared one sunny hurt-swept Afternoon –
like maggots on the corpse of dawn we clung to this:
the dream of Pleasure City.
Escape, escape from this into God knows what else there is…
special deals free food and lodging,
the party bus to Paradise.

Am I the ninety-ninth caller?

The embodiment of Pepsodent living greets us.
We smile back,
our jaundiced grins exposing rotted Lifestyles.
This is our Destination.

Under the cold hard moon of desolation we cross the tundra,
mutant wildebeests on wheels of fire,
our gaudy polyester lives unfolded,
wrinkling in gorilla-proof encasements.
Across the lifeless plain our lifeless souls greet new days;
hopeful, hopeless wanderers,
the Happy Hunting Ground defiled by technology.
The radiation clings to our bones,
the remnants of a nuclear yard sale.

The bus driver’s azure robes are caked with dust
from roads where tires collapsed.
The Conestoga, pleasure-bound, rolls into Paradise.

Canto III:

The doors swung open with a burst of unexpected energy.
A thousand colored suns eliminated our shadows, our doubt –
Ezekiel’s wheel had fallen, spinning,
where the fortune tellers shuffled after every deal,
the faces of divination no longer Egyptian.
The sun does not set upon the horizon,
but lingers, mocking while void of sleep,
drenched in the cool, hard sweat of Anticipation,
we rub our heads for luck (heads without a sensible hair).

Outside, in the blaring light of midnight,
a jester expelled from Caligula’s court salutes us with a sneer.
He complains of pains, of hunger, of thirst –
wants we have satisfied with endless rolls of change,
while hand and foot courtiers slip us watered Scotch,
stale biscuits and gravy.
The driver laughs, throws our lingering clown a “piece of eight.”
Coin of the realm, worth five dollars inside.
It is not edible, for the jester cannot enter the court.
He laughs and throws it away, cursing lady luck.

“Samerica,” he cries, his throat hoarse with fervent whispers,
“Your addiction to Horatio Alger is complete,
your opium pipe is a machine,
the Tree of Knowledge where fruits are matched.
Apples or oranges,
the difference being small change to a small fortune.”

Canto IV:

Bridegrooms no longer hesitant, we re-enter the honeymoon suite.
The floorplan is memorized, our tour guide is unnecessary.
Stepping like ancient warriors on velvet carpets of fortune,
we weave our way through the rabble, the riff-raff.
Heads turn with frank stares, ruby eyes filled with avarice and pain.

The Holy Rollers have entered the chamber.

Foolish and reckless,
then conservative,
we take our turn at the table,
feeding on the adrenaline like baptismal liquids.
The numbers before our eyes:
first, Hymn 40, then Hymn 13.
The priest speaks gravely,
intoning ancient symbols that reveal we will not see the gates at dawn.
The azure-domed Madame from the bus swoons, star-struck.
She has come from the far pavilion.
Men in togas, she proclaims,
announce the King shall dance tonight.
The bus driver laughs.

The King is Dead,
but Long Live the King,
and cash me in.

Like Egyptian cities of the dead, the Path of Ramses,
the Suburbs of Osiris,
we will name our streets after our gods.

Canto V:

In the blackened cathedral we sit huddled.
The King will speak, his emissary has taken the stage.
His mistresses,
the golden-tressed and nubile peacocks of the night
have begun the rite of initiation.
The drums have begun to sound,
the trumpets herald the coming of the New Christ.

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall be Entertained.
Blessed are the weary and forlorn, for they shall be Amused.
Blessed are the chosen ones, the Holy Rollers,
for they shall receive Complimentary Champagne.”

Almost before it has begun, the stage is once again deserted.
A flash of white sequins, the smell of hot light sweat.
The sonic boom from pelvic thrusts, of gymnastic exhibitions,
is overwhelming.
Quickly, the onlookers are ushered out into the cold hard sweet wet night,
into the lighted halls and corridors.
The service is completed here, for the bells are still ringing.
Flashing lights and sirens scream their homage
to the gods we have created.

Canto VI:

Two lovers bend their obsessed wills in anguish,
the Paradise of Pleasure City fuels their passions,
their deep despair.
In rooms where once The Voice
held the attention of the molls and saps,
the final moments of ecstasy seep through pale gold curtains
as daylight robs writhing forms of their dignity.

The bottle empty as their thoughts and wallets,
they wince as its shattered fragments
draw their watered blood across the cold tile.
Visions of Hitchcock’s motel run with the crimson water
as it slips away.

It was to be a new beginning,
Lady Luck and Prince Valiant embarking,
heading to the New Crusade –
after cleaning out the Golden Nugget.

Canto VII:

The neon hourglass fills our eyes;
there is no time remaining for us.
Our sins have not been washed away.

Like Eve and Adam thrust from the gates while forced to watch
the life within the garden, we are returned to the dust from which we came.
The desert moon mocks our retreat.

Pleasure City, the bus driver exclaims.
It is but temporary Paradise,
this golden oasis on the face of destruction.

But Pleasure City – cool and hot, wet and parched dry!

Across the painted desert we wing silent, droning miles;
the tenements and caves from which we crawled
intone their homing beacon cries.
In the back of the bus,
exhausted,
we cross the desert,
spent as useless lovers,
the emptiness of our copulation
reflected in our gaunt souls.

Summer 1990

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The Other Shoe Drops

My mother, who turns seventy next year,
four days from now is driving from LA,
alone across almost two thousand miles
(she plans between ten and twelve miles a day)

to visit us in New Orleans — she says,
for just a day or so; and then, she’s off
towards the north. Next stop is Tennessee.
My younger sister’s been there just two months

and barely settled in; she moved away
to close the West Coast chapter of her life.
Of course, that book includes my brothers and my mom.
I understand her motivation well,
although to mom it’s not so cut and dry.

She wonders what would cause someone to split
away from hearth and home, leaving behind
the everything your life has ever been
in search of something else – something else real.

But she and Dad did much the same thing:
they put a state, at first, between their life
and where they came from, cutting free the past.
It worked for about seven years or so.

And then they were dragged back into the fold,
or close enough to be within the web
of sibling politics and watchful eyes;
they tried to make a go of it, and failed.

Next, they tried the whole damn continent —
uprooting us from the dull, complacent life
that was in store if we stayed on the farm,
and ran three thousand miles, to Western shores.

The family back at home, in the Midwest
still wonders why they left, dissatisfied
with close-knit clan surrounding on all sides
and little opportunity for growth.

But it was dad that needed space, and change,
and his decision to break with the past.
Mom never spoke of it, but now, I think
she has regrets that they struck out alone.

And sis and I, the two like the old man,
have likewise flung ourselves out and away —
with breathing room to reconstruct our lives
in different ways, by rules that we define.

How could mom be surprised? Our exodus
was fated from the start. There was no force
of nature, blood or even divine will
that could have keep us California-bound.

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Haiku for the Holidays

Long lines and cramped flights,
bland food tasting like warm crap:
holiday travel.

Meeting family,
all dwelling on past actions;
skin deep interest.

More useless gifts,
and hours wasted in small talk;
No relaxation.

So rude and hurried.
Must keep up with the Jones’:
California.

Too many people
rushing to get nowhere fast;
not a vacation.

08 JAN 2003

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Looking for patterns in things

If I can find a repeating pattern, a repetitious rhythm that pulses underneath the warp and woof of my life, it is that each time I reconnect with my biological family, it becomes necessary to wipe clean the creative slate and start over. Every time I encounter my mother or brothers or sister in the flesh, it is as if my creative spark sputters and dies, and must be carefully and diligently kick-started back into being.

It used to be that on principle, I would drop acid every six months or so (when I started dreaming those technicolor, wide screen dreams again) and that would stop the nocturnal picture show for a period of time. During the time when the dreams were banished, I would create, feverishly manic out of necessity. For the past three years, however, that has not been required – I can do it without the drug, now; but it had been that long since I saw my family.

Now, I’m losing track of my train of thought here, but shall continue anyway. The bottom line is that these reunions always make me feel small, as if I had never started anything, as if my past were the only thing relevant (not the present or the future), and that comparison with my siblings makes me feel unaccomplished, unnecessary, unproductive. Not that they are really doing anything with their lives, except working, eating, sleeping, raising children. But a prophet, they say, is never accepted as such in their home town. And the spiritual quest that I am on is so far beyond the scope of their understanding.

So why is it that each time we meet, I have to spend weeks or months getting my self back from some mired, mucky limbo? Is the pattern of my everyday life so set, so predictable that this familial jolt disrupts the very cycle of my being? Or is it like that for everyone? Because family is one place where they knew ya when you were nobody. And they seem deadset against letting you forget it. The veneer of respectability, of civility, of cooperation and mutual well-wishing seems so cracked and worn, so victimized by the steady onslaught of chronology. If I wrote an autobiography and sent it to my family for review, would they even recognize the subject? How could they? I’m sure they would be agast at the pathways my journey has discovered, and they would long for the small talk I have lost the taste for along the way. Are all families so petty on the surface? Does the pettiness seep deep into the very marrow of a family’s corporeal self, permeating the core with dysfunction? It all seems so false, a sham, a palimpsest against which the writing of truth is faded and peeling.

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Returning

Ah, my friends, it is good to be home. After a week in southern Californika (which at times seemed like a colony on a far distant planet) in a strange granola world, New Orleans seems like a Mecca for all things normal. Now, I know that many of you out there are thinking — New Orleans? Normal? But it is true. Compared to the rudeness, overcrowding, one mall per ten citizens, ostentatious civilization that is SoCal, New Orleans, with its dirty broken streets, its slow and greasy pace, its propensity for overindulgence (i.e., Mardi Gras, Sugar Bowl, Jazzfest, etc.), its “laissez faire” and “city that care forgot, because it is a particular brand of apathy”, New Orleans is a MUCH saner place than California. Believe it, or not. There is a world that I inhabited when I lived that strange decade in California that is so far removed from the reality of my life, so different from the path that I have traveled, so alien to what I know to be a healthy, vibrant way of life.

It settled like a tempting, velvet glove –
the dry desert air that filled every space
and sucked away my energy and love,
leaving me gasping and running in place.

There was no room to freely stretch my wings,
nor space in which to find the center’s void;
For life was crammed with petty, useless things –
the lack of which will make you paranoid.

Visiting and acting well adjusted
was the hardest role I’ve ever performed;
there was no script to read or to follow.

It seemed like pure luck not to get busted
as the thought police gathered strength and swarmed;
Full-time, that life would be hard to swallow.

05 JAN 2003

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