Monday, August 3, 2020

“the lidless stars” from Big Sur to Cape Cod

We hadn’t been to Cape Cod in years.

Giddy leaving it all behind for a few days.

It wasn’t Mexico or anywhere else we were supposed to be.

But the water lulled and reminded.

Soothing our souls, inviting our thoughts.

We woke each morning with a dip in the pond.

Coffee, taking in the leaves and trees in the morning light.

And reading and writing, trips to the beach and Provincetown,

Exploring used bookstores,

Thinking about Auden and Rofes and the others who walked these streets,

Writing away the years, poetry memoirs from Norse, manifestos from Rofes, stories about other men from Hoffman.

Back to Sandwich past the old cemeteries and the pine trees,

Taking in the sand dunes,  

Down Ploughed Neck Road to East Sandwich Beach.

Out route 6A to Sandy Neck Road to Sandy Neck Beach.

Walking along the water

Marconi Beach in Wellfleet, looking at the seals,

Dipping into the delicious water

Out into the horizon and back out, pulling out a paperback.


Sentences leap out from the page, Nina like a kiss,

Her porn bildungsroman reminding,

di Palma’s words offer a way out,

William Burroughs’ Junkie, like a hallucination:

“One afternoon, I closed my eyes and saw New York in ruin.  Huge centipedes and scorpions crawled in and out of empty bars and cafeterias and drugstores on Forty-second Street.  Huge weeds were growing through the cracks on the sidewalk.  There was no one in sight.”


New York is always on my mind, even on the road. 

What kind of a city will it be?

Will we lead it beyond its commodity fetish, away from its dead end?


Paging through Dad’s copy of

Henry Miller, Big Sur and the Oranges of Hieroymus Bosch, 1957, where he underlined

“That the American way of life is an illusory kind of existence.”


“Bought some time in the 1960’s,” Dad scribbled inside, forward leaning inscriptions of clues.

I can’t read his journals, but somehow he knew we’d be plowing through the old books.

“Read in Big Sur and Haight Street, San Francisco, 1993.”


I remember that trip.

Those stories linger,

Turning into a fantastical poetry reading on the beach,

In Big Sur,

In my novella.


Reading as many of his old paperbacks as I can find.

with pleasure.


Dad was fragile.

We all are.

Sensitive souls, one and all.


It most certainly is.

Stability is fragile.

As is our prosperity.


Push forward

Or go with the flow?


Reveal yourself

Or maintain a distance?


The questions keep me up.


Bounce with the punches Ben?

Not that good at that.


The turtles make their way to the blue green water.

Birds nest.

We swim every night after dinner.

Listening to the loons sing in the night.

The lush fresh water reminds of those years on Lake Lanier in Atlanta,

off the Chattahoochee and Chestatee Rivers.


Most nights the kids skate and we listen to Django,


Matt Bianco,

“Moving from place to place, another town, a different face
You may find me
Sneaking out the back door with a grin.

Talking about it all,

Wondering what to do.


We were going to visit Dad’s buddy Richard at MIT.

Instead we meet by phone.

Chatting about Dad and the trip to the Middle East they took all those years ago.

The world feels distant.

Richard remembers the trip a little differently.

“I can’t tell what part of the story is accurate and which was a yarn,” I tell Richard.

“He could tell a story,” recalls Richard.

“When we are done with this place, let’s get as far away as we can get,” he said in Ft Benning, where the two were stationed in 1961. “I guess that meant Afghanistan.”


News from Florida,

another family member with COVID.

Reports and concerned calls.

Minds spin.


Two weeks zoom.

On the way we go,

Wondering what the year will offer.

Back to New York.

Looking at a history of words to make sense of it all.

Books and stories all the way home.


Giovanni Boccaccio describes the mass graveyards in The Decameron, casualties of the Bubonic Plague:

“How many valiant men, how many fair ladies, breakfast with their kinfolk and the same night supped with their ancestors in the next world! The condition of the people was pitiable to behold. They sickened by the thousands daily, and died unattended and without help. Many died in the open street, others dying in their houses, made it known by the stench of their rotting bodies. Consecrated churchyards did not suffice for the burial of the vast multitude of bodies, which were heaped by the hundreds in vast trenches, like goods in a ships hold and covered with a little earth.”


Leopold Bloom attends the funeral of Dignam in Ulysses.

Ruminations on living and dying in Dublin and Hades, thoughts at a church, with Stephen’s father, remind us none are too far from it.

We’re all destined to join Dignan.

The question is: how we get there and what we do before we depart?


Baldwin recalls a lynching,

"Going to Meet the Man".


John Lewis’ reaches to us from his grave,

an obit finding light the day of funeral.

Trying to make sense of it all,

Beseeching us to act, to believe,

that our actions and words matter.

Prophetic remembering:

"Emmett Till was my George Floyd. He was my Rayshard Brooks, Sandra Bland and Breonna Taylor. He was 14 when he was killed, and I was only 15 years old at the time. I will never ever forget the moment when it became so clear that he could easily have been me. In those days, fear constrained us like an imaginary prison, and troubling thoughts of potential brutality committed for no understandable reason were the bars.


Together, you can redeem the soul of this nation.”


I’m not sure we’re much beyond the “Dry September,” William Faulkner, saw in 1931:

“Through the bloody September twilight, aftermath of sixty-two rainless days, it had gone like a fire in dry grass---the rumor, the story, whatever it was.”


All is takes is a rumor to throw it all away.

Yet, can we find a way to head it off? 


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