When the picture by an artist we’ve never heard of looks exactly like a photograph we took off the end of the Berkeley pier. We both see the tall man coming down Alaska Way and think of dead Sylvester in the curiosity shop. Because all cities should have a wall of water fountain like this one and chairs you can sit in under the shade of a tamarind tree and the cool sky. And we both stop ten steps into Macy’s and say, “I don’t want to be in here.” The fantasy of condo living, all these parallel lives and the things we imagine we’ll do. I’m saying something to the osprey above, I just don’t know what it is. And I’m playing my best game of pool in the bar above the lake.
Let me put it this way: David Bacon who played the Masked Marvel was murdered. The murderer got away with it. I read about it in a magazine. And in the corner of one page was a picture of the comic book version of the Masked Marvel, and inside that picture a list of the names of the illustrators and writers and panel artists, one of whom was Rod Bacon. No relation to the murdered David Bacon. The next actor to play the Masked Marvel would die from suspicious causes.
You were a healer, and so you receive your reward.
A healer? I thought I was a clown.
So, what’s my reward?
He follows me into the woods. He’s nearly blind and would never find his way out alone. And yet, he trusts me. Divide and subdivide ad infinitum to nothing, to zero. Even that’s an equation. And the scenes are all there after the war, the things that happened in the fields, without law, without order. I am cruising through the Sound past Blake Island and Manchester, north, which is the only way out.
The dog chews on the bones at the edge of the fire. Where does the light go in its travels? Where does it stop? The great black hole at the center of the universe is the great black wall up ahead where the light falls and we lean in. And I rise from the green swamp, cross the land, a humming in my head as I climb to the house on the hill.
Owl and Frog Woman, and the gossiping clam people. The dancing man among the deer. The Fire brothers, the Changer. Sky world, earth mother, star father, stolen by the dog salmon people, moon, the transformer, downriver transforming. Here come the rum runners. We’ll meet you at Doc Hamilton’s speakeasy. Or maybe the ranch. And every light must be out by 11 o’clock. So stock up on blackout bulbs, deluxe scintillators, and survival crackers. Plant your victory garden. He’s a donkey in lion’s skin. And driving up I came upon the lone logger, both of us startled to see the other.
Frank Capra said, “I knew I wasn’t going to make a war picture—I’d had a belly full of war.”
Tiendas, industrial parks, sawmills, gun shop, Mattress World, old school massage parlors, bare stretches, used trucks, used campers, boarded-up stores, graffiti-tagged tobacco shop, country farm market, apothecary, I-Hop, police blockade, blue lights, bottleneck, reroute, Home Depot, KFC, Bikini Espresso, girl making dawn in the middle of the highway. And what should appear but a boy in black shorts, vest and tie, and a girl in a black velvet dress, both of them looking like they just stepped out of nesting dolls, followed by the father, I assume, with square face and flattop head and Baltic music coming from a transistor radio in his suit pocket.
You slip away. I can’t find a magazine. First and Pike is disappearing. So long, Lusty Lady, I hardly knew you. Christmas lights, big star, that season again. Cold wind, cold street, a welcome bar that opens in. Wood table, copper machine, candles burning, a good place to hide. Traffic and bodies, Leonard Cohen whisper-talking from the dark, and occasionally in the mirror the face of a ghost.
Light gage, heavy gage, goof. Opening the door with cool paranoia, justifiable under the circumstances. Dim-lit room, a fish tank with gouramis, a string of blue lights that flicker like water traveling down the wall, check-in counter, and a little couch with an old woman smoking. She’s the one in charge. Back going back, dying in a wave sound and simple one-string instrument and the slow vibrational disintegration through filthy carpet and cement floor, the dirt of the earth and the hot core, and up through the ceiling fan and piles of insulation, the rooftop and cloud smoke blue sun bear up there, all to arrive at once in the one spot, blank, nothing, grateful and free—the recombination of skin, blood, and bone out of nothing, I tell you, but a code, the heavy drapery of clothing, wandering, wandering, and that feeling when you’re the only person in the restaurant or the movie theater. Who’s running the show?
We have been fighting chaos forever and losing.
I could have sworn we saw that movie together.
We went for breakfast somewhere in Oakland. Ten thousand things as gray as the still morning, nothing to do, then a bright decision. The woman is loading a gun for you. A crane drops a hook into my brain. The dogs rip up the rest. The hawk slow brushstrokes the sky. A wheeling kite above the rooftops. Magic crickets. The ghost, the smoke, the clouds we emerge from, syntax DNA wandering through our enlightenment like an ophthalmic migraine because only when you are sick of sickness will you be well. Show us the edge of the garden. The road of a thousand cuts. The rattle of your castanets. The story you keep telling. The town ahead where I wake up.
Douglas Cole has published six collections of poetry and a novella. His work has appeared in several anthologies as well as The Chicago Quarterly Review, The Galway Review, Bitter Oleander, Louisiana Literature, and Slipstream. He has been nominated twice for a Pushcart and Best of the Net and received the Leslie Hunt Memorial Prize in Poetry. He lives and teaches in Seattle. His website is douglastcole.com
Read more of Douglas here.