Saturday, July 17, 2010

Creatures Of The Sea

I was lonely, so I decided to get something to eat.

Restaurant awnings leaned out all along the street,

Like New Orleans whores...

And I,

I was a dainty and soft-spoken sailor, twirling my parasol in their midst.

They said, "Girl,

You don't fool us."



Being a poet is an odd thing.

One must mix stars with mud--

In a hotel room,

In the bathtub,

Wherever one happens to be.

This is why we are cousins to bootleggers,

And this is why our heads often feel as if they might explode,

Causing us to insist on silence.



In a deli on Cherry Road, near Catalpa Street,

I found Rod McKuen behind the counter, wearing a white apron and surrounded by fluttering women.

I was so surprised that I gave a start,

And my blade du jour, a silver double-edged knife made in Paris,

Fell out of my bible,

Where it had been nestled in the book of James.

It clattered to the floor,

And the women went quiet, some with their hands to their lips.

Rod McKuen stopped making a pastrami on Russian black, and looked up.

"I thought you were dead," I said.

His laughter was like a great fish jumping out of a lake,

And there I was,

A dull brown Selkie amid all the Mermaids.



So far, I have spoken about

Isolation, illegalities, seafaring, and hidden hungers.

It is prose, you'll say,

And that is when my little French souvenir comes home to my hand.

Shedding my seal skin, I emerge as a human woman, a Selkie, water dripping from every perfect limb.

The Mermaids fade back gently, like waves from a sunset beach.

Rod McKuen places a finished sandwich on a plate, wipes his large skilled hands on a clean towel, and melts us all with an easy, casual smile.

In that moment,

I could kiss him and never think of doing anything else.



But I have a class to teach.



In one smooth motion, I deliver my lesson like a love letter into a mailbox,

Up to its hilt in your heart, your guts, all that keeps you standing and breathing.

That is poetry.

That is how it should feel.

The best poetry is always beautiful, and always fatal.



Then I am dull and brown again.

Rod McKuen says, "What would you like, Miss?"

I have always liked him.

I lower my eyes and say, "Black forest ham and baby Swiss on baguette, please."

He turns to his work and, ever the gentleman, says nothing

Though I know he has noticed

My face with its

Creeping

Pink

Blush.

_______

23 comments:

Gabriella Moonlight said...

OMG... first, all about me...I GET To be the FIRST COMMENT!!!!

Secondly...you know that we are both selkies among the mermaids and that is what truly makes us beautiful and amazing spirits!!!!

Thirdly..WOW!!! There are so many words and sentences in this I could go on forever suffice it to say you are a poetess!!!!

lakeviewer said...

Oh girl, I'm melting into a blush too.
Simply delicious!
Glad I stopped by from Joanna's

Riot Kitty said...

I think this is one of my favorites so far.

Mojo said...

Not once but twice she nods to me
Wondering if I'll notice
Pretending to stare at nothing
But I know better.

You rock girl.

Sara said...

Shay,

This is definitely a favorite. I loved reading it aloud, as I usually do. I could see Rod in his apron giving a thrill with that blond shy surfer smile of his.

This poem made me pull out my old McKuen books. In two of them that date from my college days, I found old flowers I had placed in between the pages.

They're now brown and fragil...like the time when I clung to McKuen's poems to find my truths:~)

Thanks for this memory and your wonderful poem!

cinderkeys said...

Yes.

TALON said...

This was so lovely, Shay.

"And this is why our heads often feel as if they might explode" - I loved that so much

Such tricky lovely creatures, those selkies, and you captured their essence brilliantly.

I wonder if this is what Rod McKuen is doing. I can see that totally. His body of work is mind-boggling, isn't it? Truly amazing.


Oh, and I'll take one of those black forest ham and swiss - one of my favorite sandwiches!

mac said...

From Rod...

It doesn't matter who you love, or how you love, but that you love.

Brian Miller said...

wicked cool...love the thoughts on what it means to be a poet mixed among the journey...wonderful indeed...

Mama Zen said...

Class dismissed.

Cloudia said...

better and better!

Senorita said...

Me likey !

Tabitha Bird said...

You truly are a poet. Truly.

artswebshow.com said...

hey, i like this.
Very nicely done

Lynn said...

I love how the knife fell out of the book of James. :) This was lovely.

willow said...

Your writing blows me off my chair. I am now on the floor.

signed...bkm said...

Love it - I love McKuen - had all his books, listened to his records.. fell in love with his style .... love the mermaids - the mixing of stars and mud....great post....bkm

moondustwriter said...

Steamy Shay

Loving the deli smells wafting behind the obvious tension

thanks so for the post on One Stop Poetry - an honor to have your writing there.

Have a great week.

Kay said...

poetee it is then !! :) lend me o' ears and i'll sing you a song, i will try not to sing out of key....

that song is how this read sounded to me... :)

ellen abbott said...

Oh Shay, I think you have been found. My lovely little secret place is becoming crowded.

hedgewitch said...

Yes, I read this one too. Because it was there.

God! the knife slipping out of the bible, the selkie, the whole thing. And Rod McKuen making sandwiches finally makes sense now. You are dangerous, woman.

haikulovesongs said...

so surreal and then ~

"In one smooth motion, I deliver my lesson like a love letter into a mailbox,

Up to its hilt in your heart, your guts, all that keeps you standing and breathing.

That is poetry.

That is how it should feel.

The best poetry is always beautiful, and always fatal."

yours is definitely the best poetry, Shay. something shifts in me with every poem of yours i read. one of these days your going to write something of such perfection that i will never try to write another word and become your slave for life.

this is stunning! ♥ dani

Shawna said...

This is delicious and accurate, a thorough definition of poetry. So many of your lines grabbed me, like these:

"One must mix stars with mud"

"And my blade du jour, a silver double-edged knife made in Paris,
Fell out of my bible"

"my little French souvenir comes home to my hand"

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