Is nothing real but when I was fifteen, Going on sixteen, like a corny song? I see myself so clearly then, and painfully— Knees bleeding through my usher's uniform Behind the candy counter in the theater After a morning's surfing; paddling frantically To top the brisk outsiders coming to wreck me, Trundle me clumsily along the beach floor's Gravel and sand; my knees aching with salt. Is that all I have to write about? You write about the life that's vividest. And if that is your own, that is your subject. And if the years before and after sixteen Are colorless as salt and taste like sand— Return to those remembered chilly mornings, The light spreading like a great skin on the water, And the blue water scalloped with wind-ridges, And—what was it exactly?—that slow waiting When, to invigorate yourself, you peed Inside your bathing suit and felt the warmth Crawl all around your hips and thighs, And the first set rolled in and the water level Rose in expectancy, and the sun struck The water surface like a brassy palm, Flat and gonglike, and the wave face formed. Yes. But that was a summer so removed In time, so specially peculiar to my life, Why would I want to write about it again? There was a day or two when, paddling out, An older boy who had just graduated And grown a great blonde moustache, like a walrus, Skimmed past me like a smooth machine on the water, And said my name. I was so much younger, To be identified by one like him— The easy deference of a kind of god Who also went to church where I did—made me Reconsider my worth. I had been noticed. He soon was a small figure crossing waves, The shawling crest surrounding him with spray, Whiter than gull feathers. He had said my name Without scorn, just with a bit of surprise To notice me among those trying the big waves Of the morning break. His name is carved now On the black wall in Washington, the frozen wave That grievers cross to find a name or names. I knew him as I say I knew him, then, Which wasn't very well. My father preached His funeral. He came home in a bag That may have mixed in pieces of his squad. Yes, I can write about a lot of things Besides the summer that I turned sixteen. But that's my ground swell. I must start Where things began to happen and I knew it.
Mark Jarman - 1952-
For Garrett Hongo
There they are again. It's after dark. The rain begins its sober comedy, Slicking down their hair as they wait Under a pepper tree or eucalyptus, Larry Dietz, Luis Gonzalez, the Fitzgerald brothers, And Jarman, hidden from the cop car Sleeking innocently past. Stoned, They giggle a little, with money ready To pay for more, waiting in the rain. They buy from the black Riviera That silently appears, as if risen, The apotheosis of wet asphalt And smeary-silvery glare And plush inner untouchability. A hand takes money and withdraws, Another extends a plastic sack-- Short, too dramatic to be questioned. What they buy is light rolled in a wave. They send the money off in a long car A god himself could steal a girl in, Clothing its metal sheen in the spectrum Of bars and discos and restaurants. And they are left, dripping rain Under their melancholy tree, and see time Knocked akilter, sort of funny, But slowing down strangely, too. So, what do they dream? They might dream that they are in love And wake to find they are, That outside their own pumping arteries, Which they can cargo with happiness As they sink in their little bathyspheres, Somebody else's body pressures theirs With kisses, like bursts of bloody oxygen, Until, stunned, they're dragged up, Drawn from drowning, saved. In fact, some of us woke up that way. It has to do with how desire takes shape. Tapered, encapsulated, engineered To navigate an illusion of deep water, Its beauty has the dark roots Of a girl skipping down a high-school corridor Selling Seconal from a bag, Or a black car gliding close to the roadtop, So insular, so quiet, it enters the earth.