It Occurs To Me That

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Years ago you might have thought, as I
did once, faring among the farthest crowds
of islands, unbearably green, in Polynesia,
ringed with stone gods,
                                             that I had dodged
ancestral prophesies, and finally
was shut of ghosts, momentous gossip and
the family doom. I mean, I absolutely
thought I cleared my mind. For years I slept
beside the blue-eyed ocean, courting every
hour pouring over in the surf
among the agile muses on their boards
by day, and on the beach by night, by fires
beneath a wash of stars handsome in
the high air.
                         So yeah, once you might
imagine I had lunged safely off
from my accomplishments and ends. My latest
lovely failure at the time had thrown
me out, amicably,
                                 and I eloped
exactly over burned bridges to
escape the facts and sad truths passing
for a way of life I thought was mine.
I’m grateful for my enemies. I made
my way to California, with its brimming
coasts, its pools of disenchantment and
regret,
               and those extravagant beliefs
in earthly reinvention, promises
of safe sex, not to mention transmigrating
joys, as witnessed on the glistening beaches
blanketed by actresses and beauties
browning in the sun of their ambition.
Pelicans offshore would swoop for food
on bent, pirate wings, while in the baselessIMG_3065
air, gulls dropped like raucous angels
tossed from grace. It takes me back, as if
I never lived in sight of tricks, or missing
persons rolled inside of plastic sacks.
I was roused, and rough in my instruction,
dazzled in the blue winds always
in the way, rendering the far-
away schooners blue at sea. They moved
me like an errand in an unknown land,
like promises, like rules I’d better try.
So far, so good. Near at hand, drag
queens were holding court in force against
the less-gorgeous mortals put on earth
obscurely, whose broken spirits dried their bones.
White men slept on graphic towels, and burned.
Meanwhile, movie extras practiced unexpected
love, and off around those fucking palm
trees, quarterbacks kept making plays
all day, and scored. Everyone auditioned as
adults. On mats, amid the pandemonium,
were golden body builders lifting their
eternal weights, and taking steroids sold
by lab assistants winging frisbees onto
precessed lyric vectors.
                                            And well, yes,
since you asked, I was carried off
by whole cloth, and left not a rack
behind of Baptist trash, but worked on boats
holding melons, and manned the harbor tender
when I could, escorting visitors
to shore for tips. One time, late,
with weather coming in, I ferried to
a ship the size of dreams a shimmery, drunken
star bestrewn with jewels and ropes of pearls,
but minus shoes
                                  —of whom was born, of course,
a famous trail of love, not unusual,
and who would later drown unfairly, I
should add, in another season, near
a Channel Island—
                                    years, however, after
I politely heaved her lithesome body
into bed inside her reeling cabin,
feeling generous and grandiose,
as if I had new teeth. Whereupon
I lurched precipitously, pitched backwards,
and was thrown away entirely as
the schooner slued round, hugely, as
I heard it, in the mounting wind. I hurtled
like a lost comet, crashing on
a davit, while a deckhand madly slipped
the anchor, and we plunged away like horses
into foam and swell, with me in tow.

What may not be wonderful about
abstraction? what is this world? to be plucked
from one dimension, and deposited
with bruises innocently in some midget
cosmos run by half-deities,
half of whom were sickened by the yaw
and ocean roll engendered by Pacific
squalls—which usually are marvelous
when seen from land,
                                          but in their ardent midst,
I’m here to say, the morning blew its smokes
on board, and thunder followed close on thought-
executing fire, the sum of which
de-magnetized the common sense of Hollywood.
Someone brought an ocelot they called
Naomi, who escaped her cage, and once
the winds decayed a bit, the weather settled,
she would climb the masts, and slink along
the yard arms stalking sea birds as they roosted.
Lavishly, she pissed backwards in
the rigging, which appalled the yardmen when
they reefed sails that simply reeked of pheromones
designed to carry miles inside a jungle,
and arouse erotic promise, for
a price. A tactic old as war, if truth
be told about it. If truth pertains at all.
Honestly, you wouldn’t either want
to risk inflaming the illiterate ocean
gods, a volatile lot by history,
nor rub the nether spirits up to rock
your bones with animal abandon, in
your wooden shelter, bobbing on the insubstantial
elements.

                       And since, to some minds,
by closely defined reasoning, I was
a stowaway, and hoping to have all
charges dropped, I peaceably agreed
to clamber to the topsails, trailing strings
of bloody sausages, and lumps of steak,
with which to tempt Naomi to her cage.
On balance, little could be easier.
Conceding how I cut my teeth on the family
wolves, and those invisible snakes coiling
through my nightmares—well, I wasn’t
discommoded by an ocelot.
Aloft together, we were clearly without
secrets when Naomi leapt symmetrically
to the crosstrees, with her jungle eyes
lighting up the red meat I
extended. I made her reach across me, and
adeptly show her teeth to draw the ligament
of raw beef away. And so it was
I fed her appetites. She slipped into
my lap, her demon body purring like
a tractor, and licked the wisps of blood between
my fingers. I took her collar off, which let
her swallow,
                            and from the main top watched the chief
navigational stars we followed spark
around me in the changeling darkness, vast
and starlit. Once I started getting cold,
I led Naomi down below for water—
where I peed into her litter box
to dominate her thoughts, should cats have thoughts,
such as they are. At heart, we both were built
from parts of blocks of sapience and feeling,
so it was alright. Naomi played like Rilke’s
phantom in her cell, where I fed
her by hand, by the way, daily—
                                                             and to
the point, we neither one were disinvited
from the schooner once we sighted islands
off the blessed coast of Mexico:
Islas Marietas, each about
the size of any whale that breached around
us. Pods of dolphin following, we ghosted
to the gateway port. A motor launch
collected our celebrities, and sped
away to parties, and exotic matters
prearranged by fame—which left the rest
of us to shave, and draw our wages. The bosun
promised he was going straight, and disappeared.
I was given to the cook, who took
me off to market to replenish stores
of ostrich meat, more beef, vanilla
pods and chocolate, tons of onions,
abalone in the shell—and who
relentlessly was preaching. There were rules
against stealing chickens, I remember.
He was strung out on a man, and left me with
the avocados, and my awful Spanish,
while he looked him up, returning with
a brilliant dancer, whom he introduced
with loud, resounding empathy, as usual
with him. They wandered way beyond their destiny,
while I foresaw our market purchases
on board, and stowed within our many-benched
vessel–IMG_3354
                though it was another year,
another boat, and in another port
before I understood the rules regarding
chickens. By then I’d beached in Polynesia:
let’s see, Cook Islands after pearls,
and Samoa twice, where I sacrificed
at shrines to the sea-goblins. I weathered
older furies in New Zealand in
the winter rains, representing to
my mind a truly vengeful beauty. White
sharks struck at table scraps and butcher’s
offal I tossed over for the spectacle.
Big-winged birds suspended in
the wind in my line of sight for miles.
Otherwise the latitudes were lonely–
bright, for sure, as every source of light
would scatter oceanic glitter, but we were on
our own. Below us rolled a rogue wave
now and then, exposing unexpected,
wrecks, and drowned roots of islands. From
her golden throne, the moon-faced goddess watched
for small mistakes.
                                     Those who know about
my seamanship have said I’m upward man,
and downward fish, but I was unresigned.
Most cooks aren’t lost at sea, maybe
one in ten some years, out in haunted
waters. Nonetheless, in Mexico
again, on land, knowing what I know,
I wandered inland after ocelots,
and soon was hunting caves, with bats like tiny
demons squealing from the core of solids
all about illegible truths and prophecies,
reminding me of home.

 

Author: Brad Crenshaw

I am a poet and literary critic. I have written two books of poetry: 'Genealogies' was published in April 2016. My first book of poetry is titled 'My Gargantuan Desire'. I also have two chapbooks: 'Propagandas', and 'Limits of Resurrection'. I am working on a manuscript titled 'Medical Life’, which is book of creative non-fiction. I have worked as a neuropsychologist for many years in a New England tertiary care medical center, and in the Massachusetts Department of Developmental Services. 'Medical Life' reflects my encounters with people who have had neurological insults of various sorts, and the problems that result. When I am not writing, or working, I'll be out in my ocean kayak in either the Pacific or Atlantic Oceans. The unconstructed world.

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