Wednesday, June 15, 2005


I just got back from a two week trip to California, Utah, and New Mexico. Not to be overwhelmed by the fun blah blah blah, I managed to find a few quiet moments of my own, in which I acquired two black eyes. Beautiful! Even more beautiful to take a fourteen hour Greyhound bus with two black eyes--you fit right in! The sad thing about these black eyes is that they now just look like faint lines accentuating the bags under my eyes, which have only ballooned in my old age, and so I again have nothing external to prove my internal pain. Internal bleeding, for this reason, sucks.

Anyway, in my gainful unemployment, between a four-mile run in the morning and a six-mile run in the evening, I managed to hack out my first poem since 1994's prize-winning entry, "Mom and Dad, U Suck." Since I am too lazy/"private" to really describe what I did on my lengthy vacation, I'll just let the "poem" below "describe" one of the more eventful events in two weeks of eventfulness: "surfing" in Los Angeles.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner

They make it look so easy.
Riding foamcore half a mile into shore,
blond-backed, perfectly poised,
easy as pushing a grocery cart,
easy as slouching into a couch,
easy as the baking day:
They don’t go pitching face-first into the water.

Surfing: an asshole’s sport, full of
wrinkles and wrong turns. After a lifetime of seeing
surf iconography, one thinks,
How easy and free, to be
Swiftly skimming the surface,

and then one thinks, Why not me?
and then one solicits a California mermaid
to teach oneself that majestic art,

Which is not art at all but just a feverish
Attempt not to drown. Not to drown
drawn into the riptide, not to drown
with one’s entrails exposed by coral, not to drown
with one’s much-valued brain cored by rocks,
drifting matter from Malibu to Venice, inviting
sharks that devour the rest of you.

Not a hypochondriac’s sport, surfing, not a sport
for the top heavy, or bottom feeding, or risk adverse,
nor a sport for ungulates, for ham-hands,
for the porcine.

Just like a knockwurst in its intestinal casing
was I in a borrowed wetsuit, plumped up from the heat,
salted, sotted, sweetly unaware
of the big, wet maw about to bring it home.

My mermaid saw a swell.
“Paddle!” she instructed.
“Paddle!” she insisted.
“PADDLE!” she howled.
So, I paddled. First tentatively,
then aggressively,
then maniacally,
until the wave came up
and began to push

(there was one infinitesimal moment of levity)

and then I rolled off the board
like a ham shank,
and the board rushed into me
like a holiday feast.

Right between the eyes! If I had a nose to break,
it would have broken. I clutched my face.
Another surfer came by, too close, and washed my surfboard
back into my face. Twice in two seconds. I was attacked!
I got two black eyes for it.

The mermaid dove and rose anxiously around the waves,
asking if I was hurt. I kept waiting for a bloody nose to have at
least something internal become external to prove my mettle;
God humiliated me with only salty snot.
I sat on the sand on a towel for the rest of the day,
holding my face, cursing the surf,
taking pills to keep the swell down.