12 October 2013

the wild jersey cape -

an introduction

true, i was born in new jersey,

sandy soil, farmland, glass factories -

ten miles from the salt marshes and pebbled

beaches and horseshoe crabs of the delaware bay -

and the ocean a million years away -

necklaced in boardwalks, rollercoasters

now casinos and condominiums

boarded up motels and neon pizzerias

held two miles at bay from the mainland

and the trees by causeways of

falling down custard stands and

houses up to their knees

on the muddy banks of

the pavement and

bays that sometimes freeze -

and the ice rises and falls with the tides -

and now and again snow

knocks the common reeds,

what i thought we called winter wheat,

into the cracked and meandered sea -

one way of looking at it

i ran loose and free

in the oak and the sweetgum

and the hickory and

turned my eye plenty

toward the grey sky to

watch the turkey vultures ride

what thermals they could find.

i saw the difference

between pin oak and pine

and knew what i knew

from an unremembered dream -

i ran loose and free without a map

of the world and didn't learn

the names of things -

i marked the way by the

slant of the sun and the

sliding perspective seen

mostly from cars and

of course tv.

robins, blue jays, buzzards and crows -

gulls and sandpipers,

mallards and geese.


i can't think of another kind of bird

i knew as a kid.

ducks paddled by the shore of the lake where i swam.

i knew the big dipper, the little dipper

and that's about it.

pigeons, i guess.

i was thirty-five years old

and on another coast

before i learned

the path of the moon,

from my place on earth -

not a diagram or a description

in a classroom


two more ways of looking at it

you can take jake's

      landing road off

           delsea drive

past the hundred year old pines

      planted perfectly in

           rows and grown over -

to the edge of the marsh

      and follow the leads

to the bay.

there are too many kinds

of memory to count.

now i can stand under

the night sky on fire

and whirling.

the galaxies,

           it is proven,
     are spread.

           i can walk

through the

moonlit woods.

i am anxious to

           sail on my own

      taut wings -

now and again a

      long fingered feather


a frothy wave

i can tell you

there are hollies with sharp dead leaves

dense at their base and berries

no kid

ever eats twice.

three directions short a world

in 1986

we sit

around the table,

the four of us.

jessica sleeps in her bed.

the dogs

are nosing

the kerosene heater -

the cat is alert with

eyes closed on the back

of the couch.

the weather slants hard against

the east windows.

trees, marshes,

toll bridges, hotels,

motels, beach houses,

fishing piers and spidery

amusement rides

separate the dining room

from the surf.

it is easy to imagine

a boat in trouble -

some pair of eyes

that prayerfully watch

the lights of the cape

grow brighter.

but here it merely

winds and rains

while we listen to

joan armatrading and

smoke the joints flavia has rolled.

rosanne drinks red wine.


i watch catherine,

her brown skin,

smooth and timeless,

her hair cropped close to her head.

she laughs when

something is funny.

flavia laughs

when something is


talking, we talk.

i watch them mouth the words.

rosanne is silent.

and the wind and the rain

whistle and hiss

and sometimes rise to

a dull roar

and our bottles clank

and the songs behind it,

like the covered moon,

swing by

as fascists fight

for scraps in a world 
that is strictly junk.

four men three of whom are dead

sometimes it snows

sometimes the long legs of a frosted wind 
just coat the whole damn place in ice

its a time of seething automotive violence and 
maybe getting one's skull knocked against one of those

rare big cedars

or maybe its just a mother's fist well aimed

its hard to tell

once the storm was howling across

the delaware bay and i sat with chuck and eric 
looking at tea stains on rice paper 
in his little wood shack

on sunset beach -

the concrete ship sunk and battered

and now getting battered some more -

for years i carted a

tape recording made that night -

i don't know where it is -

chucks handwriting on the label -

      "conference at swept away bay"

that was in march

of 1986

chuck now dead - as well as his

old pal bill -

and eric's a carpenter the last i heard

somewhere in south jersey -

no one i know is sure.

and you think of the good

that can come from just about anything -

although death is still death

and won't come to any other name.

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