Time in Tunnels

The lesson of travel
is to trust the goodness,
the illumination
of instinct
intellect.

But this sudden lawless flurry
in the stifling clap of darkness
I become a Space Mountain refugee.
Dumbed, numbed
maladaptive,
blind.

The blackened speeding hallway spits
out husks of
“trust, trust, trust”
left scattered to bottomless tracks.

Six anxious-eyed strangers
feign calm, but wheeze through
nostrils full of spent fuel.
Which of us would sell the others
to quell the clattering chaos?
A glaring sun exposes us—
all of us traitors—
we avert our eyes
squeezing tears and shame at lid corners.

But as quickly
the shrouded cacophony
again
blankets our dank cage.
I close my eyes to find
my marigold canary.
She whispers a bird promise
feather light
in the opaque
perspiration and
doubt.

The day finally opens
wide
and full
a welcome
Tuscan promise
kept.

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Tonight’s Tour Includes ‘Pig Alley’, 1989

Pigalle Place is a red light district in the Montmartre area of Paris. It’s where you’ll find the Moulin Rouge along with sex shops, topless bars, and other notorious ‘adult entertainments.’  It’s been known pejoratively as ‘pig alley’ since World War II. I doubt the male patrons who go there stop to think when using the name what they are in effect calling themselves.

The royal tourist coach

full of oily adolescents

forces its way into the sticky, narrow street.

Packaged vaginas stuck to tired Montmartre walls,

spandex and rouge

lips where a child once painted

the voice of her mother.

A leathered proprietor smolders in

the alley’s darkened folds,

his chattel

for francs or dollars.

Prep boys gawk

lurid faces blowing whistles

fogging windows damp with insults and

safe distance bargains.

The smug headmaster

watches the rites in a tilted rear view bus mirror.

He says ‘they’re entitled to some fun.’

He says ‘it’s harmless.’

Liberte’, Egalite’, Fraternite’

Wedged in too tightly between a Peugeot

and a cigarette-stale perfume,

the bus backs out

spent of interest.

Not even offering to pay

for the fuck.

I come from

 

 

I come from Green Stamps and Zane Grey

A lightning struck trailer

Cattle guards too slick in winter

For a sure-footed pack mare

Shots and chainsaws piercing kid prayers

A beer tab popped

“I’ll be God damned if I ever have another trap like that.”

And from then on, gates

Big green steel gates.

 

I come from up Bear Creek

Selway’s buzzed edge

July horse flies

Mosquito-bit and skinny dipped thighs

4-H sewing projects for the Fair

Tamaracks going amber

Thirty-five inches of snow one Halloween

Ham hocks and navy beans

Love leavened cornbread

“Iron skillets bake a better crust.”

 

 

I come from rabbit ears on a snowy television

JFK’s funeral caisson

Gunsmoke and Red Skelton

“Goddamn hippies.”

Vietnam casualty counts for dinner

Ritz Mock Apple Pie and whole, fresh milk for dessert

 

I come from brick dust on work boots

Travertine and slate, sweet wet cement

White polished nurses’ aide shoes

“Did Mrs. Buehl get caught without her clothes again?”

stealing down the rest home hall to Max’s room.

And Mom’s common quip

“Just cause there’s snow on the roof

doesn’t mean the fire’s out in the basement.”

 

I come from an Avenger of Bataan

Who abandoned his youth on Zig Zag Pass.

An Indiana farm girl who wanted to be an English teacher

Who got the highest grades at beauty school

And knew all the bones in the body

Who’d read Gone With the Wind thirty times

And liked Melanie best.

 

I come from bull pines and ditch riders

Clucking church women

Cellophane rapture lessons in their

Total Woman book clubs.

Don’t pay the fence builders until the job’s done

They’ll go on a bender

Old Kenny Roan

Bummin’ always repaid dollars from Dad

“My Indian brother”

“My Indian brother”

 

I come from a bar and grill juke box

Set underneath old Ed’s hand painted copy of

Remington’s In Without Knocking

Paint smudged fifty cent pieces

From the big, chiming brass cash register

“A Boy Named Sue”

“Harper Valley PTA”

 

I come from never doubting the existence of love

But its cost

Oh, God, its cost.

“Let’s go home.”

“After one more, we’ll go.”

“This eye? Well. . .would you believe I hit a door?”

 

I come from loaded guns

I’d silently empty

Into my box of Barbies

When Dad came home

Full of Jim Beam and “Japs”

 

I come from a place

I keep safe from my daughter

Trigger locked

High up in my closet

So she won’t see a ten year old cry.

 

Homeward Flights

(Written on the way home from Europe, August 2009)

A hundred and fifty thousand air miles ago

I drank only Shirley Temples and

rode in the pickup back with

shovels, broken brick.

First class.

Hub to rusty hub wide seating,

leg room enough for scaffold planks.

Dad’s canvas tool bag coughed dry mortar

on every bump.

On the gun rack his level gurgled.

Hayfield bugs hit the cracked windshield,

a Jackson Pollock

by the first gate,

where the first cab to cabin

words could finally bounce over

three-quarter tons of rattled metal.

From the Mercantile to home

we gained altitude,

outran the Fokker mutts that tailed us by Roys,

raced to the crest of Ralston’s Hill

where an air pocket,

that sudden foot of space between

ass and truck bed,

flipping stomachs and delivering

a split sweet moment of weightless joy.

It was before kids were so seat-belt safe.

It was before body scans.