I am disappearing into quietude
in a quaint country tract house
known as the “Merlot” model.
My house is slightly smaller than
the Chardonnay and
the Cabernet models
but bigger than a Zinfandel.
Here, a spec house coup de tat
took place: the terror of terroir.
I hear the ghosts of
of an old turkey farm
gobbling in the twilight.
I wave to the Hooker boys
who clung to their ancestral
home – the Thunderbird model –
a double-wide, paid for in cash
before the spec house scourge.
Now they waste away with
despondent elders on plaid couches
in a front yard of ice plant.
In America ten old toilets
are a sculpture garden.
I see their gaping mouths
as like fonts of holy water
alive with wriggling larva
to receive the butts and ashes.
I am leading an anxious life
at the end of Evergreen Lane
where the Acheron runs high
during the winter rains.
I am an American but
I don’t feel like an American.
I might be an Americana
or an Auracana.
I was born at the wrong time.
I’m trying to get back to the right time.
A mistake was made.
I was born into a world of
Zodiac killers and Cool-Aid suicides.
My father’s friends had
big moustaches.
They wore bell bottoms pants,
tight shirts and leather visors.
I read D’Aulaires’ Book of Greek Myths
hoping to summon my
real parents – one a lesser God,
one a tree or a trilobite
or a hydra – it didn’t matter.
I imagined I was trapped inside a tree
when the mountainside killer,
was stabbing women
on the trails of Mt Tamalpais
while running in the 1970s,
while running from the 1970s.
I had a second-hand
Girl Scout uniform and
two badges: The Rambler Badge
and the Sewing Badge.
We found a pink rubber phallus
in the elementary school
sandbox when we were out
selling Thin Mints, and we
were told, in a manner,
that the sturdy pillars
of patriarchy rely on silence,
so bury your treasure in the sand,
Girl Scout, along with your head.
I used to babysit for a rock star
until three in the morning
while he did lines at the bar
and forgot to pay me
when he stumbled in
knocking over the tea kettle
and woke the baby.
I didn’t have an unhappy
childhood although
I could see some people’s thoughts.
My father thought he might
like to push me over the
edge of the aircraft carrier
into the Pensacola Bay
when no one was watching
because there were no rails
and that brave pilot friend of his
had gone up in flames,
torched to a crisp in runway fireball
during a Naval air show.
I did not have a happy childhood.
I tried to read the thoughts of trees.
I walked the Steep Ravine,
alone on a foggy morning
but the trees and I were shaken
down to our roots
by the roaring Harleys
on Panoramic Highway.
I woke up in Sao Paulo.
I went to see an American movie
with a student from L.A.
but we watched a snuff movie
by accident instead.
I saw a girl like me dragged
under a barbed wire fence
in the desert while men
looked on in the sinister
clammy, darkness of the theater.
I am reading Don Quixote
for the fourth time
because we all labor under
our delusions but at times
it feels good
to laugh at Sancho
and not with him.
I refuse to read about our
founding fathers because
I know too much already.
I have never been to
New York City but
I read Call It Sleep twice
and it made me wonder
how many other children have
sat upon the railroad tracks,
the ties stinking of creosote,
when they doubted God
loved them or their mothers.
I cry still for little David
when I think of him.
I like it here but I want to
go back to where I came from,
if I only could remember.
It was an island in the blue Pacific.
A nymph had a garden
of carnivorous flowers.
She collected knee high mushrooms
and aromatic herbs.
She kept a few lovers on hand
in case of emergencies.
She took care of all the orphaned
children in the cold world
but had to turn some into sparrows
while she grew more food
and changed their soil clothes.
I have gone out, a ghost
among the possessed witches
in the sale racks and laundry mats,
in the grocery outlets and malls,
lost among the maenads.
I have seen the skinny woman
dancing wildly, running backwards
on the highway in the midday heat
under headphones.
I listened in City Dreams to
The Songs of Yes
burbling like underwater music
in the 8-track tape deck
of a flat black Camaro,
my father racing the back roads
near Nicasio Reservoir
asphyxiating in dope smoke
and carbon monoxide –
me, just hoping to live.
Other kids my age listened to
Dream Weaver or
Don’t Fear the Reaper
while I preferred Bartok
just to prove a point.
I joined the calligraphy club
that met in the school library
before the first bell rang.
I to arrived earlier
with my nibs and inks
before the roving gangs
of anti-Bartok thugs,
black combs in the back pockets
of their brown cords,
Shaun Cassidy-cool in their
white Jack Purcells.
Even my best friend said
it was my fault for being like that
even when she lived in
a wine vat in the redwoods
like a voodoo child.
I wrote their names on their diplomas
in perfect looping letters
with pens dipped in venomous ink
like Atropos, sealing their fates
to the Cult of the Blue Oyster.
I have seen the Cow Palace
and Friant Dam,
the California Aqueducts,
and the 405,
the domes of San Onofre,
the towers of Ocean City,
and understood
like anyone could,
the enduring horrors of concrete.
I have wandered Lonely as blow wife.
I have felt a Funewal in my Bwain.
I am leading a life of quiet desperation
here on Pickett Street,
but the world does not
walk by in curious shoes
but rumbles past in battered trucks
with mowers and blowers,
with five gallon jugs of poison,
Banda blaring from tinny speakers.
All the lawns are perfect, the roses
are red, the cherry plums precisely
pruned on Pickett Street,
but nobody is curious enough
to come outside to see
not even on little cat feet.
I never wanted to walk
around the world but simply
to imagine a Kudzu dæmon
sleeping beneath the two acres of
asphalt in the Safeway parking lot
listening for a crack.
I imagine muscular vines
tearing off the Starbucks roof
reclaiming the courtyard by
the cellular service store,
a storm of tendrils tearing apart
the dead aisles of RiteAid,
ensuing fireball to open
seeds and cones buried
beneath the mini-golf course.
I have seen the strangler figs
that surround the stone temple
of Angkor Wat – turning back the clock
of concrete and stone –
Buddha smiling.
I wonder – how does Ferlinghetti
know anything about
womb-weariness if he
doesn’t have one?
Go home, Beatnik. You’re drunk.
No rest for the weary.
Young women should be explorers.
Young men should live as women,
at least for a spell.
I love my two sons.
I love my two daughters.
We are children of the revolution
with our tirades about Bisphenol A.
A loop de loop in your noodle soup
I am his Highness’ dog at Kew
I’m guilty judge, I ate the fudge
Pray tell, whose dog are you?
I have never been to New York City.
I lived in San Francisco in 70s.
These days the cities swarm
with righteous hipsters.
They ride Google buses.
They were Google glasses.
They wear Tom’s shoes –
absolution for the sins of paper cups
for plastic-is-forever lids,
for the dream hauntings of child slaves
that pick the coffee beans for their
dopio macchiatos while they type
on their tablets on the way
to the cubicle fields where
the code farmers labor.
I too must confess:
tea tastes like warm, wet straw.
I wish I could say that I
walked on the beach of hell
in grey flannel trousers,
but I was wearing jeans.
Cervantes understood
the rock and the hard place
where Beauty dwells.
So did Forster.
And maybe Hardy with his
woman under the stairs.
I can’t say the same for most of them.
Virgina Woolf swallowed an apple –
the holy onion itself
stuck as a lump in her throat
until she heard the mermaids singing.
I understand Miss Lily Briscoe –
why her center cannot hold.
Why are the great stone
faces in North Dakota all men?
And why is Liberty a woman
standing in a dirty river, gangrene
while the towers crumble into
of ash and smoke?
Columbus did not invent America.
I often tell myself the secret
that Sojourner Truth
invented America.
On television I learned that
the Tea Party invented Freedom.
Everyone thinks so.
But they’ve moved the party to Texas.
This is just to say
I have planted a small orchard
of plums
in the neighbor’s field.
Forgive me.
I have learned a few of the
soil’s secrets, like humus.
I don’t rank myself above the nematode
or the protists or the fungi.
If I stare long enough at
myself in the mirror,
I become a fractal.
I once loved a horse named Sham
Who was my one way ticket to freedom.
He lived on the ridge of Old Horse Hill
Deep in the valley of the Old Mill
where Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums.
I rode him to the East Peak
of Mt. Tamalapais to watch the sunset
and rode him down again
through the hidden, blackberry
trails and ferny ravines
of the mountain’s secret folds
even while the trail side killer
was still at large.
This white horse and I
were going places –
to the arid plains where Shayṭān dwells
to the temple of Angkor
to the sacred grove at Dodona
to the scrub forests of the Thar Desert
to the hollows under the mangrove roots
where they would search for me in vain
until he walked me, daydreaming,
under a low branch.
I am a five-headed Shiva
in a hall of mirrors.
My position is one
of profound disorientation.
Through the carnival glass
the wounded mother stares out.
Other times I see the face
of Medea, tormented by
having eating her own children.
Faintly, the phoenix rises
from the ashes in the cremation grounds as
it awaits rebirth.
In China, the damned waters
of the Yangtze stagnate
and the Earth wobbles as the
great reservoir fills
drowning the ancestral cities.
Amidst this confusion, the fifth head –
Tat-Purusha, the supreme one,
the listener – meditates.
The rest is fable.April 18, 2014


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