“Sunburn and Joy”
I kept trolling for Williams’ streetcar of desire,
but this isn’t a singing Emerald City
for the hapless Midwesterner turned southern romantic;
this is the pragmatic city of six-lane streets
of hot, cracking asphalt, left turn signals perpetually run
by those in a hurry from something frustratingly slow
where pedestrian crossings are here to ignore, here to deplore
the only antique tracks left to explore
are forgotten downtown, like the homeless
who clatter over them with stolen grocery carts
full of crushed beer cans.
I was an aging Gen-Xer, a marooned Fed-Exer
on a mission strangely aborted, crouching in a dark, hot cave,
where I conversed alone and offered my ache
to a small soul-confidant, created in my own image.
Somehow I could not blame my mother for bearing me
into this desert island world, in which she dared to say,
wait and see, wait on the waves,
search the sand and the tide pools
for what I know will one day come to you.
Imagining the tide’s strange rescue
coming dripping and mangled,
I vainly combed the shore for empty bottles
in which to stuff away my messages,
my treasure was one cell phone washed up, wet and ruined.
With cruel jokes sometimes my only humor,
I secretly longed for a crushed can
in which I might find a quiet shelter
forever, while fighting the impulse
to recycle myself.
Saying grace over yet another coconut downed by a storm,
I put in for the improbable,
I put in for the impossible,
I put in for a cruise ship to appear in my little inlet,
I put in for vast movement in an inner world
without streetcars, without streets,
with only desert-island seas.
Now, on those salt waters, you’ve exhaled,
you’ve laughed, you’ve delivered me
a tiny misshapen cruise ship, a fragment from my past
to bear me up, a crushed closet with hidden wings,
a crazily lightweight plan, a plan that floats,
a shiny-aluminum dream
with my once-protective ragged clothes
as its only sail, and I’m stripped naked in full sun, now,
escaping with sunburn
KEB -- April 2004