VISIONS OF THE GONE
Into the party, as I gravitate
To the rugs, a couple says hello;
Bob and Cinda, fisherman and mate,
I kid you not. Bob rolls a joint real slow
From crumbled, sticky, bud de México.
He passes it. I take a hit and blow
The rolling smoke aside and then I cough
That I’m a grad student, and I know
Marine Biology. But, I’m off
For this semester and I’ll tell my prof
That I will make it up. (I know he’ll scoff.)
Oh, yeah. So what? The job market’s a trough.
Then Cinda rises up above the cloud
Of smoke where I am playing Philosophe.
She saunters to the kitchen where its loud
With jabber bent by turning heads; the crowd
Has eyes that open wide and then beshroud
Her brown hair and the soft and whispered smile
As Cinda navigates politely proud
In blue-jeans and a blouse that suit her style.
She opens the refrigerator while
The guys make faces like a crocodile.
So meanwhile, back upon the Persian rugs,
My words are flying out so infantile
That Bob just smiles so wryly thin and tugs
The whiskers of his beard, and then he shrugs
To Cinda who is coming back with hugs.
I tell them of my odyssey today:
Across the campus students swarm like bugs
To Science and Humanities’ display:
Cadaver Woman, naked, leaden-gray
Like plastic. Lying on a tray,
Her heart is poked apart for hours there;
Formaldehyde perfume my nose unplugs;
As tan young girls in flowered dresses stare
With green-eyed souls and chew their long blonde hair.
Of all things, then, a bomb threat stops the fair.
But, how I got to Steven’s party here
I can’t remember, so I’ll never care.
Near Muckenthaler Ridge it all comes clear;
The laughing, music, and the clinking beer.
So Mo, and me, and Dobzhansky appear.
And there is Steven, girl upon his knee,
Inside his house. We cross the wild frontier
Where we and all the co-eds will run free,
Debate abortion, and Society,
And watch for willing lovers, constantly.
I realize it’s past too-late o’clock
When Bob and Cinda rise and draw for me
A map to where their boat is at the dock:
286-G, the limit of the block
On Island Terminal. No need to knock!
Near where the tuna catch is being canned,
Their blue Volkswagen van they park and lock.
Their boat of 38-odd feet is manned
By just a seal who hears us coming and
Abandons ship, deserting out of hand.
We climb below the deck, all single file.
Therein, the cluttered narrows take command.
Inside the cubby-kitchen cooking aisle
Is Bob, who’s boiling coffee grounds awhile,
Then pours it for us, sipping with a smile,
As Cinda plays for me a cassette tape
Of Beach Boy songs, all that she could compile,
My eyelids slowly drooping like a cape,
I hum with “Sail On, Sailor” to escape
The buzz from beer and smoke and get in shape
With all the coffee, dark as prophesy,
That I can hold. I feel the coffee scrape.
Then Cinda plucks a book to show to me:
Another Road-Side (what?) Attraction (see?).
“It’s by Tom Robbins and its great”, says she.
Beside the nook where Cinda and I sit,
Bob is standing. Both of them agree
That Disco is a platter full of shit,
And yet I argue Bee Gees now have hit
Arrangements showing cleverness and wit.
While tugging at his beard, Bob starts to grin
Real wryly. As he listens to my skit
I know he thinks that Disco is a sin
And disregards my thesis. I can’t win.
I change the subject, finally. Wherein
I tell them that I like their fishing boat.
I ask them how they wound-up fishermen.
As Cinda rolls a joint, Bob clears his throat:
“Oh, I was in the Army to promote
Nguyen Van Thieu and keep his shit afloat.”
“Commanding men is mostly giving them
Activities. (Do not give them a vote.)
Without a mission, men will cause mayhem.
One night we cruise the Province of Quáng Nam
And bullets rain a hundred RPM.”
Bob’s lips lock on the joint, and he inhales:
“A round has blown away this guy’s brainstem.
We find a bunker, running down the trails;
My men dive in and then the light impales
My eyes. A booby-trap the bunker now unveils.”
“My men are all bomb-fragments in the wall.”
He holds his reminiscence, then exhales.
But silence is concrete between us all
As skeletons of memories start to crawl
With yellow bones. In blood they scratch and scrawl.
He starts again, “I was discharged and got
An office job with music in the hall.
And there it was that Cinda and I caught
The sight of one another. She was not
Unhappily divorced. And, we both thought
That working for somebody else did suck.
Together we would have a better shot
At being happy. So we planned our luck:
We didn’t let our spending run amuck.
I saved my pay; she sold her pick-up truck.”
“We bought this fishing boat. It was a deal
So far away from working for a buck.
And here’s a picture of it taken real
Soon after Cinda listened my spiel
To say our boat would have her name reveal
That Cinda, in bold letters clearly drawn,
Would have no sadness to conceal.
We have our own contentment from now on,
Awakening together with the dawn,
Horizon all around, the land foregone,
The water’s edge is all that lies out there,
Where fathoms stand on soil, down thereon.
But you had better know how to repair
An engine. Mend it ‘cause there is no spare.
Convenience like an Auto Club is rare.”
“For weeks to us no vengeful God displays.
Yet, though we live a dream of laissez faire,
The Mafia, at most ports, always pays,
But haggle not with what they do appraise,
For your catch. Going elsewhere can take days.”
“We shop over the side for most our food.
It comes to us. We still need culture’s ways
For beer and stuff to burn that suits our mood.”
Another fisherman comes to collude
Onboard with us, with wine, and I conclude:
These sailors (and that sailoress) will wait
For no excuse: no drink will they exclude.
“’Cause what’s the use?” says Jimmy. “To first mate,
The Cinda.” Boyish face cannot negate
He’s captain of the Zeppelin, sedate
For such a big guy. We four celebrate,
As we are tethered there against the tide.
“Just listen”, Cinda says. Our words abate
And I can hear the mussel shells outside,
That cling onto the hull and congregate:
They’re clicking, snapping, drinking until late.
Our bottoms up above them share their fate.