Indeed strange weather,
Em agreed as I transmitted
from an asphalt spring water
lily pad among broken
Plastic lilies will remember
this wind long after we’re dirt,
years past my last breath,
a whisper empty of the beautiful
truths that shook treetop leaves
and almost reached my ears.
And an airport road, where
buzzards land more than planes,
will echo the Khmer melodies
and snake guitar from an April
moon when I swerved around
vagabond deer, but accelerated
headlong into my ghost days.
“This is how a lake should begin,”
that’s what I’ll tell Em when we
talk about the water-filled hole
left where a tree couldn’t take
what the sky had to say.
“Who needs dynamite and dams,”
I’ll likely slur, “when you have strange
weather and buzzards in the wings?”
I’m not interested in the chemistry of kisses,
only the taste of you on a night broken
by the asphalt music of sirens and helicopters,
finished in a round of water meter hopscotch
in front of a stranger’s house with a fireplace
that makes your hair smell like a bonfire,
miles from any field worthy of such a burn.
I have to tell you,
I no longer have much of a stomach
for gut-burning nights.
I’ll never miss the grip
loosened by the pitch and yaw
of cocktailwinds; the friends
are always true and the ride
is, more often than other, hell-of-a.
My taste is turning for salt
and tomorrow, for the water
that touches two highways named “One,”
for the sand where I’ll write our story
next to a basket boat waiting for the tide
to lift both into a sea that cares
nothing about our chemistry
or that of our kisses,
water that only wants to carry us
we no longer float or breath,
our story sinks beneath the bellies
of bottom beasts we never met,
the basket boat fisherman alone remembers us.
Her name meant Rose.
Her kiss was nothing more
than a fleeting and tender
second, soft against a cheek,
permission to breathe
the same breath that comes
in the still moment you stop
to watch a firefly busy
thicket without trying
to decipher the message
flashing there in the leaves,
the truth you know you should
receive, but instead forfeit
for a quiet, floating Christmas
light minute in a warm, June breeze.
Her name meant Rose and it’s 9:24 am there.
Full grown Moon Rabbit’s got my bones
restless. Stoplight shadows stain my skin;
the streets wail between the slow autumn
transmissions of summer’s orphan crickets.
The smell of death rattle leaves mingles
with the sweet, hopeful scent of perfume
along a neon sidewalk midway
with its roundabout carousels
and flashing life flight chopper rides.
“Mao?” She smiles, leaning on the bar.
“Not mao enough,” I mumble, I think.
I’m not sure if my lips part enough
for words, breath or just the next shot.
It’s been a long year with rumors
of an early rapture.
Tomorrow there will be a sad accordion
and glockenspiel breaths where pumpkins
listen on a fire escape, their jack-o-scenes
as forever as our best moments.
Still, we can celebrate.
Lose your mask for me this holiday
and I’ll shed my yesterday skin.
Drink with me and I’ll tell you everything.
I wrote this poem not too long after September 11, 2001. It was inspired by the events of that day, the resulting emotions and the world as I experienced it in the aftermath. A trip to California to visit a friend that November has a starring role in the poem. Traveling that soon after was a memorable experience with the armed soldiers in airports and all the heightened security. As usual, I’m a little late with my tribute, but here’s remembering all the loved ones lost that day and their families. Also, may we honor them by striving for peace, tolerance and understanding so that one day such acts of brutality will only exist in history books.
The latest in my Frustrated Director with an iPhone series, this video features footage I took with a digital camera during my 2007 trip to Vietnam with Tours of Peace as well as video shot with my phone. The poem in the middle is “Eyeliner.” Special thanks to my friend Karen for the inspiration for those words.
You might want to take some Dramamine before watching this one. There’s some pretty shaky camera work.
In this video:
Belcourt Avenue Musicians (audio only)
Dinner boat Singers, Perfume River, Hue, Vietnam (audio only)
Sandal Maker and Radio, Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam (audio only)
Buddhist Nuns, Hue, Vietnam
Hue, Vietnam Dragons
A poem and song that have been with me several Independence Days since the last millennium.
Photo: “Cemetery Flag 07-05-2009” by C. Cha Ramone
This is a poem I wrote thirteen years ago around this time of year. The details were different, but that was a difficult year for some people, too. The weather that season also vacillated between monsoon-like and scorching. Accompanying my reading are sounds from a night at Ken’s Sushi and a backwards version of Dr. Zhivago’s “Lara’s Theme” as played by a music box owned by my mother.
Photo: “Dancing During the Flood” by C. Cha Ramone
I had crazy summer hair,
curled from sweat,
when Em took my picture
and said I looked like Robin Williams.
It was your birthday, too, and I
was everybody’s Happy Buddha,
as the last cinder fell on Riverfront
to the star spangled music of a thousand
cars going nowhere.
A parking garage hour is enough
to remember the night you hated
your new haircut, short and tapered
in the back, and I drank
so much my eyes crossed.
Sake and vodka, that’s a lot of alcohol
for one drink, but not enough to forget
a field marshal and bass drums marching
up the theatre aisle. I could have
I could have touched your hand
as we walked along darkened shops,
stopping to look at sleeping cats
and someone else’s wedding dress.
I could have told you, but only
stood there cross-eyed while you
and your haircut were beautiful
in the Village windows.