What sits beside me now is not anguish, envy, or
regretnone of those abstractions arm-wrestled
youth through middle-ageit's the cold
and damp from the fading blue, contending in my bones.
I've picked myself some gladiolas and nasturtiums
from the park, and am almost comforted
despite the fog bank overtaking the cliff, suggesting
that all that floats above the occluded waves
is salt and sea-dust circling back
in the soul's disguise. I've discovered so little that only
guesswork is left on the table as I gaze out the window
into the past, into the old equivocations,
vague as the semi-eternal sky, inaccessible even if we think
we rise into the untended fields of clouds, of molecules,
of oxygen, nitrogen, the durable and
bright blossoms of the cosmos. Nothing changes change . . .
I remember going door to door in my sea-checked
school uniform shirt, collecting for
"underprivileged children," trying to ignore the holes worn
in the soles of my P.F. Flyers, the icy sidewalk pinching
through to my feet, wonderingbetween
porch lights and door bellsjust what exchanges with fortune
were made in the dim back rooms of clouds that had
me hocking pop bottles and feeling
magnanimous with 6¢ to drop into the box in front of class?
God, it's argued, allows us to hope, to see some light
shining at the edge of our expectations,
but a fatigue arrives at eveningof the spirit, or the blood
sleep, old river, grey moonlit boat, easy drifting . . . .
I want to avoid growing calm, even though
I gave up wine. Forget acclaim, rewards, the insider trading.
When I sat out on the dead Fresno lawns with friends,
I was happy despite the jerky rumbas building
beneath my ribs. Now, I just want to breathe steadily
as particles of light arriving from who-knows-where
as I listen for gravity waves and
drum my fingers on the aluminum lawn chair, keeping
an internal beat, the traffic of protons and electrons
clicking about me like felt-lined castanets.
I might even be ready now for a bit of the theoretical,
ungrounded as rocks in the asteroid belt,
perhaps a little left-over Spinoza
that the self-promoting academic spin-doctors have not
turned into gritI might go so far as to accept
the idea that, at the margin of the blue,
there is someone responsible for scribbling out my fate
regardless of the interest generated, or the lack thereof.
May his hand not cramp! Make me cheerful
for Christ's sake, as the blackbirds looking for their luck
in the parking lot with their unqualified fellowship
but would I switch with them for all
their apparent joy? I'd rather stand in the road, rain clouds
darkening the sky, and be aware of the improbability
of life ever after. I've been stumped, and,
if Jesus knew one thing, it was that we are all going to die.
California is burning and there is no way to recall
the rains that rose out of the Mesozoic seas
to water forests from Carpathia to Punta Arenas. We've been
on our own for ages, despite the cortege of angels
we regularly blame for nodding off. 60 soon.
I should be grateful, and I am, but I don't quite feel like
breaking out a piñata and a bottle of mescal, dancing
on the table top to El Rancho Grande
a number of my compadres now among the dearly departed.
And this must be the main contributing factor to
the reason I still remember all the words
to "September in the Rain," its slurry orchestration playing
in the black & white background of so many of those
cartoons we watched throughout the '50s.
In my defense, I can only point to the sun, going out like
any dying ember. And so I'm content to go on making
a fool of myself in front of the universe
I baptize the planets, even ones we no longer acknowledge.
May I catch light in a soup can, may my heart hold
out against the randomness and rust.