BY TIM BELLOWS
THE AIR AROUND US
(Lines formed from images seen in contemplation, June, 22, 1999.)
Gerald Ford, weakening under the eyes
of headlight and camera, fluorescent-bright stares
from metal and glass of the press and TV broadcast corps.
He marches along the diamond-decked hall -
a Milwaukee business building - and along the strip
of carpet. His team players, faces hung like the old pictures
of Washington and Jefferson, crowd his sense
of the air around him while a white kid in north-west Jersey
smashes a bottle on the street. Cool move. Its glitters
spread in the dusk. So many times has he seen it done,
on and off screen. Everyone an actor, lit
to the specifications of lenses, speaking to the required level
of emotion. Everyone wearing this kid's own
white and red T-shirt, low-hung jeans. Everyone a fast pitcher
of glass that makes its God-pure spray under the gray barrels
of the klieg lights. Galactic patterns that suggest our memories
from neighborhoods where we could see the misted-over blocks
of the capitol city far off. Presence of asphalt and
influential money. We can see the slim, up-to-date guns of war,
hear the shots and read about an American mastery that
kills Asians in small provinces. We've imagined the blessings,
those in another identical time: summer evenings
that send fields of fireflies out through the humid air.
Like all the beautiful sisters we've known.
NEW YORK CITY COOL
AT RED LIGHT
Lady stretch limo
Licks and smacks.
pulled down. Radio
stares along cascades -
green lights at
cross streets. This
singular trail. Pure
do the exact
the corridor timed
body senses -
of go-lights. Gateways
STRATOCASTER BY MAIL
Wood and excited silver strings in cool-smelling cardboard.
A taught presence, delivered to the motel rooms I'm thinking of.
The wood, straight and high-varnished like
all the polish, sexual intention and suggestion.
I mean the sway and beat of technopop. Of sleek females
bedded down on a rich man's breezy lawn.
Shape of my desire slapping its rhythm all over the air.
. . .
Hip people stop in when the Strat's carried in the first time. Buddy
dips a bit, sways on our white TV. And Hendrix on his knees
flicks fingers through the stratfire he spewed and torched.
Televised 49ers run plays made in infinity
down fields of maple ridged with frets
polished by chilly robots.
But not to worry: life and events come
swerving and banging down the everlasting road, come out my fingers.
to click single-note leads into the air till everything I say
is silver sound and everything I play, the true water,
the full river out back with her dark barges and
scarred rowboats floating in my sliding hands, in my eyes,
in my thoughts of you today - all of them
sure as the live juice in my household wires.
CONTEMPLATION - A DRIVE TOWARD SEATTLE
Truck-driving inside the cheap treat of coffee that
turns up the sun, I'm beginning to taste eggs
and that tiny glass of OJ from fifteen miles down the road.
Torque, rotation, the rig's droning note,
and a float of memories featuring coastal cliffs,
ocean sky-could these be the four moods of this life?
Rain comes; the tires still
sing their high-pitched furnaces,
prompting me to think,
After all, this is the world where
things keep hinting at their opposites.
Not much of a start, but I have more tries coming.
I give a listen to the blue wind against this bay swinging by.
I feel the dark-earth fields and trees receiving water. I listen.
Give up saying I'm always the beginner.
. . .
I'm expert in memory that roams the pawnshops of my late teens,
takes me there. New York City, where silver fixtures of radios and
amplifiers drew my fascinated eye. Years before
there was the odor of cupboards and
bound books enchanting my aimlessness.
This year, this dusk and truck-driving: The road's
riverine, yet a pebble-pressed ribbon, glaring and hard.
I'm listening along with giant tires and huddled engine.
They calm me-exhaust me to an odd attentiveness,
where I command the sway and arc of frequencies against each other.
I've been hiding out so long in long hair and dark glasses,
susceptible to magic incantations, DJs, preachers in church.
But in these days the highway calls me to start fresh,
formulate my own chant, decode my own life, rising out of the rig's
droning note, the float of memories along coastal cliff and ocean sky,
the thought strand that reaches apartments in Syracuse and Rochester.
I pray for more tries coming. For an exit with a rest-stop restaurant.
For everything pure in the sound of my fast rolling.
night herons feed in the dark
roost in the mangroves by day
why do you cry
- - -
wind made by the sun
whips high-hanging leaves, lakeside -
slow roots tap wet soil
last fall, droopy-shorts
kids threw rocks at the street lamp.
this spring, high, thin leaves
frame the busted glass.
brown, rimmed in white, new eyes blink
behind blue-green edges
red fir branches - snow-filled -
afternoon sun warmer - here's
a tree raining on me
the cat's yowls at dawn
i stroke him and flicker
like dreamed meadows in sun